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Week 2: Collecting & Exhibiting Things: Theories of Culture & Museums. Professor: Jan Marontate School of Communication Simon Fraser University. Visitor to Digital Dialogues Exhibition. Last Day:. Course Administration Course Website

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Week 2 collecting exhibiting things theories of culture museums l.jpg

Week 2: Collecting & Exhibiting Things: Theories of Culture & Museums

Professor: Jan Marontate

School of Communication

Simon Fraser University

Visitor to Digital Dialogues Exhibition


Last day l.jpg
Last Day: Culture & Museums

  • Course Administration

    • Course Website

    • Handout # 1: Syllabus, Grading, Schedule, ###ERROR in 1st version###: Quiz #2 is on Nov. 7th not Nov. 10th !!!

  • ReadingsWeeks 1,2,3 (Handout #2)

  • Fieldwork: Visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery


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Today: Culture & Museums

  • Lecture (1st part of class)

  • Workshop in Computer Lab (on course requirements & website creation)

    • Meet in 7th floor lab (room7050) at 11:40

    • Note: Lab is only accessible from the elevator.


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Lecture Outline Culture & Museums

  • 1-Defining Culture: theories of culture, communication & society

  • 2-Culture & “Things”--Collecting Culture & Cultural Heritage “Institutions”: Traditions, Mandates & Professional Practices

  • 3-Challenges of Digital Media, Variable or Time-based Media for Cultural Heritage Preservation Traditions


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Part 1: Defining Culture—General Notions Culture & Museums(Hooper-Greenhill reading)

  • The “High Culture Model”

    • Culture as “civilization”, hierarchical notions focussing on the arts, higher learning, institutions & integration with organizations associated with elites (even if they originated in popular or mass culture)

  • Everyday Life (Popular Culture): Lived experience, belief systems & practices

    • “ordinary people”, meanings (values or beliefs) & practices


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Theoretical Definitions of Culture Culture & Museums(Raymond Williams)

  • process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic “development” (or change)—”spiritual” rather than material, “selective traditions:

  • Recorded culture (material & symbolic) : “products”`--works--(intellectual esp. artistic) embedded in practices, institutions, media, etc.

  • Everyday values, practices, way of life of a group of people, period or group --lived experience at a particular time & place

  • (Also: Signifiying systems: performed, constructing meanings)


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Manifestations of Culture Culture & Museums

  • symbolic culture

    • values, beliefs, ways of reasoning, style, tastes, values, meaning

  • material culture

    • “things”, techniques

  • Combinations of symbolic & material (Practices & beliefs, things as evidence)


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Roots of Some Scholarly Approaches : Theories of Meaning-making

  • Psychoanalysis: analyses symbolic meanings as symptoms of unconscious “displaced” fears & desires (Freud)

  • Structuralism & post structuralism (de Saussure)

    • Structures (langue) underly everyday communication (Parole)

    • Used by others in different ways (Foucault, Lacan, Kristeva etc..)

  • Discourse analysis

    • Way of representing (talking about) things creates knowledge & power relations

  • Semiology & semiotics

    • Sign = Signified + signifier

    • Manifest & latent meanings

    • Levels of signification

      • Denotation (obvious meaning)

      • Connotation (hidden meaning)


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Examples: Critical Evaluation of Cultural “Things or Practices”

  • ”reading” or “deconstructing” cultural works & practices


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Other Approaches: Social Studies & History of Media, Technology & Communication

  • Technological change (change in material culture, interplay of technology & culture)

  • Media studies (as a technology for communicating ideas)

  • Globalization (technology, communication as material & symbolic practice)


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Persistance of Culture as Civilization Tradition Technology & Communication

  • one “good” set of values + practices

  • education/culture = good citizens + responsible voters

  • mistrust + dislike of popular culture

  • Theoretical work: Matthew Arnold, Leavism


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Popular Culture as threat to “civilization” theories Technology & Communication

  • popular culture  political disorder / anarchy (Matthew Arnold)

  • shared tastes, practices (elite) “good citizenship”

  • against democracy in culture (Leavis)

    • nostalgia for past

    • puritanical dislike of mass culture, “low-brow tastes”

  • culture = what is best and ability to recognize it


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Defining Technology & CommunicationPopular Culture?

  • 1. culture that is well-liked? (quantitative dimension)

    • how to measure this (# of fans, power of partisans, costs, etc..)

  • 2. practices, values & things that are not “high culture”?

    • But changes in “status” (ex. Opera, Jazz)


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Defining Popular Culture (cont’d) Technology & Communication

  • 3. popular culture as Mass culture

    • commercial dimension (capitalism)

    • notion that audience is non-discriminating

    • but what about audiences who know what they like?(ex.box office flops)

    • association with North American (U.S-dominated) values


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Defining Popular Culture (cont’d) Technology & Communication

  • 4. Popular culture as “from the people”

    • who are the “people”?

