29 July 2018

CFP: Edited book on Sensorial collections. Research-Museum-Art

The idea of this book is to consider the ways in which sensory experiences can be captured and reproduced by ethnographers, curators, artists and collectors, or, more broadly, all those involved in modes of transcribing the world. It is a matter of illustrating how these diverse practitioners collect senses.

The senses have occupied a growing place within the social sciences and humanities since the 2000s. In France, this trajectory was opened up with the history of smells proposed by Alain Corbin from 1982 onwards. Yet, a consideration of the senses as a means to connect with the material environment has long been limited, relegated to the backstage in works exploring taste, as inspired by the sociology of social distinction of Pierre Bourdieu (1979), or masked by the perceptible which assumes their transformation by different imaginaries (Sansot 1985). Anthropological contributions to the study of the sensory, be it taste, sound, light, shape or touch, took a considerable step forward at around about this time, notably in Anglophone literature, helping to make the sensory a subject of research in its own right (Howes 1987; 1991) and a methodological imperative (Pink 2009).
In this way, a study of the senses enables us not only to have access to contextual atmospheres and human representations but also to the motivations of action. The range of perspectives in this field are multiple, be it phenomenologically-inspired approaches, interrogating perception itself (Ingold 2000); those that take a pragmatic stance, attempting to get a close as possible to the lived experience (Hennion 2004); those that follow a more Spinozian line, with human action is understood as emotional reaction (Laplantine 2005); or more cognitive approaches (Candau 2000).Thus, sensory experiences, and equally, emotions, perceptions and sensitivities - of both the observed and the observer - have secured a firm place within the analyses of social sciences and humanities (Gélard 2016; 2017).

However, in this context of the renewal of research fields, there has been little questioning of the ways in which sensorial experiences and phenomena are collected. Barbara Kirshenblatt- Gimblett has underlined the difficulty of "showing invisible sensorial experiences" (1999) that seem to end up unavoidably with the use of visual forms to translate taste, smell and feeling. But how do we collect the senses? Which forms are used to archive sensory data? What is the impact of the uses and values of the sensorial on the collections? Does the domination of the visual over touch (Krueger 1982) call for the collection of other senses in order to maintain an intangible sensorial experience?
If a society and a culture can be understood through their way of making sense of sensorial experiences and the place that these give to the manifestations of feelings, capturing these is by no means self-evident. Involving the perceptions of the researcher and their emotions, it is an approach that seems to contradict the requirement of objectivity on which the sciences are based. Their eventual analysis is confronted by their intangibility and the passage through the filter of subjectivity. It is an approach which therefore raises major epistemological and methodological questions for the social sciences.

Transcending the social sciences, the collection of the senses also questions the arts. Of course, we are thinking here of olfactory theatre (Jaquet 2015), of eat-art, or indeed of sound art, all of which require an upfront selection of sensorial artefacts.

Yet, more generally, whether they be interactive, immersive and/or scenic, all experiential devises raise questions about the heritagisation of the sensorial to the extent to which they are not aiming the singular confrontation of a spectator with the sensitive material, but rather their coproduction and collaboration (Borillon and Sauvageot 1996). In such a way, these practices interrogate not only how the senses are captured and recorded in order to be exhibited, but also how sensory creations can themselves be inventoried and archived.

Finally, the very places that serve to conserve sensorial artefacts provoke questions about collection practices, be these collections or archives, private or public. In relation to other institutions, museums find themselves particularly sharply challenged when it comes to the sensorial. While the visual and the material have long had their place within the museum sector, other perceptive registers seem less compatible with heritage (Miguet 1998). Objects, handwritten notes and photographs from the field are often accompanied by interviews, music and background sound, yet other sensorial data could be included.

This call is for classic book chapters but, given the subject matter, proposals for sound documents or annotated photographs will also be considered, subject to these documents being free from copyright.
Three main axes structure this book in order to circumscribe the challenges of sensorial collections. The first is concerned with the processes associated with sensorial collections undertaken as part of a critical reading of the world and of the society. The second focuses on the tools and materials of these collections and the way in which these inflect scientific and artistic practices. The third interrogates the conditions and premises of their conservation, or indeed, their heritagisation.

