icofom study series - 44



icofom study series - 44
Museology exploring the concept of MLA
Bruno Brulon Soares and Kerstin Smeds
Guest editors
ICOFOM Study Series, Vol. 44, 2016
ICOFOM Study Series, Vol. 44, 2016
International Journal of the ICOM International Committee for
Museology (ICOFOM)
Editors / Rédacteurs / Editores
Former Director, The Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary, Canada
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3, CERLIS, Labex ICCA, France
ICOFOM : Board members / Bureau / Miembros de la Junta
Vinoš Sofka, Honorary President, ICOFOM, Sweden
André Desvallées, Conservateur général honoraire du patrimoine, France
Ann Davis, Past President of ICOFOM,
Former Director, The Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary, Canada
François Mairesse, President of ICOFOM,
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, France
Indira Aguilera Kohl, Curator, Fundación Museos Nacionales, Venezuela
Bruno Brulon Soares, Universidade Federal do Est. do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Wanchen Chang, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan
Mónica R. de Gorgas, Former Director, Museo Nacional Estancia Jesuítica
de Alta Gracia, Argentina
Jennifer Harris, Curtin University, Australia
Anna Leshchenko, Russian St. University for the Humanities, Russia
Lynn Maranda, Curator Emerita, Museum of Vancouver, Canada
Eiji Mizushima, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Anita B. Shah, Museum consultant, Tulsi Graphics, Hyderabad, India
Kerstin Smeds, Umeå universitet, Sweden
Olga Truevtseva, Altai State Pedagogical Academy, Russia
Cristina Vannini, Director, Soluzionimuseali, Italy
Advisory Committee / Comité d’avis d’ICOFOM / Consejo
Maria Cristina Bruno, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
Bernard Deloche, Professor Emeritus, Université de Lyon 3, France
André Desvallées, Conservateur général honoraire du patrimoine, France
Peter van Mensch, Professor Emeritus, Reinwardt Academie, Netherlands
Martin Schaerer, President of ICOM Ethics Committee, Switzerland
Tereza Scheiner, Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tomislav Šola, Professor Emeritus, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Secretariat for the ICOFOM Study Series
General secretary:
Articles français:
Artículos en español:
English articles:
Anna Leshchenko
Suzanne Nash/Audrey Doyen
Mónica Risnicoff de Gorgas
Lynn Maranda
Articles and correspondence should be sent to the following email:
[email protected]
ISSN: 2309-1290 ICOFOM Study Series (Print)
ISSN: 2306-4161 ICOFOM Study Series (Online)
ISBN: 978-92-9012-416-0
© International Committee for Museology of the International Council of Museums
Published by ICOFOM, Paris
ICOFOM Study Series, Vol. 44, 2016
The following symposium was organized at the University of
Tsukuba (Japan) under the supervision of Prof. Eiji Mizushima.
Contents – Sommaire – Índice
Ann Davis – Co-Editor
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for
Museums, Libraries and Archives ........................... 5
Bruno Brulon Soares – Guest editors
Museums as Theme Parks: from the Informational
Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience……………..17
Bruno Brulon Soares and Kerstin Smeds – Guest editors
Museology exploring the concept of MLA (MuseumsLibraries-Archives) and probing its interdisciplinarity
.............................................................................. 29
Papers – Articles– Artículos
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić – Croatia
Communication Sciences in Croatia:a View on a
Thirty-Year-Long Experience …………………….. 37
PadillaGómez– Mexico
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal. La exposición
como archivo en proceso …………………………. 47
Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez – Mexico
Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museo.
………………………………………………………… 57
Jennifer Harris – Australia
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence …………… 69
Francisca Hernández Hernández – Spain
Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections
and Perspectives …………………………………… 81
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho and Tereza Cristina
Moletta Scheiner – Brazil
Museology and its constituent dialogues : inside and
outside the boundaries ……………………………. 95
Daniel Schmitt – France
Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie ... 107
Case Studies – Etudes de cas – Estudios de caso
Shuchen Wang – Finland
Atoms and bits of cultural heritage: Towards an
ecosystem of museum industry in the digital age.119
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for
Museums, Libraries and Archives
Ann Davis
Former Director, The Nickle Arts Museum, University of
Calgary - Canada
An unexpected problem arose with the 2011 opening of the new
University of Calgary library: too few chairs. Contemporary
assumptions had suggested that the wide availability of library
materials online would mean that patrons would not physically come
to a building, but would rather consult necessary sources on their
computers from the comfort of home. Yet, far from deserted, this new
library needed more seats. What happened in a museum? A 2012
exhibition, Matisse: Pairs and Series, at the Pompidou Centre in
Paris was wildly popular, engaging visitors in protracted discussions
and long stays in the show. At the same time, the wonderful
permanent collection a few floors below was virtually empty. How are
archives working? Recently I preordered material from the national
archives of Canada. After I had gone through security and registered,
I went to pick up my order only to be told by an apologetic archivist
that my documents had been misplaced. I would be notified when
they were found and would I come back. The staff of the archives
had been cut again. These are some examples of communication
challenges and successes for memory institutions today.
This paper will explore two humanistic communication theories that
examine these problems, starting first with Zygmunt Bauman’s
emphasis on physical space. Discussing the realities of living in an
age of uncertainty, Bauman turns to a sense of place in the
production of meaning and identity. Central to this idea is an
emphasis on society, on people rather than technology, a new
humanism analogous to the democratic, humanitarian ideas of the
Enlightenment. Progress is defined here in social terms, with
technology and collections playing supporting roles. Second,
following Martin Heidegger and John Dewey, separation of mind and
body is rejected in favour of uniting thinking and action. The theory of
embodied cognition posits that the workings of the mind and body
are intertwined to a far greater degree than previously understood.
Here the generation effect, learning by generating or doing rather
than simply observing, is important. These two theories help to clarify
some of the very real contemporary challenges faced by museums,
libraries, and archives and seek to suggest possible solutions.
Bauman and a sense of place
Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist living in England, is
concerned with how we find meaning and identity in what he calls an
age of uncertainty. In his recent book Liquid Times, he describes a
world in which the real powers that shape our conditions are global,
but our institutions of political action are local. This confrontation - the
strong word he uses - occurs in cities where the “battlegrounds on
which global powers and stubbornly local meanings and identities
meet, clash, struggle and seek a satisfactory, or just bearable,
settlement” (Bauman, 2007, p. 81). People, as global operators, may
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for Museums, Libraries and
roam in cyberspace, but as human agents they are confined to
physical spaces. These environments are crucial.
It is around places that human experience tends to be
formed and gleaned, that life-sharing is attempted to be
managed, that life meaning is conceived, absorbed and
negotiated. And it is in places that human urges and
desires are gestated and incubated, that they live in the
hope of fulfilment, run the risk of frustration - and are
indeed, more often than not, frustrated and strangled.
(Bauman, 2007, p.81, emphasis in original)
Here we have the paradox of increasingly local politics in a world
emphatically shaped by global processes. Bauman goes on in his
pessimistic fashion to emphasize, following Manuel Castells, that the
“ever more conspicuous mark of our time is the intense …
‘production of meaning and identity: my neighbourhood, my
community, my city, my school, my tree, my river, my beach, my
chapel, my peace, my environment’” (Bauman, 2007, pp. 83-84,
quoting Castells, 1997, pp.61, 25). It is these very local spaces and
places that are of interest to us; however, as often configured today,
they may be problematic, contributing to isolation rather than
mitigating it.
Bauman contends that architects and urban planners have added to
the very real difficulties of urban life by designing cities that exclude
and segregate rather than include and increase tolerance to
difference. He is especially critical of the segregation of residential
and public spaces. More favourable would be an opposite
architectural and urban planning strategy, one that promotes “the
propagation of open, inviting and hospitable public spaces which all
categories of urban residents would be tempted to attend regularly
and knowingly and willingly share” (Bauman, 2007, p.91). He
references Hans Gadamer, who points out in Truth and Method that
mutual understanding is prompted by a “fusion of horizons,” horizons
developed and expanded in the course of accumulating experiences.
Bauman concludes that the “‘fusion’ that mutual understanding
requires can only be the outcome of shared experience; and sharing
experience is inconceivable without shared space” (Bauman, 2007,
p. 92, emphasis in original). This creates a sense of place.
What characterizes this sense of place? It is more than local and
regional identity, claims Beverly Sandalack, an urban design
professor at the University of Calgary. Rather it is authentic identity.
“This authentic identity,” she writes, “usually arises from the
responsiveness to certain local and regional factors, to local
environment and to cultural process and form - over time”
(Sandalack, 2005, p.13). Authentic identity is also personal and
experiential. It is necessary, for “we need places other than our own
homes to call our own” (Sandalack, 2005, p.13). Identity and its
expression in place have historic roots. The ancient Romans
believed in a genius loci or a spirit of place; according to Christian
Norberg-Schulz, a Norwegian architectural theorist, they thought it
was “of great existential importance to come to terms with the genius
of the locale where (their) life takes place” (quoted in Sandalack,
2005, p. 14; Norberg-Schulz, 1979, p.18). Genius loci, then, has
identity – an identity derived from the “particular relationships of
things to each other in a particular place” (Quantrill, 1987, p. 46).
