A talk from the Museums as Method conference, 14-15 March 2016 at CRASSH, University of Cambridge.
Viola König (Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin)
Respondent - Hedley Swain (Arts Council of England)
If for many years collections seemed peripheral to innovative work in the arts and social sciences, there is a new sense that university museums can be research bases of a powerful and distinctive kind.
New approaches to material and visual culture, artefact studies and the intertwined histories of collections, exploration and the histories of science and the humanities promise to reconstitute the museum as a laboratory and the collection as a research technology. Increasingly, major cross-disciplinary projects have used collections as lenses upon larger issues ranging over art, culture, history and environment. Yet collections and the issues of method and analysis that they raise remain relatively under-theorised.
Over the same period, changing funding environments and new perceptions among policymakers of the importance of research, innovation, and the cultural sector raise the issues of what university museums contribute to higher education, and of the place and value of research in public and national museums.
This conference, formally supported by the University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden (UCM) brings together scholars from disciplines interested in material culture and curators from across the arts and sciences, to reflect on both questions of methodology and public policy.