References cited
Borillo Mario et Sauvageot Anne, 1996, Les cinq sens de la création : art, technologie et sensorialité, Seyssel : Champ Vallon.
Candau Joël, 2000, Mémoire et expériences olfactives, Paris : PUF.
Corbin Alain, 1982, Le Miasme et la Jonquille. L'odorat et l'imaginaire social, XVIIIe-XIXe siècles, Paris : Flammarion, coll. « Champs ».
Eidelman Jacqueline (dir.), 2017, Inventer des musées pour demain, Rapport de la mission musées XXIe siècles, Paris : La documentation Française.
Gélard Marie-Luce, 2017, Les sens en mots. Entretiens avec Joël Candau, Alain Corbin, David Howes, François Laplantine, David Le Breton et Georges Vigarello, Paris, Pétra, Collection « Univers sensoriels et sciences sociales », Paris : Pétra.
—, 2016 « Contemporary French Sensory Ethnography », The Senses & Society (11/3) : 247-250.
Hennion Antoine, 2003, « Une pragmatique de la musique : expériences d'écoute. Petit retour en arrière sur le séminaire "Aimer la musique" », MEI, p.31-43.
Howes David, 1987, « Olfaction and transition: An essay on the ritual uses of smell », Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 24(3), 398-416.
— (ed.) 1991, The Varieties of Sensory Experience : A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses, Toronto : University of Toronto Press.
Ingold Tim, 2000, The perception of the environment : essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill, London: Routledge.
Jaquet Chantal (dir.), 2015, L'art olfactif contemporain, Paris : Garnier.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Barbara, 1999, "Playing to the Senses: Food as a Performance Medium", Performance Research, 4, 1, pp. 1-30.
Krueger Lester, 1982, « Tactual perception in historical perspective: David Katz's world of touch », W. Schiff and E. Foulke (dir.), Tactual Perception, a Sourcebook, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 1-54.
Laplantine François, 2005, Le social et le sensible, introduction à une anthropologie modale, Paris, Téraèdre.
Miguet Danièle, 1998, « Autour de la sensorialité dans les musées », Publics et Musées, n°13, « Public, nouvelles technologies, musées », (sous la direction de Roxane Bernier et Bernadette Goldstein), pp. 177-182.
Pink Sarah, 2009, Doing sensory ethnography, Sage Publications, Inc., United States
Sansot Pierre, 1985, La France sensible, Paris : Champ Vallon.

Submission criteria and timeline
Abstracts in French or English of approximately 2,500 characters, accompanied by an indicative bibliography and a brief CV should be sent as a ".doc" file by the 6 November 2018 to the following addresses:
mlgelard@yahoo.fr and marie-luce.gelard@parisdescartes.fr
This should outline the questions raised in the chapter, the materials used and the collection methods for these materials.
Any artistic or museum experience related to the theme of sensorial collection could also be highlighted.
Authors will be informed in December 2018 whether their proposal has been accepted.
Authors whose projects have been chosen should then send the completed article (in French or English), or the work of art or sound or image file before the1 April 2019.
The articles and files will undergo a process of peer review and, following any demands for corrections, final versions of the selected chapters should be submitted by the 1 July 2019.

Editorial committee:
Véronique Dassié (IDEMEC-CNRS-AMU)
Aude Fanlo (Mucem)
Marie-Luce Gélard (Université Paris-Descartes/IUF-Canthel)
Cyril Isnart (IDEMEC-CNRS-AMU)
Florent Molle (Mucem)

Museum Association Conference - Dissent: inspiring hope, embracing change

Museums Association Conference & Exhibition 2018
8-10 November, Belfast

The Museums Association Conference & Exhibition is the largest event of its kind in Europe for museums and heritage professionals.  Over 1,500 senior staff discuss the latest issues, discover new practice and meet the world’s leading suppliers and consultants.

The theme of Belfast 2018 is Dissent: Inspiring Hope, Embracing Change - having the courage to challenge traditional thinking to transform museums and society. And what better place to do this than Belfast. We highlight the role museums of all sizes and types can play as dissenting organisations, standing with their communities as they encourage activism and promote positive social change.

This year's event is packed with content and delegates will have the opportunity to debate and discuss big ideas with colleagues from around the UK and internationally.

Keynote speakers include Rita Ann Higgins, award-winning Irish poet and playwright and Laura Raicovich, US-based writer and artworker. Directors in Conversation session will feature Lynn Scarff, director, National Museum of Ireland; Hilary McGrady, director-general, National Trust; Kathryn Thomson, chief executive officer and director, National Museums Northern Ireland; and Kim Streets, chief executive, Museums Sheffield. Other sessions cover topics such as co-curation, activism, curating conflict, diversity, equality, protest, Brexit, soft power, and the future of collections.

