06 Aug 2021 | Philipp Schorch et al.
Thinking through collections
All of us work, in one way or another, with collections. We might be interested in the historical formation of collections, the material constitution of things, the evolution of material expressions from the past to the present, exhibition histories and forms of display, notions of provenance, and techniques of conservation. At first sight, these directions of enquiry appear as museological. This is true, of course, but there is also more to this than meets the eye. Interrogating the historical formation of collections, for example, also sheds light on the histories of the sciences and the cross-cultural production of knowledge, the material constitution of things offers insights into cosmological frameworks and human-environmental relationships, material expressions reflect Indigenous conceptualisations of art and aesthetics, exhibitions and displays articulate definitions of regions and societies, and conservation is linked to efforts of preserving and remembering. In short, thinking through collections is not an exclusively museological affair limited to the realm of the museum, but an intellectual endeavor with the potential to make deeper and wider knowledge claims of fundamental and original value to the academy. This is the ethos and potential that this workshop sets out to foster. Each participant is invited to present their collection-related work in progress to pose questions and tease out preliminary answers or ideas that transcend the collection itself. In doing so, the workshop approaches collections as material records, sources, witnesses, informants, interlocutors and field sites, among other manifestations, which offer unique research material, in the epistemic sense, to pursue all kinds of questions of relevance to the arts, humanities as well as social and natural sciences.