Curating museum profusion: looking to ethnography of domestic excess for new collecting futures
(University of Stirling)
Sharon Macdonald (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
This paper focuses on the topical issue of museum profusion. By applying ethnographic insights from coping with material and digital excess in a different (yet connected) realm - the home - new ways of understanding and responding to museum profusion are considered.
Paper long abstract:
The drive to accumulate characterises established approaches in museum collecting. Classificatory systems and knowledge production have historically been shaped by a desire to represent the world in its entirety, and to acquire objects assembled through logics of 'completeness' and 'comprehensiveness'. Yet, contemporary practical challenges of restricted space and funds, global concern with sustainability, and broader critical reconsideration of what (and who) museums are for problematise the museological accumulative urge. Calls for developing new collecting futures - departing from past footprints - have therefore emerged, as have alternative practices. In this paper, we introduce the topic of museum profusion as addressed through our Profusion theme in the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures project. By first establishing - temporally, politically, practically, and conceptually - the topical issue of museum profusion, we then address this challenge through ethnographic insights applied from a different (yet connected) context: the home. Looking to key anthropological (and other disciplinary) studies exploring strategies for coping with domestic profusion, and our own tentative ethnographic steps into the home, we argue for the generative and creative possibility of bringing these two domains together through analysis. By doing so we hope to find new ways of understanding and responding to museum profusion, thus contributing to future collecting.
Efficiency and excess