Physical artifacts as well as human intervention are necessary for a
sense of place. For a space to have meaning, it needs to belong and
Ann Davis
to be the continuous responsibility of a group of people. Roger
Trancik, an urban design professor at Cornell University, felicitously
characterizes this as “a certain patina given by human use over time”
(Trancki, 1986, p.113). According to Norberg-Schulz, a sense of
place needs two psychological functions: orientation and
identification. Orientation refers to legibility, readability, or how parts
can be deciphered through location, shape, colour or arrangement
and understood to form a coherent mental pattern. Identification
involves becoming friends with the environment, working with it, not
against it (Norberg-Schulz, 1979, pp.19-21).
A sense of place, that is, the ability to orient ourselves and
to identify with an environment, is greatest when the
environment is both familiar and distinctive; this increases
the potential depth and intensity of human experience
(Lynch 1960, p. 10). A space, then, only becomes a place
“when it is given a contextual meaning derived from
cultural and regional content” (Trancik 1986, p. 112) and
when it supports and is supported by a community.
Authentic identity is not something that is imposed, but
something that is derived from its location in space and
time, and from human interaction and use, over time.
(Sandalack, 2005, p. 15)
Memory is linked to a sense of place in important ways, and ways
important to us. The ancient Athenians and Romans derived the
“method of loci,” essentially a mnemonic device to promote and order
memories in the head. The method involves constructing in one’s
mind a detailed building, at times called a “memory palace,” inside
which memories can be put and then retrieved. Subsequently, from
an imaginary memory place there developed a real, physical memory
place, a cabinet of curiosity, a collection of objects in an organized,
manageable interior space. Michael Harris, a journalist and
documentary filmmaker, calls both methods – loci and cabinets of
curiosity – attempts to “pull a world’s worth of material into a small,
navigable space” (Harris, 2014, p. 147).
As Nicholas Carr describes, perceiving and remembering space and
location is linked how navigation works in the mind and memory. In
the early 1970s, researchers at University College London
discovered location-keyed neurons, which they dubbed “place cells.”
In 2005, a team of Norwegian neuroscientists discovered a different
set of place cells, which they called “grid cells.” Taken together, grid
and place cells, according to science writer James Gorman, act “as a
kind of built-in navigation system.” In addition to their role in
navigation, these cells appear to be involved in the formation of
memories, particularly memories of events and experiences. In a
2013 article in Nature Neuroscience, scientists concluded that, “The
neuronal mechanisms that evolved to define the spatial relationship
among landmarks can also serve to embody associations among
objects, events and other types of factual information” (quoted in
Carr, 2014, pp. 134-135). Space and place, then, seem to have
considerable importance for memory and associations.
Thinking and acting
Museums, libraries and archives are not simply memory institutions,
although that is part of their attraction. Rather they are also,
importantly, creating organizations where people go to explore and
discover, in short to think. So the nature of thinking is important.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for Museums, Libraries and
More and more theorists are convinced that thinking is bound up with
action, that if you really want to know something, you have to do it.
John Dewey, an influential American educator and writer, who made
groundbreaking contributions to educational theory, philosophy and
art history, was adamant about the ties between mind and body.
“Thinking, or knowledge-getting, is far from being the armchair thing
it is often supposed to be,” wrote Dewey in 1916. “Hands and feet,
apparatus and appliances of all kinds are as much a part of it as
changes in the brain” (Dewey, 1916, p. 13-14; in Carr, 2014, p.148).
From Hegel and Darwin, Dewey conceived of experience “as an
interaction with, as well as a reconstruction of, the environment”
(Dewey,1964 [1916], p. 577). This experience, the result of
“interaction of organism and environment,” becomes participation
and communication. The means of this participation are “senseorgans with their connected motor apparatus” (Dewey,1964 [1916],
p.593). Dewey championed humans’ unique ability to unify “sense
and impulse, … brain and eye and ear” (Dewey, 1916 [1964],
p. 593). This theory was based on an active, holistic interpretation:
“Life goes on in an environment, not merely in [sic] it but because of
it, through interaction with it” (Dewey,1964 [1916], p.579). Space and
place have considerable importance for memory and associations.
Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher, argued that the deepest
form of understanding available to us “is not mere perceptual
cognition, but, rather, a handling, using and taking care of things,
which has its own kind of knowledge” (Carr, 2014, p. 148). The
separation of mind and body promoted by Descartes and generally
accepted in the west, though not in the east, is here rejected in
favour of one whole, a unity. Such rejection is continued by the
Portuguese-American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and the
renowned Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells (Castells, 2009,
p. 138).
The illusion of mind-body dualism exploded in contemporary
psychology and neuroscience has resulted in what is being called
embodied cognition. Confirming what Dewey and Heidegger posited,
embodied cognition submits, as Nicholas Carr notes in his
provocative book The Glass Cage:
Not only are the brain and body composed of the same
matter, but their workings are interwoven to a degree far
beyond what we assume. The biological processes that
constitute “thinking” emerge not just from neural
computations in the skull but from the actions and sensory
perceptions of the entire body. (Carr, 2014, p. 149)
Philosopher Shaun Gallagher, in his important book How the Body
Shapes the Mind, declared that, “Nothing about human experience
remains untouched by human embodiment, from the basic
perceptual and emotional processes that are already at work in
infancy, to a sophisticated interaction with other people … from the
exercise of free will in intentional action, to the creation of cultural
artifacts that provide for further human affordances” (Gallagher,
2005, p. 247). Just how all this works is still being explored, but what
seems clear is that thinking cannot be separated from physical
being, just as physical being cannot be separated from the world
around us.
The concept of embodied cognition helps to explain, as Gallagher
suggests, our prodigious interest in technology. Because we are
Ann Davis
tuned to our environment, our bodies and minds are quick to acquire
tools and other artifacts. These tools might be a cane or hammer,
each of which will be incorporated by our brain into its neural map of
our body. Other animals, such as monkeys and elephants, also use
tools this way. But it is humans who have devised tools to extend our
mental as well as our physical capabilities. These tools are often
helpful, but the ease with which we use technology and make it a
part of our daily functioning can also be harmful; they can and do
separate the mind from action, actually disembodying us, often
producing an erosion of skills and a dulling of perceptions. As Carr
One of the great ironies of our time is that even as
scientists discover more about the essential roles that
physical action and sensory perception play in the
development of our thoughts, memories, and skills, we’re
spending less time acting in the world and more time living
and working through the abstract medium of the computer
screen ... With the general-purpose computer, we’ve
managed, perversely enough, to devise a tool that steals
from us the bodily joy of working with tools. (Carr,
2014,p. 151)
Another important part of acting in the world, of communication, as
Manuel Castells notes, involves mirror neurons. Mirror neurons
represent the action of another subject, enabling processes of
imitation and empathy. They make it possible to relate emotionally to
others. Mirror neurons activate the same neural networks when one
feels fear or sees someone else feeling fear, or when seeing images
of people feeling fear or when watching events evoking fear.
Furthermore they assist in the process of abstraction, the shift from
observation and action to representation (Castells, 2009, pp.144145; see also Ananiev, 2011). Castells comments that, “The capacity
to evaluate the intentional state of others and to send signals to
manipulate these intentions can assist evolution toward higher
cooperation, inducing better individual and group outcomes” (2009,
p. 145).
Thought as well as memory are involved in what is called the
generation effect. Since the 1970s, cognitive psychologists have
explored the effect that people remember much better when
generating or producing rather than just reading. In an early, famous
experiment, Norman Slameck asked people to memorize antonyms,
like hot and cold. Some test subjects were given cards like this:
hot : cold
Others were given slightly different cards like this:
hot : c
that showed only the first letter of the second word, the antonym.
Subsequently those with the card with the missing letters were much
better at remembering the word pairs (Carr, 2014, pp.72-73). A 2011
Science article demonstrated that students who read a complex
assignment during a study period and then spent a second period
recalling as much as possible, learned the material more fully than
students who read the assignment repeatedly over four study
periods. Thus we see that the mental action of generation improves
the ability to carry out activities that “require conceptual reasoning
and requisite deeper cognitive processing” (Carr, 2014, p. 73,
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for Museums, Libraries and
quoting Britte Haugan Chen). However, the easy availability of
information online weakens our memory for facts. Computers allow
us to skip the work of generation, to rely overtly on Google, and thus
to avoid using our brains fully. The result is a forfeiting of deep
Nicholas Carr sums up the high value of the generation effect and
the great losses provoked by its absence:
The kinds of effort that give rise to talent - characterized
by challenging tasks, clear goals, and direct feedback are very similar to those that provide us with a sense of
flow [generation]. They‘re immersive experiences. They
also describe the kinds of work that force us to actively
generate knowledge rather than passively take in
understanding, and achieving personal satisfaction and
fulfillment are all of a piece. They all require connections,
physical and mental, between the individual and the world.
