MGHG AGM and Lecture 2019
4:30 PM16:30

MGHG AGM and Lecture 2019

Collections, Non-collections and Ecosystems: Case notes on photographic cultures in the Museum

Professor Elizabeth Edwards

What do photographs ‘do’ in museums? This paper considers the presence of photographs in museums as an ecosystem. This ecosystem is characterised, I suggest, by shifting relationships between formal ‘collections of photographs’ and the museum’s photographic ‘non-collections’ which saturate its practices. In tracing the history of these relationships I shall consider how hierarchies of photographic value have been established, maintained and challenged over time. Drawing on my recent work on the history of photographic cultures at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I consider the dynamic institutional performance of photographs across four key overlapping spaces of gathering and dissemination - the ‘guard-book’ albums, the library, the curatorial departments and through illustrated publications for the public. The V&A provides a particularly pertinent set of ‘case notes’, having developed an extensive relationship with photographs since the 1850s, one of the first museums to do so. Using anthropological concepts and methods to interrogate the matrix of photographic practice, accumulation and purpose, I suggest how thinking about what photographs ‘did ‘and are ’doing’ in museums can illuminate the epistemic values that shape them, and as such, constitute a vital yet overlooked strand in the histories of museums.

4.30pm AGM for MGHG Members

5.00pm Refreshments

5.30pm MGHG Lecture

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4:00 PM16:00

MGHG AGM and Inaugural Annual Lecture

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4-4.30pm—MGHG Annual General Meeting


5pm-6pm—MGHG Annual Lecture

Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (Durham University) Museums, Galleries and the Powers of Portraits

Portraits, whether originals or reproductions, are common in museums, while galleries devoted to them are currently enjoying considerable popularity.  Indeed, portraits have long been displayed to diverse audiences—museums and galleries are important but not the only places where they may be seen.  As a result we have a chance to reflect on how museums and galleries use portraits in the wider context of publications, digital culture and venues where public access is limited. Professor Jordanova will explore the diverse ways in which portraits are put on show and are assumed to offer insights into past times, often through the idioms of heroism and villainy. So portraits are at once ubiquitous, unremarkable, taken for granted, and endowed with the power to evoke specific human beings and prompt a myriad of reactions. What kinds of powers do portraits have? Do these aid historical understanding? And what can usefully be said about the roles they play in museums and galleries?

Free to MGHG members, £9 for non-members and £5 for student non-members

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