  • 5. Popular culture as site of struggle between “dominant forces” and “forces of resistance”

  • 6. Postmodernist & Post-colonist notions -- end of distinction between different forms of culture


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Criticism of Mass Culture (pt of view of “Civilization” Tradition)

  • threat to high culture

  • exploits people

    • mindless hedonism

    • addictive & debilitating

  • promotes “bad” social habits

    • against public good, damaging to individual


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Forms/types of Culture Tradition)

  • Dominated -popular culture, media culture, mass culture, low brow

  • Dominant--high Culture, learned Culture, high brow

  • “Outsider” forms--Traditional and Folk Culture


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Inequalities in Traditional Typologies of Culture Tradition)

  • implied ranking

  • ?evolutionary model for cultural change ?

  • ?Western canons?

  • politics of diversity-- postcolonialist, feminist, queer studies etc…


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Cultural Things & “Representation” Tradition)

  • Two main meanings

    • Symbolic “thing” or text

    • Process of presenting

  • Connection with “realism”

    • Does representation “constitute” reality?

    • Is it separate from “reality”?

    • Is there a separate “objective” (non subjective) reality?


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Culture as Lived Experience Tradition)(Raymond Williams)

  • human agency (active involvement)

  • people not just consumers --create & transform culture

  • focus on Feelings/Experience

    • shared values of social group

    • collective unconscious

    • shared ideology


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Early Use of Popular Culture in Educating Children & working class

  • “bad” examples -- to condemn it

  • defense of popular culture as educational tool ( Stuart Hall & Paddy Whannel)

  • idea of engaging people to lead them to “better things”

  • Problems:

    • implied hierarchy of taste (high culture at top of a single scale)


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Definitions of Culture & Key issues in the content contemporary Cultural Heritage collections

  • Identity politics

    • production & reproduction)

  • interpretation of meanings

    • conscious & unconscious mental processes

    • Hermeneutics

  • culture & history

    • Tradition, ideology, power (hegemony)

    • cross-cultural communication, hegemony, globalization


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Part 2: Culture & Collections of “Things”-- contemporary Cultural Heritage collections

  • But Collecting Culture & Cultural Heritage “Institutions”

    • Origins of collections and exhibitionary institutions

    • Traditions, mandates & codes of ethics

    • Retaining old collections & building new? Depends on specific mandate & cultural context

      • Preservation of material culture?

      • Re-interpretation of meanings of collections

      • Democratization & education of publics



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20 museum contexts)th c. notions of collecting “cultural things”

  • original object or artifact as authoritative, authentic, unchanging record “frozen in time”

  • authority or “aura” of creator (Walter Benjamin)

    • record of artists’ intention, act

  • Variations in interpretations of meanings of “things”

    • Classification (artistic vs. “historic” artifact)

    • western, non-western criteria, (different definitions of art vs. artifact in “primitive” cultures)


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Social Organization of Heritage Preservation museum contexts)

  • Conventions, norms

    • Practices, codes or ethics & mandates

  • institutional frameworks

    • Division of labour, hierarchical organization

  • premised on old notions of “authenticity” & connections to “reality”

    • object as primary record of creative act/lived experience

    • preserve state of object at moment of creation (?)


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Questioning Cultural Heritage from Things museum contexts)

  • Records of lived experience and creative practices are fragmentary, partial

  • Why?

    • Accidental? Deliberate?

    • Contextual? (institutionalized racism, notions of what is important or who matters? Material constraints (war, poverty etc…)

    • Other?

Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741 - 1825):

The Artist Weeping at the grandeur of ancient ruins, 1778/80 http://www.kunsthaus.ch/


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Objects/Artifacts as cultural heritage (?) museum contexts)

  • Records of life & works

    • sources of “information”

    • “traceurs”, “dispositifs”, devices for tracking social, artistic, scientific practices & values

  • Tensions

    • knowledge, practices & objects

    • tangible & intangible cultural heritage


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Scientific? Artistic? museum contexts)

Ethnographic?

Status of the object in the meaning-making framework in which it is viewed

Different values according to the “value” of the object

National Museum of Air & Space, Smithsonian Institution


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Museums as Cultural authorities & Institutions for intercultural communication (History)

  • League of Nations after WWI (c. 1920s)

    • Social Agenda for the promotions of peace, recognition of difference & distinctiveness)

  • “Civilizing” mission

    • Education in the high culture model

    • Governmental efforts to control & regulate “norms of social behaviour”

      • accept ruling-class authority

      • Reshape norms of behaviour

  • Museums as locus for intercultural communication :

    • cultural heritage as a global right

    • place of all time (heterotopia)– Foucault or “timeless”


  • Origins of museum collections l.jpg
    Origins of Museum Collections intercultural communication (History)

    • Diverse roots:

      • Popular entertainments & exhibitory institutions : Curiosity cabinets, fairgrounds, circuses

      • Private connoisseurs (learned? Elite?Or not?)

    • Role of museum in systematizing collections

      • Tensions: “rationalize” collections & use “scientific” means to present museum objects as coherent expressions of learned culture while providing popular amusements


    Mandates types of museums l.jpg
    Mandates & Types of Museums intercultural communication (History)

    • Diverse: ICOM international committees (by type of museum or museum profession)


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    Tensions in Museum Mandates: Preservation of Elites or Democratization? Some of challenges

    • New skills, communication “across’ disciplines?