They all require, to quote the American philosopher Robert
Talisse, “getting your hands dirty with the world and letting
the world kick back in a certain way.” (Carr, 2014, p. 85)
Museums, Libraries and Archives
If Gallagher, Carr, Castells and many others are right, and
technology is making us dumber, less physically active and less able
to reason, can we both retain the vast benefits we have derived from
technology and counter its negative effects? Can we join thinking
and physical action to create a sense of place? Since technology is
increasingly used in libraries, as well as in museums and archives,
are these memory and collecting institutions doomed? Are we in the
ironic position where institutions created to support and promote
education are actually harming learning? Perhaps a way around
these tricky problems is a renewed emphasis on people within an
environment, a revitalization of humanism and a reduced emphasis
on the collections.
Museums are certainly challenged today. If holding collections, they
need to devote considerable staff and resources to the care of these
precious artifacts, leaving little time or energy for other matters,
including visitors. At the same time, public funding is often withering,
so museums must apportion precious, limited resources to
fundraising. Furthermore, the numerous suggestions for visitor
engagement, the active mind/active body theory promoted by Dewey
and so many others, runs counter to the museum tradition where the
visitor is expected to acknowledge and accept the authority and
superior knowledge of the museum staff. Changing a visitor from a
passive receptor to an active participant is not an easy task.
The Matisse show, Matisse: Pairs and Series, at the Pompidou
Centre was a brilliant example of an event that effectively melded
the traditional art museum emphasis on aesthetics with the
postmodern visitor-created experience. The show addressed a
question many visitors ask of creators: “How did he do this?” Right
from the straightforward exhibition title, we know exactly what to
expect. No cute, sexy or grand language here. On a wall, adjacent to
the lineup to get into the show, an extensive timeline was mounted –
laying out Matisse’s creative life, in considerable detail, through
words and photographs. Since the show was very popular, visitors
had to stand for some time in this line and therefore had lots of
Ann Davis
opportunity to become familiar with Matisse’s life, even if they knew
little about it before. Once inside, visitors delighted in works hung
chronologically, in pairs or series as the title suggested. The space
was organized such that each pair or grouping could be seen from
one vantage point, so that the individual pieces could be appreciated
both for themselves and easily compared to others. Extended labels,
written in clear, non-technical language, provided lots of information
on each work and suggested approaches for considering the
contrasting works. The theme of the exhibition, clear right from the
beginning, was evident in every room, always anchored in Matisse’s
extraordinary ability to reimagine a scene differently, to present to us
varied interpretations of the same thing.
Why was the exhibition so successful? One reason, of course, was
the quality of the content. Not only is Matisse a very great painter,
well known and loved, but also the particular pieces exhibited were
among his very best. Then the theme of the show, the idea of
exploring how he worked by showing contrasting paintings, was
entirely in keeping with Matisse’s own methodology and was
beautifully executed. The show’s thesis, and the curators’
interpretation, was not forced or uncertain, but clearly and happily
demonstrated throughout. Each pair or grouping was very carefully
chosen, such that the changes from one piece to the next were
plainly visible, even to a visitor who had no previous knowledge of
the master’s work. For these reasons alone the show would have
been considered a success. However a further, overarching reason
made this experience great and memorable: the exhibition was
about more than the work of a great French painter. It was about
much more than art history. Its theme touched everyone, probing a
universal question, for the show was fundamentally about the nature
of creativity.
The response of the visitors was most interesting. They were fully
engaged. People would stop at each group of paintings, first to look
and read the labels, but also, importantly and consistently, to
discuss, parse, and analyze. This process would take a considerable
amount of time: there was no sense of hurry, of a necessity to move
on. Rather families and friends would consider one pair, then
perhaps circle back to reexamine a previous pair, or stop, sit on an
appropriately placed bench, and continue to talk. This exhibition
certainly demonstrated the centrality of sense of place as a location
of meaning making, one that breaks down previous barriers to
expand into the new and wonderful – Gadamer’s “fusion of
horizons.” Authentic identity was discovered, as the broad theme of
creativity found resonance with every viewer, for in the past each
person has struggled with the problem of how to create, even if
creating means mending, metal-working or management rather than
painting. Following Dewey, Heidegger and Carr, the show amply
confirmed the ties of mind and body, the moving of both mind and
body in consort. Mirror neurons were actively used in the numerous
discussions, both those held during time in the exhibition and
afterwards. A visit to Matisse: Pairs and Series was a lasting,
memorable experience.
The contrast in visitor reaction between the Matisse exhibition and
the display of the Pompidou permanent collection a few floors below
is extreme. It graphically shows the very real problems museums
have in achieving audience engagement, for not only were there few
visitors in the famous, high quality, permanent collection, but the
ones that were there were mostly silent, wandering from one major
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for Museums, Libraries and
work to another, sometimes stopping, but there was little indication
that they linked one work to another or to their past experiences.
They were seldom dynamically involved. What is needed, then, is for
museums to change from “being providers of content and designers
of experience to becoming facilitator of experiences around
content…[M]useum professionals must create activities that link the
curatorial research and the institutional collection with interests,
expectation and previous knowledge of the visitors” (Radice, 2015,
p. 262).This is not denying the value of collections, but rather using
them in ways better configured to visitors’ interests. A sense of place
and mind-body links greatly help in this difficult endeavour.
Libraries too are challenged. By the late 1990s, the Web had
drastically changed libraries, not to say threatened them, for now
users could access library information from anywhere, not just from
inside a library building. This led to a major crisis, prompting the
question “why do we need libraries?” For some people, the question
is still valid today. While it is hard to get firm numbers of libraries that
have closed, it has been reported that in 2012 more than 200
libraries were shuttered in the UK, and a 2013 article in The
Guardian suggested that some felt 1000 would be closed by 2016. A
new US college, Minerva, in San Francisco, has decided not to have
a library at all (Wood, 2014, p. 53). The emergency prompted an
article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, on November 16, 2001,
titled “The Deserted Library”, illustrated by a cover photograph of the
inside of a library with no one in it.
Two other important trends developed at this time, trends especially
but not uniquely evident in academic libraries. The first was the
Information Commons movement: quality, high-tech workspaces
supported by technical and intellectual expertise. These new spaces
were made possible with the second trend: the building of highdensity storage facilities away from the library building. Now the
collection was moved out to make more room for users. Indeed, the
first “bookless” libraries soon appeared (Hickerson, 2014, p. 16).
It is with these three features in mind – the technological revolution,
information commons and distant collection storage – that the new
library at the University of Calgary was designed. Rather than
including the traditional small carrels with protective sides, promoting
quiet isolation, the new library features long tables, at which eight or
more users sit with their computers in front of them, talk to their
neighbours, discuss assignments, even eat lunch, drink coffee and
get help with technological questions. It has become a community,
populated by those with similar education who seek a convenient,
friendly, not overly officious space to study and to socialize. The
library quickly became so popular that more books were removed to
the distant high-density storage building and 200 more chairs were
added (Hickerson, 2014, p. 16). This new community focus, noted by
OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), a global library cooperative
active in more than 100 countries:
moves the library towards a set of services around
creation, curation, and consumption of resources that are
less anchored in a locally managed collection, and more
driven by engagement with research and learning
behaviors.(Dempsey, Malpas,& Lavoie, 2014, p.10)
Whether consciously or not, students countered Bauman’s
uncertainty by creating a sense of place, a community in which
Ann Davis
embodied cognition, mirror neurons, and the generation effect can
and do have considerable range.
This sense of community in a specific place, the emphasis on people
rather than collections, is finding considerable favour. In November
2014, The Royal Society of Canada published a report on “Canada’s
Libraries, Archives and Public Memory.” This report noted that:
There is a growing realization that physical libraries are
becoming even more important community spaces, places
where people gather, share, and learn from each other.
Print collections will occupy less physical space but, if
anything, libraries will find that competing demands for
quiet space and for noisy public space, for collaboration
and for discovery spaces mean that library buildings will
become larger and more flexible. (Royal Society, 2014,
pp. 27-28)
There are a number of exciting examples of libraries that emphasize
people over collections, that are real community organizations.
Alison Hopkins, Territorial Librarian of the Northwest Territories in
Canada, reported on library programs that combine aspects of civic
duty and public value:
From January to March 2013, 20 public libraries offered
1000 programs attended by 14,000 people. These
programs include a sewing circle, family computer night, a
cupcake challenge, drumming and hand games, robotics
club, and a Pokémon club. After-school programs are
especially popular in small communities with few other
options. (Royal Society, 2014, pp. 28-29)
It is interesting to note that many of these activities involve bodymind unity and go well beyond the traditional library expectation that
a patron will sit quietly reading a book.
Internationally there are strong examples of genuine interaction
between the institution and its users:
DOK, in the Netherlands, developed software that allows
library users to add images and stories to the library’s
digital local history collection. The Library 10 in Helsinki
permits users to program concert space any night of the
week, without consulting staff except to ensure that the
space is available. In Denmark, more than 50 public library
buildings allow users to enter the space, including
checking out physical material, even when the branch is
closed; precautionary checks include using the library card
as part of a general identification card. Discovery Layer
software allows users to comment on library material they
liked and didn’t like (Royal Society, 2014, pp. 24-25).
