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Critical Museology

A Manifesto

Anthony Shelton

Synthesizing work carried out by the author over the past twenty-five years, this article proposes a tentative disciplinary definition of critical museology, distinguishing its related methodological interdictions and describing its distinctiveness from what is here defined as operational museology. The article acknowledges the diverse intellectual sources that have informed the subject and calls for a reorientation and separation of critical museology from the operational museologies that form part of its area of study. Critical museology, it is argued, is not only an essential intellectual tool for better understanding museums, related exhibitionary institutions, fields of patrimony and counter patrimonies, and the global and local flows and conditions in which they are embedded, but is also crucial for developing new exhibitionary genres, telling untold stories, rearticulating knowledge systems for public dissemination, reimagining organizational and management structures, and repurposing museums and galleries in line with multicultural and intercultural states and communities.

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Interruptions: Challenges and Innovations in Exhibition-Making

The Second World Museologies Workshop, National Museum of Ethnology (MINPAKU), Osaka, December 2019

Laura Osorio Sunnucks, Nicola Levell, Anthony Shelton, Motoi Suzuki, Gwyneira Isaac, and Diana E. Marsh

Enlightenment-derived legitimating conventions ( Lyotard 1984 ). While many scholars in critical museology and other branches of the social sciences and humanities acknowledge that knowledge is neither transcendental nor universal, but carefully controlled

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Margareta von Oswald and Verena Rodatus


In Germany, the new cultural center Humboldt Forum (to open in 2019) has become a major site of debate. It will include the contested collections of both the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contributed to the negotiation of the role of colonial legacies and their reverberances on contemporary Germany. We took those contestations as a point of departure for the exhibition Object Biographies (2015), part of the program Humboldt Lab Dahlem designed to experiment with innovative displays for the Humboldt Forum. Here we reexamine our research collaboration with the Beninese art historian Romuald Tchibozo that was part of the exhibition. His call for the “decolonization of research” was the central guideline in our museum practice aiming for cosmo-optimistic futures. We argue that focusing on processes and questions engaged by the exhibition project can transform contested museum spaces to enable negotiations on ownership, representation, and memory politics.

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Sandra H. Dudley and Conal McCarthy

marks the halfway point through Museum Worlds’ first decade. In those initial five years, this publication’s pages have covered a wide array of issues—such as critical museology and cosmopolitan museology, heritage and repositioning museums, and the

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Paulette Wallace

Zealand History , ed. Bronwyn Dalley and Jock Phillips , 16 – 29 . Auckland : Auckland University Press . Dewdney , Andrew , David Dibosa , and Victoria Walsh . 2013 . Post-Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum

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Borders and Interruptions

Museums in the Age of Global Mobility, Mexico City, 7–9 June 2017

Gwyneira Isaac, Diana E. Marsh, Laura Osorio Sunnucks, and Anthony Shelton

Sphere as Wilderness: L'Musée du quai Branly .” Museum Anthropology 23 ( 1 ): 1 – 16 . Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1379.2009.01017.x . 10.1111/j.1548-1379.2009.01017.x Shelton , Anthony . 2013 . “ Critical Museology: A Manifesto .” Museum Worlds 1

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The Work of Culture, Heritage, and Musealized Spaces in “Unprecedented Times”

Christina Kreps

.1086/244606 Shelton , Anthony . 2013 . “ Critical Museology: A Manifesto .” Museum Worlds: Advances in Research 1 : 7 – 23 . doi: 10.3167/armw.2013.010102 . 10.3167/armw.2013.010102 Smith , Laurajane . 2006 . Uses of Heritage . London : Routledge . 10

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“[W]hat Beauty in Oriental Art Means”

Asian Arts, Soft Diplomacy, and New Zealand Cultural Nationalism—The Loan Exhibition of Oriental Art, Christchurch, 1935

James Beattie and Louise Stevenson

and Cobley 2009 ). A focus on Asia extends this new critical museology in New Zealand by asking local scholars to reorient their work to take account of significant collectors and collections of Asian arts in Aotearoa New Zealand ( Beattie and Bullen

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Destination Museum

A Conversation with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

Conal McCarthy

Conference , 2004 . Reprinted in Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts , revised edition. Ed. Bettina Messias Carbonell . Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-Blackwell . Kirshenblatt-Gimblett , Barbara . 2015 . “ Historical Space and Critical Museologies

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Bringing Slavery into the Light in Postcolonial Portugal

The rhetoric and poetics of a slavery exhibition

Paula Mota Santos

Poetics and Politics of Museum Display . 12 With critical museology, particular attention started to be paid to representation, “producing greater ‘reflexivity’—in the form of greater attention to the processes by which knowledge is produced and