Call for Papers: ‘Comparative Museologies: case studies from Asia’

27th September 2017, Musée de l’Homme.

In the 19th century, major collections of Asian arts reached European museums. These collections provide useful comparisons of the reception of these cultures in different Western museums. While it is possible to recognise some key moments in the movement of objects from the East to the West (e.g. the discovery of Buddhist antiquities in the mid-century, or the expansion and establishment of colonialisms), the incorporation of these works into existing museum collections, or their interpretation according to scholarly knowledge at the time, differed depending on the range of objects available and the various national scholarly traditions.

One of the case studies of the ‘Universal Histories and Universal Museums’ project draws on the South Asian collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, including those that were brought to Europe so to be displayed in temporary exhibitions. The research centres on the purposes of museums in acquiring these objects, their use in displays and in public events, and debate around their position in the collections.

This workshop aims to explore the acquisition, inventory, and display of Asian objects in Western museums. The workshop will bring together researchers from ethnography, archaeology, and museum history, to explore the acquisition, display, and reception of Asian Arts in Europe. The workshop will also reflect on object agencies through a session with the objects studied in the ‘Universal Histories and Universal Museums’ project. We invite papers and posters exploring the agencies that contributed to the collection and display of Asian arts. Contributions might consider, but need not be confined to, the following themes:

  • Collecting and displaying Asian arts in Western museums in the 19th century and the early 20th century
  • Histories of museums of Asian arts and their collections (e.g. Musée National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet)
  • Museum collections and the development of ethnography
  • The impact of temporary exhibitions and universal exhibitions on the creation and development of museum collections, including other object journeys into museums via learned and other societies, private collections etc

Important information:

  • Papers – abstract: 300 words (20 minutes papers)

The deadline for abstract submissions to has passed (7th August 2017).

Authors were notified by the 10th August.

Please note: we aim to publish a selection of the papers from the workshops of the ‘Universal Histories and Universal Museums’ research project as a journal special issue.

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