Happy New Year! At this time of year, while most people are planning crash diets and strict exercise regimes, the Museum Studies boffin is looking for some big exhibitions to visit in the UK. Here are some interesting options:
They are probably not going to tell us how he faked his death but the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition at the Museum of London will examine our enduring fascination with the fictional detective. Their Anatomy of a Suit exhibition also looks promising for fans of the well tailored gent.
At the Victoria and Albert Museum Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 looks like it’s going to be big. Will it bring the bustle back for 2015?
Vikings at the British Museum is definitely going in the diary but make sure you also check out the early medieval galleries which will be opening around the same time.
The Ashmolean has a knockout series of exhibitions lined up. The Blake and Tutankhamun exhibitions look like they’re going to be busy!
Outside of the south-east you’ve got Kelvingrove’s Jack Vettriano Retrospective, and the National Museums Liverpool have a whole host of temporary exhibitions which look both aesthetically pleasing and boundary pushing. We might have to wait a bit longer to see the finished result but the St Fagans National History Museum’s Making History project is also really exciting.
Now obviously this list is currently very south-east and nationals focused. For art exhibitions Culture 24 currently has a helpful series of regional guides to 2014 exhibitions which you can consult. However, if there is an upcoming exhibition you’d like to shout about please write in comments and we’ll spread the word.
Here is a belated update on the fantastic ‘Encountering the Sacred in Museums’ Study Day held in the British Museums on Friday 15th March 2013. You can get the whole programme from the Religion in Museums blog
Glastonbury Abbey cross
I was inspired by Karen Armstrong’s point in the first session that we need to learn the ‘science of compassion’. In the Q&A session she noted that instead of worrying what we say to or about religious communities, we really need to think about listening and engaging in a conversation with people of faith. She, and other speakers, also stressed that the sacred doesn’t have to be about religion: everybody has something which is sacred to them, something without which life would be lessened, something which they would die for.
The following session looked at London’s Jewish Museum and various Islamic art collections. Both speakers noted that religion was not the only factor in interpreting these collections: local and regional differences might come into play, and personal and dometic stories could bring these objects to life. The stories they told with specific objects brought them back to a human, domestic level which connected them to the experiences of people of faith or no faith.
The session in the afternoon looked at some British Museum exhibitions in detail. Steph Berns gave a brilliant insight into the sacred interactions which took place between people and objects in the ‘Treasures of Heaven’ exhibition. The stories of people quietly praying next to objects reminded me of my research at Glastonbury Abbey where people are often seen sitting in silent prayer or meditation. The day ended with a look at the Creationism Museum and the Witchcraft Museum, both run by members of communities of faith, albeit with drastically different missions and outlooks.
I’m not doing the day justice here and I’m hoping that the organisers will be able to put up some version of the talks online. There are lots of people working on this topic but they are often in quite disparate disciplines. ‘Encountering the Sacred in Museums’ was such a success because it brought different methodologies, collections and theoretical perspectives together in one place.
The subject of religion and spirituality in the heritage sector summons up a number of challenging ethical and philosophical issues. There has been much written about sacred objects belonging to ‘non-Western’ people in museums, but it has often been framed in terms of competing ‘world views’ in post-colonial contexts. This usually involves painting ‘The West’ and therefore the heritage sector as inherently scientific and secular. In reality the relationship is much more interesting. This is one aspect of my current research so I decided to blog a little on it.
I thought that I would start blogging on this topic with a couple of recommendations for introductory reading and resources. For my PhD research I used Crispin Paine’s ‘Godly Things: Museums, Objects, Religion’ and would thoroughly recommend it . However, as Crispin Paine notes in his latest book the field has moved on a lot since that book was published. I just picked up this new title ‘Religious Objects’ from the bookshop on Sunday and can’t wait to get reading . For introductory reading I would also recommend Myra Shackley’s ‘Managing Sacred Sites’
So for anybody who wants to find out more about this subject, that’s a good start. I’m booked onto the British Museum event ‘Encountering the Sacred’ in a few weeks time This excellent blog ‘Religion in Museums’, run by the folks responsible for the BM event, is well worth subscribing to.
In conclusion, this post is numbered as #1 as this is a topic that I will come back to again. My next blog on this subject will discuss the British Museum event.