The museum’s lexis: Driving objects into ideas

Nicolescu, Gabriela. 2016. The museum’s lexis: Driving objects into ideas. Journal of Material Culture, 21(4), pp. 465-489. ISSN 1359-1835 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article discusses how exhibition making can be seen as a creative method for building anthropological knowledge. Situations of conflict between social classes, curatorial practices and disciplines remind us of the existence of a very subtle and enduring museum lexis which governs how political ideas are put on display. Research was conducted in tandem with an exhibition the author curated in the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant 21 years after the collapse of the communist regime in South-Eastern Europe. Reflecting upon this process, the author shows how museums use a specific lexis that is based not only on existing practices but also on contingency. These facets each engage two different notions of temporality: while practice involves repetitiveness, predictability and continuity over different historical periods, contingency creates unexpected groupings of things, settings and meanings. It is the balance of the interplay between practice and contingency that dictates how the audience engages with museum discourse.

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anthropology, exhibition making, innovative research methods, politics of aesthetics, postsocialism

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1 December 2016Published
22 November 2016Published Online
23 July 2016Accepted

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Date Deposited:

25 Sep 2017 12:02

Last Modified:

25 Sep 2017 15:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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