    • Persistence of old organizational structures, values & practices in museum worlds

    • Interplay of personal and professional, private and public

      • “hot” & “cold” moments, “thick” description (C. Geertz)


    Roles of museum professionals l.jpg
    Roles of Museum Professionals Democratization?

    • Hierarchical Division of “labour” & authority

      • Director

      • Curator (usually a trained historian)

      • Conservator (restorer): touches the objects

      • Conservation scientist: often training in applied science (chemistry etc.)

      • Technician

      • Registrar (documentation)


    Codes of ethics why l.jpg
    Codes of ethics: Why? Democratization?

    • “Professionalization” (recognition of museology as a “scientific” and intellectual discipline)

    • Cultural Authority of Museums (peacetime & wartime)

    • Regulation of disparate practices & protection of “things”

    • Protection of Museums from Political Interference

    • International issues– notion of global ownership of material culture & intercultural communication

    • Example: ICOM Code of Ethics


    Some key principles in cultural heritage preservation l.jpg
    Some key principles in Cultural Heritage Preservation Democratization?

    • respect for

      • meaning of “object or artefact”

      • Preservation of collections (in perpetuity)

      • In art: respect for creator’s intent

      • In historic & cultural museums: community stakeholders (newer)

    • Debates: ownership and authority

      • Multiple meanings


    Variations in conservation approaches according to symbolic value meaning l.jpg

    field Democratization?(arts, sciences)

    status & meaning of the object

    type of use

    treatment conventions

    Variations in conservation approaches according to symbolic value, meaning

    Pressurized suits (Deep sea and Outer space) National Museum of Air & Space, Smithsonian Institution


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    Part 3: Challenges from New Technologies & Practices Democratization?

    Ex. Ephemeral Materials

    ‘Flesh Dress…’ (Jana Sterbak)


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    New Ideas about what to collect Democratization?

    Exhibition of Storefront Display covered with toxic dust from September 11, 2001, New York City. Source NYTimes, Aug. 25, 2006


    Performance example julie laffin over 1996 l.jpg
    Performance Democratization?example: Julie Laffin, Over, 1996


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    Obsolete Technologies: Democratization?(Nam June Paik. TV Garden. 1974)


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    Nam June Paik, Democratization?TV Garden, 2000 version



    Interactive works example ada web 1995 1998 l.jpg

    www.adaweb.walker.org Democratization?

    Interactive works: example: ada’web, 1995-1998


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    Preservation and Presentation challenges Democratization?

    • Physical installation components, hardware, custom software, feedback delay time, c perfomantive aspects

    • Multiple genres

      • Site-specific (Internet)

      • performative (interaction of viewers etc.)


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    Conservation & professional practices in the “museum field”

    • Archives & preservation of

      • Works

      • of equipment, replacement supplies & tools of creation (ex. software & hardware)

    • Documentation

      • techniques for record keeping & nomenclature of works & processes

      • Information on technical standards (industry)

      • Treatment experiences & standards for care


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    Studying Changes? Example of Art Museums field”

    T= Can touch art 24 h a day without supervision (Twenty-four hours)

    D=may touch art during museum hours under supervision

    • Values & Practices in “art worlds” (creators, curators, conservators, technicians, registrars, archivists, collectors, publics, etc…)

    • Arts institutions (mandates, codes of ethics, organizational structures, professional identities)

    • International networks (disciplinary & trans-disciplinary collaboration, national traditions)

    Name

    Red aura =may touch artworks


    Initiatives to develop new strategies for the preservation of variable media works l.jpg
    Initiatives to Develop New Strategies for the Preservation of Variable Media Works

    • Many approaches from different perspectives

      • Museum traditions

      • Industry (film, TV, music etc.)

      • Archival traditions (public & private libraries & archives)

      • Government (information management)

    • Next week: Begin with two initiatives: Variable Media Initiative and InterPARES (See Handout 2)


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    Second Half of Class: Review of Course Administration of Variable Media Works

    • Handout # 1: Syllabus, Grading, Schedule, Course Website ERROR in 1st version: Quiz #2 is on Nov. 7th!!!!


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    Readings & Fieldwork of Variable Media Works

    • Weeks 1,2,3 (Handout #2)


    If time discuss visit to vancouver art galler haida cultural heritage contemporary society l.jpg
    If time: Discuss visit to Vancouver Art Galler (Haida cultural heritage & contemporary society?)

    • The museum visit as a form of communication (from the perspective of the visitor, the museum professionals & the people depicted)

    • The “content” of the exhibition

    • The museum as a frame or cultural context (other shows, shop items etc.)


    Example taste and style as culture markers ex subcultures white trash girl l.jpg
    Example: Taste and style as culture “markers” cultural heritage & contemporary society?)ex. Subcultures (“White Trash Girl”)


    Main stream l.jpg
    “Main Stream” cultural heritage & contemporary society?)


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