There are a host of other sessions, practical workshops and training - all developed to facilitate fresh thinking. The social events give you the opportunity to see Belfast City Hall, Ulster Museum and HMS Caroline.

Look out for the Festival of Change which is a series of creative interventions exploring the serious issues we’re all dealing with while indulging in some much-needed fun. Who says change has to be painful?

The third day to conference this year is a chance to visit a range of museums and galleries across Northern Ireland and Dublin. There is a programme of special events, exhibition tours, expert talks and behind-the-scenes visits to museums, galleries and cultural venues in the area, all included in the price. The programme includes cultural and political tours in Belfast, Downpatrick, Dublin and Derry~Londonderry, the UK City of Culture 2013.

Conference is a vital forum for debate, exchange and networking – join us for the biggest event of its kind in Europe and help shape the future of museums.

Early bird booking ends on 20 August 2018. For more information and to book your place go to the museum association website.
The Museums Association is partnering with Flybe to offer discount flights to attendees at this year's conference and exhibition in Belfast. Book directly on www.flybe.com before 20 August 2018 and receive a discount of 20% off the "Just Fly" fare using the promotional Code: fly2mac.

British Museum Vacancy for Project Curator: Google Maya Project

Africa Oceania and the Americas
Full time
Fixed term until 31 March 2019
Salary £29,028
Application deadline:  12 Noon, 25 August 2018

The British Museum is seeking a Project Curator to work as part of the Google Maya Project to develop, implement and deliver on the project’s plans. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a unique Museum-led research project.

In this role, you will facilitate Maya collections research and dissemination, lead on archival research and contribute to digitisation. The post-holder will oversee backlog registration and documentation of Maudslay material held by the Museum and will organise project conferences and events.

Educated to degree level, or equivalent, the successful candidate will be fluent in Spanish and will have significant experience of Latin America fieldwork and using museum databases. Knowledge of the archaeology and iconography of the Ancient Maya is desirable.

We are interested in hearing from candidates who are able to demonstrate using initiative and the ability to assess priorities in order to meet deadlines. You will have exceptional communication skills and will have cultural sensitivity in dealing with source community members.

Further details are available from the British Museum website.

18 July 2018

Call for papers: Re-Imagining the Human: Exploring Best Practice in Object-led work with Ethnographic Collections.

Dates: 28-29 November 2018
Venue: Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, UK.
Conference Website: https://www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/events/reimagining-the-human-a-two-day-conference-in-collaboration-with-icme 
ICME (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography) and the Horniman Museum and Gardens invite scholars and practitioners to explore innovative practices and theories in object-led work with ethnographic collections. Object-led practice can draw strongly on our ability to employ the senses to re-imagine our place in the world. In-depth engagement with ethnographic objects in particular can promote social interactions and critical reflections on the logics of power and prejudice upon which collections are constituted. 

  • How can ethnographic collections be used to examine or contest established notions of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’?
  • How can dialogical and/or affective engagement with ethnographic objects promote critical reflections on controversial issues (e.g. colonial legacies such as racism, ethnocentrism and primitivism, memory making, gender stereotypes)? 
  • To what extent can imaginative engagement with objects (through poetry, drawing, drama, dance, storytelling, music, etc) help challenge a fixed understanding of cultural identity and promote inter and transcultural dialogue? 
  • How can ethnographic museums use object-led practice to strengthen community collaboration and sense of ownership of collections?
Deadline for submission: 1 October 2018.

Keynote speaker Dr. Sandra Dudley will open the conference. Her research as a social and material anthropologist transects social anthropology, museum studies, and material culture studies

Collections Trust conference 2018: Spectrum in action

Join Collections Trust for their conference on 13 September at Bristol's SS Great Britain. A great line-up of speakers will explore how Spectrum 5.0 has been put into action, along with the launch of the new Banish the backlog practical guide, and the announcement of the winner of the 2018 CT Award.
Photo: David Norton, courtesy of SS Great Britain Trust.

Outline programme
Here are the speakers and sessions confirmed so far. There will also be an optional Q&A panel session on choosing collections software, the launch of our Banish the backlog book, and the results of the 2018 Collections Trust Award. We will add further programme details over the coming weeks.