This energetic attention to the citizen-user marks a tectonic shift in
libraries and is particularly noticeable in community archives.
The two communication theories - sense of place and body-mind
links - are also germane to archives. But archives are somewhat
different from libraries in that they cater to a more specialized
audience, those interested in history and genealogy. Yet in building
communities, archives have a very important role “for dealing with
creating and authenticating evidence, storytelling, memory-making
… Aboriginal or indigenous people have especially rich traditional
cultures in this regard … as do some women’s and ethnic
communities” (Royal Society, 2014, pp. 85-86). Shelley Sweeney,
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Two Humanistic Communication Theories for Museums, Libraries and
Head of the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections,
Archival records are critically important to individuals and
to society in general. They are the basis for individual and
societal human rights, provide transparency of action and
accountability for governments, and support enriching
cultural activities that basically make life worth living, such
as the creation of films and documentaries, the writing of
books and histories, and the tracing of personal family
genealogies. (Royal Society,2014, p. 88)
Neglecting archives and archival collections is an inestimable loss to
community and society.
While library collections, especially paper ones, are taking second
place to active people in the new humanistic library, in archives
collections are assuming greater importance, although more physical
activity is also being promoted. Archival collections may well be in
analogue form; like libraries, archives still have, and will continue to
deal with, paper. In Canada, it is estimated that only one to two
percent of Canada’s documentary heritage is digital (Royal Society,
2014, p. 93). Unlike libraries that hold volumes available in many
copies and therefore in many places, archives have scarce and
unique holdings. OCLC records that special collections and archives,
being composed of these rare and unique materials, are attracting
more attention because they are a major factor in forming the
reputation of the institution (Dempsey et al., 2014, p.17).
With increased attention being given to archives and their
collections, digitization and other methods of expanding access are
also becoming more important. This has prompted increased
attention given to how materials are shown in the online
environment, not just as lists or photographs, but as coherent
collections of materials. For example, University of Illinois’ special
collections blog, Non Solus, highlights particular holdings by
embedding them in a larger narrative about specific lines of critical
inquiry (Dempsey et al., 2014, p.22). Returning to Bauman and a
sense of place, the newly-opened archive of Stratford-Perth in
Canada boasts not only a state-of-the art records storage room and
a well-equipped public reading room, but also a gallery space in
which to show “treasures of the collections, welcome school groups
and host speakers on local history” (Royal Society, 2014, p.86).
Archives, like museums, are mounting exhibitions to contextualize
and characterize their holdings.
Bauman’s particular, local place - place not space - is key in
humanistic communications in museums, libraries and archives. A
sense of place, built and supported by a community, generates the
development of valued meaning and authentic identity. Open,
inviting, hospitable places that urban residents regularly, willingly
and knowingly share are surely what all three institutions aspire to
be. From shared space comes the possibility of shared experience,
which in turn promotes necessary mutual understanding. Museums,
libraries and archives, as organizations geared to thinking, are
beginning to recognize the important links between mind and body,
and thus are starting to understand that, if you really want to know
something, you have to do it and get your hands dirty. Embodied
cognition and the generation effect reject passivity in favour of
action, focusing more attention on the physical as well as the mental.
The broad conclusion is that in museums and libraries, and to a
certain extent archives, collections and technology – while certainly
Ann Davis
valuable – should be secondary to sensory experience, humanistic
communication through action.
Ananiev, V. (2011). The dialogic museum, dice and neurons: a few
personalnotes on the topic.ICOFOM Studies Series, 40, 27- 32.
Bauman, Z. (2007). Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty.
Cambridge,UK: Polity Press.
Carr, N. (2014). The Glass Cage: Automation and Us. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company.
Castells, M. (1997).The Power of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell.
Castells, M. (2009).Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Davis, A., & Sandalack, B.A. (Eds.) (2005).Sense of Place: A catalogue of
essays. Calgary: The Nickle Arts Museum.
Dempsey, L., Malpas, C., & Lavoie, B. (2014). Collection Directions:
SomeReflections on the Future of Library Collections and
Collecting, OCLC Research. Portal:Library and the Academy,
“The Deserted Library” (2001) Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16.
Dewey, J. (1932). Art as Experience. In Hofstadter, A. & Kuhns, R. (Eds.).
(1964). Philosophies of Art & Beauty: Selected Readings in
Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger. (pp. 579 - 646). Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Dewey, J. (1916). Essays in Experimental Logic. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Gallagher, S. (2005).How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Harris, M. (2014).The End of Absence: Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a
world of constant connection. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers
Hickerson, T. (2014).Designing 21st-Century Spaces for 21st-Century
Roles.Felicitor, December, 15-18.
(2013, July 12).Library campaigners predict 1,000 closures by 2016. The
Lippard, L.R. (1997). The Lure of the Local: senses of place in a
multicentered society. New York: The New Press.
Matisse: Paires et séries/ Pairs and series. (2012). Paris: Centre Pompidou.
May, M. (2002). Exhibition Ideas: Integrating the Voices of Communities and
Audiences. In B. Lord&G.D. Lord (Eds.).The Manual of Museum
Exhibitions. (pp. 32–34). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Norberg-Schulz, C. (1979). Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of
Architecture. New York: Rozoli.
Quantrill, M. (1987).The Environmental Memory: Man and Architecture in
the Landscape of Ideas. New York: Schocken Books.
Radice, S. (2015).Design and Participatory Practices Enhancing the Visitor
Experience of Heritage.ICOFOM Study Series, 43a, 252-263.
Royal Society of Canada. (2014). The Future Now: Canada’s Libraries,
Archives and Public Memory. rsc-src.ca. Accessed June 16,
Sandalack, B. A. (2005).Identity, continuity and place.In A. Davis&B. A.
Sandalack (Eds.). (2005). Sense of Place: a catalogue of essays
(pp. 13-26). Calgary: The Nickle Arts Museum.
Trancki, R. (1986). Finding Lost Space: Theories of Urban Design. New
York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Wood, G. (2014). The Future of College.The Atlantic, September 2014, 5059.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museums as Theme Parks: from the Informational
Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
Bruno Brulon Soares
Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) Brazil
“Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s
pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s
turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It will be easy enough to get through –”
(Lewis Carroll, Through
the Looking-Glass,
1999 [1872] p. 4-5)
What is Wonderland but a reflexive experience? Like a dream, it
transports and guides you every step of the way toward the fullest
experience of the ‘self’ away from the frameworks of reality, and until
you cannot differentiate fantasy from reality. In the land of
unimaginable experience designed by fairy tale, or in the heart of a
museum exhibition, fantasy, as an artifice of the mind, is responsible
for the creation of new worlds of imagined meaning within the wellknown reality. This significant breach between real and surreal is
where the deepest social discoveries can be made.
Museums are supposed to be imagined and not just created or
developed. They work like a story being told and they need creativity
as a starting point. Thus, their whole existence will depend on the
convincing enunciation of the teller. In most social analyses of
museums, researchers are misguided to direct their focus to the
power of the “truth” disseminated by these institutions. What
misguides them, in fact, is the very power of the museums’
convincing speech. Nevertheless, museums are powerful, not for the
assumed ‘truth’ we may ‘read’ in their material objects or for the
information they carry. Instead, their power lies in the performance
that makes the audience believe in the act that is being played: what
we may call the museum performance.
The focus of this paper is the study of museums as social agents that
produce performances. Distancing ourselves from a more
informational and objective perspective – which may suggest a clear
bond between museums and libraries, archives, or cultural centers
for instance, and which approximates museology with information
sciences – it would be preferable to think of museums in relation to
theme parks, or carnivals, as in the North American institution.
The anthropologist Anthony Seeger (1990, p. 13) suggests that
theme parks are important in the sense that they alter perception.
Theme parks, as much as many museums, alter the perception
individuals have of themselves, of their own bodies and space. In a
Ferris wheel, we are allowed to have different perspectives of space
when we go up and down. In a Fool’s House, we are confronted with
our own image in a distorted mirror. As in a traditional carnival, one is
made to feel that the social rules do not apply there. The cultural
performance establishes a permanent state of drama and play that
allows the audience to relate to social order in a different, imaginative
Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
level of the social reality. However, a particularity of theme parks
must be stressed: while most amusement parks are, in fact, noisy,
chaotic, and subversive, a theme park tends to be conceptualized as
an organized performance that is offered to the audience as a playful
breach from social order – deceiving chaos by presenting a different
version of lived reality.
Defined by Victor Turner (1988, p. 22) as “the eye by which culture
sees itself and the drawing board on which creative actors sketch out
what they believe to be more apt or interesting ‘designs for living’”,
the cultural performance instates a reflexive perspective to the social
order in which, like in many successful museums or musealized
sites, the audience is allowed to confront its place in history and in
society. In this sense, a performance is often a critique of the social
life it grows out of or “an evaluation (with lively possibilities of
rejection) of the way society handles history” (Turner, 1988, p. 22).
