Accepted Paper:

Embodying the artefacts - participatory exhibition methods as museum curation  

Author:

Orly Orbach (Goldsmiths)

Paper short abstract:

Working with themes of migration and displacement, I employ a range of tactile techniques and participatory processes to allow visitors to re-attach meaning to museum artefacts and collections through embodied means, enabling museum-audience to personally connect with archives and histories.

Paper long abstract:

My participatory museum interventions employs tactile, sensorial and embodied methods to materialise histories with the help of different publics. My work asks of museum visitors to invest their energy and emotion in the process of uncovering lost histories, or stories rarely told. Working collaboratively with diasporic communities and migrant groups has made me experiment with participatory processes of materialising stories.

Museums today are keen on public participation and experiential learning. Museum education is necessarily physical, bodies are seen as "potent resources for learning" (Hooper-Greenhill 2007). The artefacts in museums, however, remain detached from visitors. According to Kreps, this is because scientific methods of museum curation detach objects from social life in order to make them "ethnographic" (Kreps 2003). In contrast to the detached, 'scientific' method that prioritises the conservation of artefacts, I suggest that certain histories, especially difficult or painful histories, should not be transmitted in detached and objective ways, but that for ethical, as well as practical reasons, should be deeply rooted in personal experience, and communicated through embodied means.

In my work, I reverse the detached process of curation, by making museum exhibits through social interaction, employing collaborative exhibition-making methods that are also improvised events, moments of discovery, theatrical spectacles and personal engagement with histories.

Projects include 'Eat Your Own Identity Card' at the Jewish Museum, 'Edible Histories' at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, and 'The Collaborative Diary' commissioned by the Anne Frank Trust.

Panel P046
Exhibiting Anthropology beyond Museum Collections