Curation as Public Scholarship

Museum Archaeology in a Seventeenth-Century Shipwreck Exhibit

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 The University of Texas at Austin sarahab@utexas.edu
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ABSTRACT

Museum archaeology offers opportunities to practice artifact storytelling, engaging visitors on the strength of objects that have been conserved and curated. Public appreciation of science and history is bolstered when museums exhibit objects of singular historic significance in a manner that allows visitors to build an experiential understanding of the objects’ provenance. Archaeologists and conservators began reassembling the 330-year-old French ship La Belle as a live-action exhibition on 25 October 2014 in the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The collaboration broke new ground by inviting visitors, in person and via streaming online video, to watch the experts rebuild the ship in full public view. Until, and after, the reconstructed ship hull was moved into its permanent first-floor gallery location on 21 May 2015, the exhibition brought archaeologists and international museum visitors into the same room to learn. The article interprets these events toward reimagining museum object curation as public scholarship.

Contributor Notes

SARAH A. BUCHANAN is a doctoral candidate in the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation research examines archaeological curation practice and provenance documentation using multisited ethnographic methods. Her research interests include archival arrangement and description, museum archaeology, and digital classics. She currently serves as an archivist in the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP). Sarah holds an MLIS from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA with Distinction in Classical Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

Museum Worlds

Advances in Research

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