By comparing museums with theme parks and highlighting the value
of reflexive experience, the present analysis aims to deconstruct the
notion of museums as informational institutions and to propose a new
frame for museology’s subject of study. As a result, Museology, as a
discipline oriented to the study of what is produced by museums or of
produces them
(sometimes called
‘museality’ or
‘musealization’), is progressively proving to be closer to a human or
social science than to its traditional approximation to the information
sciences, as some of the past theorists of these disciplines have
The specificity of Museology’s subject of study:
overcoming the informational paradigm
Museology has long been submitted to an epistemology of the
information sciences. As a discipline that was originally conceived as
a ‘science’ by authors from Eastern and Central Europe since the
1960s, museology has been placed side by side with other applied
disciplines such as archival studies and librarianship, being itself
defined as an information science in the 1980s and 1990s:
Information sciences include: information sciences in a
narrow sense, documentation, communicology, theory of
classification systems, general theory of systems,
librarianship, bibliology, science of science, archivistics,
MUSEOLOGY, lexicology, theory of artificial languages,
theory of solving nonnumeric problems, cryptology, etc.
(Maroević, 2004, p. 15)
Some of the founding thinkers of theoretical museology from this part
of the world – where an advanced theory for museology has been
developed and disseminated – were responsible for placing the
discipline among the “other” information sciences, mostly because
they were trained and sometimes well-known researchers in that
particular field of knowledge. According to them, these supposed
‘sciences’ within the field of information would be defined by dealing
with “systematic study of the process of emitting, collecting,
selecting, evaluating, elaborating, archiving, retrieval, transmission,
distribution, explaining, using and protection of information”
(Obrazloženje, 1982 apud Maroević, 1983 [2004]). As much as these
subjects may be considered social processes related to the field of
communication and directly connected to museum practice, we may
argue that such an objective definition fails to include some of the
Bruno Brulon Soares
most museological processes, which are: creating, recreating,
imagining, enacting, and playing, among others.
The central difference between museology and the information
sciences – which we wish to stress in the present analysis – arises
when one confronts the specific subjects of study. If one may
consider the archive and the library (or their practical functions)
respectively as the subjects of study of archival studies and
librarianship, the same cannot be inferred about the museum in
relation to museology.
The main reason lies in the fact that these social sciences and their
particular researchers are studying mere informational relations –
leaving human experiences and performances outside of their scope.
This is not the case for museology. In a way, we may infer that
museology studies reflexive processes in the form of cultural
performances, i.e. the focus in this contemporary discipline is taken
away from fixed, stable objects as carriers of information to the
subjective human experiences and the very act of creating new
worlds in which information may be produced and transformed.
Having the museum as a stage in which these reflexive encounters
take place – a stage that can be instituted or improvised – museology
cannot be perceived as a discipline that is irrefutably attached to an
From a different perspective, even the museum has been, to a great
extent, distinguished from other informational institutions. For
instance, libraries and archives treat information as the main object
of the user’s discovery while, on the other hand, museums have the
visitor (viewed as a social actor) as an object in itself. Information
centers are supposed to be transparent; museums are allowed to
‘play’ hide and seek with their objects, using lights, shadows, sounds,
and theater to engage their visitors in a meaningful performance. Of
course museums deal with information too, but in such a way that it
is impossible for them to be defined by disciplines that study them
solely through an informational approach. In other words, the subject
of museology cannot be so objective if we intend it to be human.
If museums were all about transmitting data (as elements of reality),
in the purest information sense, they would be deprived of
imagination and wonder – subjective states that happen beyond the
object. In that case, the museum context would replicate the
traditional communication model (sender-message-receiver), and we
know it is, in fact, a much more complex process than that.
Musealization turns real things into representations of the things
taken from reality. The museum represents things as objects, giving
them a distinct status and value. Hence, the object is not in any case
‘raw reality’ but a complex representation. In other words, if we study
performances, the stability of the museum (as a social category
museologists are so attached to) vanishes in thin air. When taking
into account the actors and its agencies, a researcher must consider
that the object of a performative definition disappears when it is no
longer performed, or, if it persists in the social order, then it means
that other actors have taken over the relay (Latour, 2005, p. 37). That
is how fugitive the empirical object really is.
In the past, the founding mothers and fathers of our discipline have
already approached such a perception that leads to the relativization
of museology’s subject of study. Indeed, since 1965 in the former
Czechoslovakia, Zbyněk Z. Stránský raised questions on the subject
of study of museology, denying, for the first time, the museum as its
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Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
‘scientific’ subject matter (Stranský, 1965, pp. 30-33). The museum
would be, according to Stránský, “only an instrument to perceive a
certain way of cognition of society” (Stránský, 2005, p. 111 apud
Baraçal, 2008, p. 70, italics added). He was responsible for the
disconnection of the museology subject from the museum, as a
historic institution, to museality – understood as a “specific aspect of
reality”. This notion would lead Stránský to conceive the cognitive
intention of museology as the ‘scientific’ interpretation of an “attitude
of man to reality” (Stránský, 1980 apud van Mensch, 1992). This
reflection was possibly the zero mark for the development of a
systematic thinking on museology and its analytical subject, first in
Central and Eastern Europe, and later in other parts of the globe.
A “specific relation” or a reflexive experience?
Anna Gregorová, a Czech author influenced by the gnosiological
references introduced in museology by Stránský, defined, after him,
the museological subject of study as “specific relations of man to
reality” (Gregorová, 1980, p. 19). With this vague definition,
Gregorová emphasized the fact that the subject in the relation
realizes the totality of reality and at the same time differentiates itself
from the object of observation. He/she differentiates the part from the
whole, assuming a museum attitude towards the observed reality.
The focus in many definitions presented in the first theoretical
approaches to museology was on the cognitive notion of the
“relations of man to reality” conceived by Stránský and Gregorová.
This philosophical assertion reifies the separation of man from reality
and presupposes the existence of a (material) reality that is divorced
from society. According to a critical analysis, those are two
sociological errors that should be adamantly avoided in a museology
that should be more concerned with a wider range of associations
among the different agents composing society.
First, we may recall that the breach between subject and object is, in
fact, fabricated by a particular appropriation of reality. It was first
conceived as an important part of Descartes’ cogito, according to
which subjects as ‘minds’ exist as completely separated entities from
physical reality. This conception of a mind that is even detached from
a physical body and exists beyond any materiality lies in the
foundation of idealistic philosophy. It was further explored by Kant
and discussed by Hegel. But it is only since the Enlightenment that
Rationalism would translate it into politics, becoming a central part of
dominant ideologies in the West. In the case of museums, this
breach is a historic phenomenon that distinguishes Modernity and
characterizes a certain a priori for the existence of this institution.
Therefore, according to the Gregorovian assumption, museums are
places where this separation is given between a subject that thinks
and conceives the world as a mind and objective reality. As an
institution that simply applies a specific relation of man to reality,
museums are socially and philosophically outdated.
Equally influenced by Stránský’s thinking, in 1981, the Brazilian
museologist Waldisa Rússio defines the subject of museology as the
museum fact, or the museological fact, understood as “the profound
relationship between man, the cognizant subject, and the object”
(Rússio, 1981, p. 42). This theorist separates, once again, the
subject of reason – under the clear influence of the cogito – from the
object of knowledge, “that part of reality to which man belongs, and
Bruno Brulon Soares
over which he has the power to act”, both parts considered in the
museum fact.
The very definition of the subject of study of museology as a relation
between parts that differentiate themselves, creating an asymmetry,
is an error in the sense that it ignores how asymmetries and
differences are created socially. There is no such thing as a ‘relation’
if we conceive the social world as a network of associations that
generate constant transformation. The contemporary anthropologist
Bruno Latour states that it is precisely because it is so difficult to
maintain asymmetries, to durably entrench power relations, or to
enforce inequalities, that so much work is being devoted to shifting
the weak and fast-decaying ties to other types of links (Latour, 2005,
p. 66). ‘Relations’ are a deceiving kind of link that reifies the social
reality. In addition, the ‘social’ in itself is here perceived as “a type of
connections between things that are not themselves social” (Latour,
2005, p. 5), or as a movement of re-association and reassembling
(Latour, 2005, p. 7), according to Latour’s actor-network theory.
What we propose in the present text is the dislocation of the
epistemological problem of museology from the subject of study to
the cognitive frames we use to interpret it. In other words, the
museological problem is not having the museum as subject matter,
but understanding the museum exclusively by a dated philosophical
assumption (the Cartesian cogito), limiting all thinking processes. As
we will sustain, the subject of museology should not be defined
unidimensionally by the subject-object relation forged in the West,
but instead should consider all kinds of possible associations among
subjects, objects, relations, subjects behaving as objects, objects
behaving as subjects, etc. These roles are performed by people and
things in reality and are reified in the museum theory produced over
the last fifty years. They are simply parts played by the most different
types of elements, and they can be modified, inverted, transformed,
or translated in different ways, forming what we call the museum
A performance theory for Museology
Presenting the problem of museum and reality – reality as the
museum object – Gregorová reaches an ontological problem at the
core of museology, i.e. the explanation of reality in itself, as a carrier
of a gnoseological value and potential (Gregorová, 1980, p. 19), or of
a museum value also known as museality. By disconnecting the
question from the museum in relation to the reality that ‘is produced’
by it, Gregorová points out to the fact that there is something
between man and reality, something beyond the object and matter
that is worth being studied. This thing, which is philosophically
presented as a property of the museum object, is created by what
can be called the museum performance.
