Accepted Paper:

'I felt I could step through the photograph' - Photography, Exhibition Design and Atmosphere  

Author:

Inge Maria Daniels (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Through an ethnographic study of the processes involved in the making as well as the reception of one particular exhibition experiment, this paper will explore the possibilities of exhibitions to generate understanding of academic research by experimenting with the evocative potential of space.

Paper long abstract:

Through an ethnographic study of the processes involved in the making as well as the reception of one particular exhibition experiment, this paper will explore the still largely unexplored possibilities of exhibitions to generate understanding of academic research by experimenting with the evocative potential of space. Its larger aim is to challenge the supposed distinction between entertainment and education that many museums try to uphold and re-evaluate imaginative play as a form of knowing.

The exhibition concerned, entitled 'At Home in Japan - Beyond the Minimal House', that I co-curated with the professional photographer Sue Andrews, was held from March until August 2011 at the Geffrye Museum, a historical museum of the home in East London. Drawing inspiration from historical examples of experimental uses of life-size photos in exhibitions as well as contemporary immersive installations that successfully evoke atmosphere, I will discuss a number of innovative visual and spatial techniques that we used to produce 'spatial hapticity'. Throughout the paper I will also draw on evidence from our visitors' study to demonstrate how the photography that we employed had a visceral effect on visitors by encouraging 'embodied viewing'. Moreover, by allowing visitors to use their own cameras many were enticed to engage in mimetic play, and I hope to show that by tapping into their imagination these visitors may be thrown into a new conception of their lived and imagined worlds.

Panel P046
Exhibiting Anthropology beyond Museum Collections