Museums & Galleries Qld

Extreme Collecting, M&GSQ State Conference

Posted on: 13 July 2011

At M&GSQ’s State Conference, 11- 13 August, Friday’s Plenary session Changing Nature of Collections provides perspectives on managing collections for the future. Graeme Were, now Lecturer in Museum Studies, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland prompts delegates to challenge the bounds of normally acceptable practice.  He will draw on his co–edited forthcoming publication Extreme Collecting (Berghahn Books, 2012) and a collaborative series of workshops with University College London and the British Museum. Graeme Were explores the key points of a series of public debates held at the British Museum in 2007-8 that centred on discussing objects that resist being collected for reasons of their size, scale, materiality, marginality, legality, mass production or for their political or ethical nature. The debates intended to foster a critical debate about museum collecting practices and to move towards identifying priorities for collection policies which are inclusive of acquiring ‘difficult’ objects.

According to Graeme’s post to Material World, recurring questions highlight the complexities of this debate:
• Is safe collecting of use to museums? Safe collecting reinforces the status quo and leads to more of the same.
• Today’s junk could be the collections of the future. But how do we manage this in an era where data collection around an object matters more than the object itself?
• Widespread public participation in collecting has led to the uncovering of a great amount of information about Britain that otherwise would be lost. Does this force museums to collect in different ways and if so, what kind of ethical and legal issues does this raise?
• In what ways do new technologies such as the internet, EBay and digital images challenge conventional collecting practice? How do such collecting activities reconfigure curatorial authority, knowledge and control, as well as destabilize regimes of value attached to objects? How are museums engaging with these technologies and what are the legal and ethical issues at stake?

For more details on speakers and abstracts from the British workshop series see


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Museums & Galleries Queensland

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