Cultural performances are always connected to ‘real’ events, but they
are not simple expressions of culture or even of changing culture.
Considering some cultural forms as not so much reflective as
reflexive, Victor Turner points out that here the analogy is not with a
mirror but rather with a reflexive verb (Turner, 1988, p. 24). In that
sense, culture – like verbs – has at least two ‘moods’ – indicative and
subjunctive – in most languages, and these moods are most
hopelessly intermingled. As Turner explained, when society bends
back on itself, it
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Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
meanders, inverts, perhaps lies to itself, and puts
everything so to speak into the subjunctive mood as well
as the reflexive voice. (Turner, 1988, p.25)
By doing that, society works in a state of supposition, desire, and
possibility, rather than stating actual facts. This arrangement of
things dissolves what were once factual components of reality and
instates a more playful spirit. A ‘reflex’, on the other hand,
presupposes ‘realism’. But of course, even in the context of a
museum or in art and literature, realism is only a matter of artifice
and what is real is a result of cultural definition. For Turner, the
genres of cultural performance are not simple mirrors, but rather
“magical mirrors of social reality”, because they are capable of
exaggerating, inverting, re-formatting, magnifying, minimizing, and
even falsifying the known chronicled events (Turner, 1988, p. 42).
What we aim for, with the separation of the museological subject of
study from the strict man-reality relation to a broader, sociologically
founded unit of analysis, is to demonstrate that a relation between
philosophical entities – man-reality, subject-object – constitutes a
type of performance, in fact. This way we distance ourselves from an
empirical system of relations to reach a system of associations that
study actors in their agencies instead of a Cartesian equation.
In that sense, ‘man’ cannot be considered the only actor in a
‘relation’. For the actor-network theory (ANT), defended by Bruno
Latour, if we stick to the decision to consider the actors through their
agencies, then anything that modifies a state of affairs by making a
difference is supposed to be an actor (Latour, 2005, p. 71). Thus,
there is no hierarchy established to differentiate subjects from
objects. A thing is also studied as an actor in the subject-object
equation – or, at least, an actant, if it has no figuration. Of course,
this does not mean that these participants ‘determine' the action, that
“hammers ‘impose' the hitting of the nail”. According to Latour:
“In addition to ‘determining' and serving as a 'backdrop for
human action', things might authorize, allow, afford,
encourage, permit, suggest, influence, block, render
possible, forbid, and so on.” (Latour, 2005, p.71)
This also does not mean that objects do things ‘instead’ of human
actors. Latour argues that no social science can exist without first
exploring the question of who and what participates in the action.
This primary empirical question could mean – as it certainly does for
museology – letting in the so-called “non-humans” (Latour, 2005,
p. 71). The human-reality relation, then – limiting of the subject of
museology – could begin to be perceived as a relation between
associations, and, in that sense, it could be fully studied by a human
For a more realistic sociological perspective, we have to accept that
the continuity of any course of action or relation will rarely consist of
human-to-human or object-object connections, but will probably
zigzag from one to the other (Latour, 2005, p. 75). The simplistic
triangle between man, object, and institution that traveled through all
museological theory so far is sociologically barren. The museum
performance, in which the three roles of the ‘public’, the ‘object’, and
the ‘museum’ are socially enacted, should no longer be perceived as
a true social relation, in order to be systematically studied as a
performance of the social – or of the museum.
Bruno Brulon Soares
Furthermore, this new perception implies that if the museum is a
thing that performs the relation of man to reality, then musealization
is the action towards which we should direct our interest – as social
scientists or researchers of associations. Because associations
prevail, we can conceive of, for instance, calculation without a
calculator, acceleration without a car, or even education without a
school. Musealization, then, exists beyond the museum. It is the
subjective experience that makes the theme park, not the attractions
by themselves. It is the subject reflected in the distorted mirror who is
experiencing the distortion.
Just as the hammer does not ‘impose’ the hitting of the nail,
museums do not impose musealization. In fact, museums are the
mediators and not the main actors of this process; they participate in
the action, but they cannot configure, in any conceivable way, the
sole subject of museology.
Thus, the study of museum performances intends to reach realization
of the fact that objects as well as subjects are made.
Objects.Subjects.Reality. Social categories constructed in the
museum performance instead of absolute truths constitutive of this
institution. Masks that museums enact in a specific moment of our
history. Museology, as a social science, cannot be limited to them in
order to define its field of study.
The museum as theme park: museology, exploring
reflexive experiences
What is most telling about a theme park performance is how it
responds to the audiences’ needs to escape reality and individual
demand to experience the ‘self’ in a different state. In general,
spectators are very aware of the moment when a performance takes
off. When the performance begins, and you are inside the known
limits of ‘fantasyland’, a presence manifests itself. Something has
‘happened’. The performers have touched or moved the audience,
and some kind of collaboration, a collective special theatrical life, is
born. Through this collaborative force that is instated when the
audience believes in the performance of the performer, the audience
is transported to the new world created with the performer.
In the performance, once the audience crosses the gates of the
theme park or reaches a state of museality, the boundaries between
staged reality and the social order disappear, as well as the
constructed limits that separate the subject from the object. The
ultimate goal of museum performance is liberating the audience from
its regular ties to reality and transforming the subject in the object of
its own reflection. Suppressing the separation predicted in the cogito,
the performance creates a brand-new type of relation for the ‘self’ in
the musealized stage.
As in the theme park, museum visitors are taken to a level of reality
where they are allowed to “play” with the many elements present,
with the visitor acting him/herself as one of the elements being
“played” in the reflexive experience. Play, which in English can relate
to a game or dance, also has the sense of an “exercise of oneself”
(Turner, 1982, p. 33). Play in ritual or theater manifests itself through
work and by actors involved in a shared activity. In museums, when
the audience becomes the actors, the performance of the selves
involved in a shared experience results in the expression of true
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Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
identities – and in the notion that identities are also practical
categories. At the same time, in a theatrical act or “social drama”
(Turner, 1988), the individual is at once himself and another. The
individual is divided between being and not-being, in a reflexive and
subjective experience.
As we have demonstrated, the breach between subject and object,
human and non-human, society and heritage, etc., is indeed an
artificial one, and museums cannot be considered to be reduced to
this traditional relation of “man” to “reality”. That is because, as
anthropology has confirmed in several studies, persons can be things
and things can be persons in many different contexts, situations, and
performances. The present paper is an invitation for museology
researchers to think of museums, things, concepts, and experiences
as if they were deeply bound to persons, subjects, and societies,
because in fact they are.
Redirecting museology towards metamuseology: the
configuration of a reflexive human science
In 1983, at the ICOFOM annual symposium in London, John Hodge
What we need is someone to outline a theory in finite
terms which we all understand. Its philosophy, its
statement of propositions used as principles of explanation
for phenomena etc. needs to be clearly stated with
concrete examples so that there is no misunderstanding of
what is meant. Only then will we be able to have
progressive discussion. (Hodge, 1983, p. 61)
In the very moment when social sciences are questioning their
fundamental principles and confronted with the ‘truth’ that there are
no ‘truths’ in empirical studies, thinkers inside ICOFOM seemed to
claim a single truth capable of providing an immediate systematic
theory for museology.
According to Joanna Overing (1985), who explores the recent crisis
of faith in philosophy over the empiricist’s paradigm of rationality,
within systematically analytical studies, the idea of a “single world” is
being challenged. Turning to look at themselves and their own
actions, social scientists reveal that the world – from the perspective
of our knowledge of it – is how we view it through the paradigms we
create. These researchers, differing from philosophers who are not
usually asking social questions, are asking about “moral universes” –
in Overing’s terms – their basic duty being to understand the
intentions and objectives of actors within particular social worlds
(Overing,1985, p. 2). Contrary to modern Western ‘science’ and the
attendant proposition that truth is amoral and facts are autonomous
from value, facts and truths can be analyzed as being tied to different
sets of social, moral, and political values. Thus, all truths have their
moral aspect; to hope to find universal and independent criteria for
truth has proven to be an unreachable goal that suits only thinkers
who are still defending their control over reality construction.
The cognitive powers of Western thought in controlling and knowing
the material world are at the base for museums, but they cannot be
the foundation of contemporary museology. Gradually, what is being
perceived with the possibility of a ‘science of the science’ is the fact
that Rationality works as a limiting tool for the analytical viewpoint
Bruno Brulon Soares
over the Others and especially over him/herself. The Western
fetishism for epistemological objects such as ‘reason’, ‘truth’, and
‘knowledge’ – or even the ‘museum’ – is little by little demolishing the
ways we relate to moralities and epistemologies different from our
Throughout most of the 20 century, in the early years of the
development of museology around the world, the thinkers of the
‘museum’ were not separated from their supposed subject of study.