Keynote – Laura Pye: What next for collections?
 The recent Museums Association taskforce report argued that ‘museums need to decide what their priorities are and review the impact of collections development policy and practice over the last decade to make collections more sustainable.’ In the conference keynote, Laura Pye considers the gap between collections management theory and practice and sets out the challenges as she sees them. Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, was until recently Head of Culture for Bristol City Council, and chaired the taskforce convened by the MA in 2016.

Research update – Sharon Heal: Collections 2030
The Museums Association is conducting groundbreaking new research into the future use and management of our collections. Sharon Heal, the MA’s Director, will outline the key themes emerging from this wide-ranging study including radical new approaches to dynamic collections management and use. Sharon Heal has been the Director of the Museums Association since 2014, having previously edited the Museums Journal.

Scott Furlong: the revised Museum Accreditation Scheme
Later this year Arts Council England will launch the revised Museum Accreditation Scheme. Scott Furlong, ACE’s Director of Collections and Cultural Property, will explain how the Scheme is being refreshed and how it will dovetail with Spectrum 5.0.

Case study – Kate Diston: Duplicating dodos – implementing reproduction standards at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Kate Diston is Head of Print and Digital Collections at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History.
Case studies on how museums are using other new and revised Spectrum procedures

  • Documentation planning: Jo Moore, Curator and Collections Coordinator, Wheal Martyn
  • Inventory: Meg McKavanagh, Easton Pearson Archive Coordinator, Museum of Brisbane
  • Collections review:  Kathleen Lawther, Collections Curator, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery
Kevin Gosling: What’s the use of Use of collections?
It seems few readers have made it to the revised Use of collections procedure nestling towards the end of Spectrum 5.0. Yet, as museums almost everywhere struggle to capture and manage knowledge about their collections from a wide range of sources, Kevin Gosling argues that the innovations in this revised procedure might prove the most useful in the long run. Kevin Gosling has been Chief Executive of Collections Trust since 2015, and co-edited Spectrum 5.0 together with Gordon McKenna.

Collections Trust Award 2018 open for entries

Image Credit: Jess Watters and Collections Trust

Collections Trust are inviting museums to tell them about the difference Spectrum 5.0 has made to collections management in their museum, by describing a recent collections management activity or project.
  The winning museum will receive £1,000 to spend on an agreed collections management activity, along with a free place at our 2018 conference to receive the award in person. To enter, simply use their online form, and submit your answers before noon on Monday 30 July 2018.

New displays of African collections: Aso-oke, a Celebration of Style & Townships Journeys

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery are delighted to present two new displays highlighting rich and evolving fashion and identity practices in Africa. These displays have been co-curated with researchers from the African diaspora who live in Sussex. They are part of the Object Journeys Fashioning Africa project in partnership with the British Museum.

On display are post 1960’s textiles and garments collected as part of the Fashioning Africa project, historic African textiles and beadwork from Brighton Museum’s collections and objects on loan from the British Museum. Four films accompany the displays. These feature in-depth interviews with the curators, footage of the production of aso-oke fabric and of some of the displayed outfits in use.

The displays have been co-curated by Edith Ojo, Tshepo Skwambane and world art collection staff, and supported by the British Museum. Through the process of co-curation, Edith and Tshepo have shared their cultural knowledge, expertise and experiences of growing up in Africa, to provide new interpretations for the displays and to breathe new life into historic African objects.
Edith Ojo with the Aso-Oke display (c) RPMAG

Aso-oke, a Celebration of Style, curated by Edith, showcases aso-oke fabric and fashion and reflects Edith’s rich Yoruba, Nigerian heritage and the role aso-oke plays in this. She states “It says party, that’s what aso-oke says to me. I love the spectacle and performance that surrounds aso-oke. It’s so culturally vibrant and constantly evolving.”

Tshepo Skwambane with Township Journeys (c) RPMAG

Township Journeys, curated by Tshepo Skwambane, demonstrates the important role that fashion and identity played for black South Africans living in townships. The display reflects Tshepo’s childhood experiences growing up in a township during apartheid, and the rich cultural mix of people he encountered there. He states “I want to challenge and dismantle stereotypes about Africa and Africans. Apartheid enforced separate and defined communities, but you can’t stop interaction between people and ideas.” 


Fashioning Africa is a Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures project. With the support of a collecting panel, Brighton Museum has been able to acquire new objects that reflect post-1960 African fashion identities.

This display is part of Object Journeys, a national programme run by the British Museum and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It supports community partners to research and explore museum collections and create new displays in response to this investigation.