The Museum’s Object: An analysis of contemporary museology
By Valerie Casey
The essays in this collection explore how museums shape cultural knowledge through representation and display. The text argues that the museum acquires social authority by controlling ways of seeing. The first paper offers an historical investigation of the evolution of modern museum practice by theorizing three primary typologies of display—legislative, interpretive, and performative. The second paper builds on the framework of the first, and further develops the notion that the museum is a space of social performance, and always has been. The third essay examines the conditioning of object value in the museum, and proposes a new interactive paradigm for the museum experience.
This work is situated in the ongoing museological debate that claims the contemporary museum is in crisis. I contend that the traditional—and dismissive—critical views of contemporary museums neglect to discern how complex and non-traditional museum experience has already become. Further, the contemporary museum is at a tipping point where museum visitors’ reception of new techniques of display can actually open up museal experience, rather than simply disrupt the closed contemplative circuit and so diminish viewer relations with objects.
Each essay in this collection varies slightly in tone based on its target audience. As such, the collection as a whole enacts the performance of research and writing.