Museum professionals were the ones conceiving ‘museology’. The
separation between researchers and their subject of study – which is
usually constructed by specific methods – has not been fully
accomplished in museology, and maybe still isn’t to this day. Perhaps
the reason we are still unable to define the subject of museology is
that we are so close to museums we remain their faithful hostages.
What differentiates, though, ‘museology’ from ‘museum theory’ or
‘museum studies’ is the desire of the first to be acknowledged as the
systematic approach in the context in which this term is being used.
In order for that to happen, a methodological distance must be
created between researchers and their subject of study. The theory
of museology produced in the past forty years is neither a product of
museum practice nor the mere expression of a few philosophers’
ideas disseminated from Eastern Europe. In fact, the theory is the
result of a reflection developed by these thinkers confronted with
certain museum practices in the different contexts in which they
Methodologically speaking, the agents who make museums, and
their agencies, must be studied by the theoreticians and researchers
of museology today. Nevertheless, when the same people play both
roles – the empirical researcher who is also the museum
professional – objective distance will depend on exercising reflexivity
on his/her own museum practice. Here the museum will be clearly
separated from the museological with the artifice of performance.
The first works on museology, by ICOFOM theorists, were just theory
and not systematically analytical studies because they consisted of
mere reflections – lacking the reflexivity that is, in part, the
acknowledgement of performance in the constructed truths. The
study of museum performance today allows any analytical researcher
to see him/herself as an actor on the stage of the museum
representations. Such reflexivity in the making of social science may
reveal itself to be a process that includes self-knowledge and the
revision of paradigms.
Over the years, the invention of unilateral relations or realities that
can be “touched with a finger” (Bourdieu, 1992, p. 228) has long
been common for social scientists, who preferred to deal with these
well-defined concepts instead of with the overall conception of the
concepts. In museology, the invention of philosophical truthshas
caused a series of misunderstandings among theorists. This
confusion was due to the limited empirical reality behind the
associations considered by those who made these assumptions.
After the early 1980s and the first superficial attempts to summarize
a theory for museology, some authors (Teather, 1983; van Mensch,
1992) pointed to a more realistic solution for a methodical
museology. Research was the answer. The truth of the matter is that
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
no philosophical ‘magic’ would create a social ‘science’ or its subject
without a considerable amount of empirical and theoretical research.
What substantially prevents the existence of a ‘science’ called
‘museology’ remains the fact that its theoretical production and
methods are marked by the Cartesian idea of the ‘museum’,
designed – as a metaphor and literally – in the rationalist system of
knowledge fabricated in Western Modernity. In this ‘museum’ that
organized objects and ideas – or ideas as objects – ‘things’ were
created to be put on the shelves of knowledge in order to be
observed, organized, counted, weighed, and measured by the
encyclopedic empiricist. Man was very much separated from things,
and things were fully dominated as passive objects in the gnosiologic
Museology, born in the interior of this kind of museums, and
conceived by the professionals working in these institutions, has
inherited their dogmas. For subjects that strongly desire to control
their own part of reality – as with human sciences in general – the
notion according to which human beings invent their own reality is
debated with certain difficulty even today.
The discussion of a specific method for museology raises two
fundamental questions: first, “how does museology mold the
practice?” and second, “how does the practice mold museology?”
Certainly, museology cannot be the discipline that studies the limited
and undefined universe of the museum. The very concept of the
‘museum’ used to explain heterogeneous experiences, to which
theorists refer as a “phenomenon” related to the terms “museology”,
“museography”, “theory of museum”, “museistic” (Stránský, 1980, p.
43), and so on …, is flagrantly an artifice of method, created to justify
the existence of an empirical museology.
Beyond this tautological conception, the practice available for actual
research escapes any kind of ‘museum’ characterization. By
considering the study of the mediations that formalize the wide
process of musealization – which may be mistaken for the process of
declaring heritage, when we accept the viewpoint of a “heritology” –
we then have a concrete empirical field for museology.
It is thus clear that an effective social science may conceive
musealization as an agency and all the persons and objects involved
in it as agents. To find the tracing of these associations would be the
work of the museologist (who is not the museum professional but the
social scientist). As the epistemologist who thinks about “the
meaning of meaning”, or the psychologist who thinks about how
people think, the museologist can be seen as the one who thinks
about the museological “thinking” – and in this sense Stránský
wouldn’t be wrong for suggesting the existence of “meta-theoretical
problems” for this “science” (Stránský, 1980, p. 44). The clear path to
a reflexive museology would be, in our perspective, understanding
metamuseology as the consciousness of museology, working in a
philosophical way to pose museological questions and to interrogate
the different realities where ‘musealization’ (whatever it is called) is
By focusing on the study of performances and associations, this area
of study becomes less attached to the ‘museum’ as an absolute
object and more concerned with the construction ofmuseums’
representations. The museum performance would work as a
Bruno Brulon Soares
measurement or standard representation to be studied in the
different contexts in which it is evoked, from the Louvre to the favelas
of Rio de Janeiro, which share a belief in this historically idealized
If the study of museology is museology, thus the classical rationalist
pretension of the museum’s absolute objectivity must be left aside,
making space for a relative objectivity that considers the museum
representation according to the agents’ agencies. Furthermore, it is
mandatory to accept that the museum as a philosophical entity
depends on the specific categories and institutions from the West,
and that universalization of the concept is not realistic. From the
gnosiological paradigm introduced by Stránský and Gregorová, we
depart towards a reflexive paradigm that supposes the re-evaluation
of the very constitution of paradigms.
As other human sciences, museology must be reassembled as a
subject of mediations in order to act on the transition between its own
representations and the representations of the actors it studies.
Baraçal, A. B. (2008). O objeto da museologia: a via conceitual aberta por
Zbynek Zbyslav Stránský [The subject of museology: the conceptual
perspective of Zbynek Zbyslav Stránský] (Dissertation). Programa
de Pós-Graduação em Museologia e Patrimônio, UNIRIO/MAST,
Rio de Janeiro.
Bourdieu, P. (1992). The practice of reflexive sociology (The Paris
Workshop).In Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (Eds.).An Invitation to
Reflexive Sociology.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Carroll, L.(1999 [1872]). Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice found
there. Mineola & New York: Dover Publications.
Hodge, J. (1983). 'Basic paper'.Methodology of museology and professional
training.ICOFOM Study Series, 1, 58-65.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to ActorNetwork-Theory.New York: Oxford University Press.
Maroević, I. (2004). Museology as a part of Information Sciences.In
heritage.Museology.Conservation.Architecture. (pp. 15-16). Petrinja:
Matica hrvatska.
MuWoP: Museological Working Papers/DoTraM: Documents de Travail en
Muséologie (1980).Museology – Science or just practical museum
Museology/ICOFOM; Museum of National Antiquities, vol. 1.
MuWoP: Museological Working Papers/DoTraM: Documents de Travail en
Muséologie(1981).Interdisciplinarity in Museology. Stockholm:
ICOM, International Committee for Museology/ICOFOM/Museum of
National Antiquities, vol. 2.
Overing,J. (1985). Preface & Introduction.In Overing,J. (Ed.).Reason and
Morality.(pp. viii-28).London: Tavistock (A.S.A. Monographs 24).
Seeger, A. (1990). Apresentação: imagens no espelho. [Presentation:
images in the mirror.] In Seeger, A. (Ed.). Os índios e nós.Estudos
sobre sociedades tribais brasileiras. [The Indians and us.Studies on
the Brazilian tribal societies.] (pp. 13-21).Rio de Janeiro: Campus.
Šola, T. (1992).A contribution to a possible definition of museology. Paris.
Retrieved from www.heritology.com.Consulted on March 8, 2014.
Stranský, Z. Z. (1965). Predmet muzeologie.In Z. Z. Stranský (Ed.).Sborník
materiálu prvého muzeologického sympozia.(pp. 30-33). Brno:
Museu da Morávia.
Teather, L. (1983). Some brief notes on the methodological problems of
museological research. ICOFOM Study Series, 5, 1-9.
Turner, V. (1982).From ritual to theatre.The human seriousness of play. New
York: PAJ Publications.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museums as Theme Parks:
from the Informational Paradigm to the Reflexive Experience
Turner, V. (1988).The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ
van Mensch, P. (1992). Towards a methodology of museology (PhD
thesis).University of Zagreb.
This paper discusses the definition of museology as a form of information
science and analyzes the accepted definitions for museological study. It
intends to point out some inconsistencies in the philosophical Stranskyan
museology in order to reformulate the notion of its subject of study. This
debate will require revision of a philosophical perspective through a
sociological viewpoint in light of the actor-network theory proposed by Bruno
Latour. Finally, the paper maintains that the man-reality relation forged in the
West as a hegemonic museum performance should not define museology’s
subject. Otherwise, it should consider all kinds of possible associations
among the different roles that are played, evolving from a corpus of
reflections on the museum to a reflexive museology that has musealization in
the center of its studies.
Keywords: Museum,
El artículo discute la definición de la museología como una ciencia de la
información y analiza las definiciones conocidas del objeto de estudio
museológico. El texto se propone a marcar algunas de las inconsistencias
en la museología filosófica stranskiana en la búsqueda de reformular la
noción del suyo objeto de estudio. Ese debate exigirá una revisión en esa
abordaje filosófica por medio de un punto de vista sociológico teniendo en
cuenta la teoría actor-rede propuesta por Bruno Latour. Finalmente, el
artículo aboga que la relación hombre-realidad construida en el Occidente
como una performance museal hegemónica non debe servir para definir el
objeto de estudio de la museología. Por el contrario, la definición debe
considerar todos los tipos de asociaciones entre los diferentes papeles
interpretados, avanzando de un corpus de reflexiones sobre el museo para
la museología reflexiva que tiene la musealisación en el centro de los suyos
información,Reflexividad, Performance.
Museology exploring the concept of MLA (MuseumsLibraries-Archives) and probing its interdisciplinarity
Bruno Brulon Soares
Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
(UNIRIO) – Brazil
Kerstin Smeds
Umeå universitet, Sweden
In a world where social relations and knowledge are mediated more
and more by data, institutions like museums, libraries, and archives –
recognized for mediating and transforming information – have been
grappling with enabling individuals’ access to information and
information literacy. Museums, libraries, and archives are institutions
that create, maintain, and alter different kinds of information systems,
each for their specific purposes. To explore the differences and
similarities among these institutions, and the academic disciplines
that study them, should prove to be a profitable exercise. All three
institutions provide information resources for their visitors and users,
but they do it in different ways. Information centers are generally
supposed to be transparent, to guarantee easy access to all their
resources. In this respect, libraries and archives have profited greatly
from modern digital technology. Museums, too, develop more and
more digital affordances.
For about twenty years, museology has been often related to Library
and Archive Studies. How would museology examine the concept of
MLA (Museums-Libraries-Archives) as a recently integrated field of
study? How could museology contribute to the theoretical analysis of
the entire MLA field? What is, then, the specificity of the museum in
the MLA field? In comparison to archives and libraries, what is the
individual identity of the museum institution and the museum as
media? These and many related questions were pondered at the 38
Annual ICOFOM symposium in Tsukuba, Japan, in September 2015.
Seven papers and one note were chosen for publication; those by
Bruno Soares and Ann Davis are included as editorial views and
were not part of the double-blind peer review system.
Contemporary museums are often more concerned with engaging
their visitors, seeing to their needs and experiences, than with their
collections and traditional documentation. Museums are not only
research centers or centers of information, but they ‘create’ history
and information in their representations by using the objects as the
‘substratum’ of their creation – an approach also made by libraries
and archives. Consequently, museology too creates new theoretical,
interdisciplinary approaches and ideas in analyzing the museum as a
cultural institution. What are the similarities and differences among
museums, archives, and libraries, as well as among Museology,
Library Studies, and Archive Studies as academic disciplines? Why
do cultural policies in many countries identify all three by the same
Museology exploring the concept of MLA (Museums -Libraries-Archives)
and probing its interdisciplinarity
One of the ways by which museums, archives, and libraries deal with
information is through ICT (information and communication
technology) and the integration of digital technology in exhibitions
and programs, in order to broaden their abilities to establish
communication and interpretation between people and things.
Conveying knowledge has been a common theme in contemporary
Museology, and communication has to an increasing degree moved
into cyberspace. How would these new forms of mediation,
communication, and technology change the way these institutions
conceive themselves?
All three institutions today create exhibitions in order to attract
audiences. On the other hand, museums – with their collections –
differ from the other two institutions in one crucial way: they
communicate a wide range of information based on differing
interpretive levels. Museums are also the only media institutions
where the visitor/user moves his/her physical body in the midst of the
medium, relating in an immediate way to materiality, and sometimes
changing the medium and message with their very presence and
their entanglement with space and material. Museums are allowed to
‘play’ hide and seek with their objects, using lights, shadows, sounds
and theater to engage their visitors in a meaningful performance.
Archives and libraries appear to be transparent institutions charged
with collecting documents, as if a one-to-one correspondence
between the objects and more or less fixed meanings were possible.
By contrast, museums are understood to be institutions that interpret
and represent.
At universities, museology is often considered as a part of social
sciences, heritage studies, anthropology, or information sciences –
disregarding its specificity as an autonomous discipline. In which
particular ways can a museological approach and museological
theory (or theories) be useful for other disciplines and academic
fields? And vice versa. From its start, museology has been defined
as an interdisciplinary field of research. What is this interdisciplinarity
all about, and how could we benefit from it?
Apart from interdisciplinarity, the very notion of museology is also
being questioned and discussed, and its institutional specificity
sometimes is being merged with others; e.g. in some countries,
museology has been merged to heritology or critical heritage studies
(e.g. Sweden, many East European countries). With museums so
diverse and museology broadening its scope, can we understand
clearly what museology is as a specific field of study? Do we still
need museology and if so, why?
Interpreting the Museum as a social phenomenon, which connects
humans and non-humans, or people and things, subjects and objects
by the act of mediation, museology in the past few decades has
gained new perspectives and a renewed field of studies for its
theories and practices. After the movement of New Museology and
its assimilation to the main discipline, the theorists of museology
have been confronted with the social functions and responsibilities of
the Museum. Going beyond the investigation of the museums’ main
functions (preservation, research, and communication) or its
traditional role to produce and transmit information as knowledge,
this theme has the purpose of interrogating how museums and
museology have been dealing with the social impacts of their actions.
Understanding knowledge transfer as a social process in itself, this
Bruno Brulon Soares and Kerstin Smeds
topic is mainly related to current research concerned with tracing the
connections produced by museums or musealization, and its social
This journal presents a variety of theoretical approaches to the topic,
Museology exploring the concept of MLA, from distinguished points
of view marked by the authors’ different professional backgrounds
and socio-cultural contexts. It is a testimony to the real diversity of
the International Committee for Museology.
As an editorial note, and in an effort to delineate the topic
provocatively, Bruno Brulon Soares of Brazil presents a reflexive
analysis on museology, discussing its status as a discipline and its
subject of study in light of theoretical approaches developed by its
main thinkers since the 1970s. This author distances himself from the
information and objective perspectives, proposing instead museums
as social agents that produce playful cultural performances,
analogous to how theme parks represent social reality. By comparing
museums with theme parks and highlighting the value of reflexive
experience, this analysis aims to deconstruct the notion of museums
as information institutions and proposes a new frame for museology’s
subject of study. As a result, museology appears to be oriented to the
study of what is produced by museums or of what produces them
(called museality or musealization in some literature), proving to be
closer to a social science rather than the information sciences, as
some past theorists of these disciplines have insisted.
In a second editorial note, Ann Davis, Canada, explores two
humanistic theories that examine communication and interaction
problems in museums, libraries, and archives, starting with Zygmunt
Bauman’s emphasis on physical space. Discussing the realities of
living in an age of uncertainty, Bauman turns to a sense of place in
the production of meaning and identity. Central to this idea is an
emphasis on society, on people, rather than technology, a new
humanism that defines progress in social terms, with technology and
collections playing supporting roles. Second, following Martin
Heidegger and John Dewey, separation of mind and body is rejected
in favour of uniting thinking and action. The theory of embodied
cognition posits that the workings of the mind and body are
intertwined to a far greater degree than previously understood. Here
the generation effect, learning by generating or doing – rather than
simply observing, is important. These two theories help to clarify
some of the very real contemporary challenges faced by museums,
libraries, and archives and to suggest possible solutions.
Among the peer-reviewed articles, Zarka Vujic and Helena Stublic
from Zagreb University in Croatia first examine how museology was
seen as part of information science in Croatia in the mid-1960s. That
period saw the establishment of the Postgraduate Program in
Museology, which was run parallel with programsin librarianship and
documentation science. The second part of the paper gives a critical
overview of the unique conference, Archives, Libraries and
Museums: Possibilities of Collaboration in the Environment of Global
Information Infrastructure that has been held in Croatia annually
since 1996. The conference influenced views on the convergence of
the disciplines. Even though the institutions and their related
disciplines have numerous activities, research phenomena, and
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology exploring the concept of MLA (Museums -Libraries-Archives)
and probing its interdisciplinarity
methodologies in common, there are evidently differences between
them that need to be respected.
Norma Avila and Federico Gómez, Mexico, explore in their article
how the museum reshapes our relations with the sensitive
information submitted to us. They approach these relations from two
aspects: first, the documentation of a community project to identify
the specific consequences of a musealization process; and secondly,
the concept of "community space" understood as a transition from a
system of communication-diffusion to that of communicationinteraction. The community space, according to the authors, is
configured as a dialogue on identity and otherness, which allows
reflexive overviews, creating a meta-reality. This reflexivity will permit
us to understand how we signify that meta-reality.It reveals how we
look to ourselves byobserving the museum sphere as an ethical
exercise of memory and knowledge.
Alejandro Sabido, Mexico, presents an analysis of the ontological
dimension of codices in museums, libraries, and archives. To
analyze museums in relation to archives and libraries, codices are
examined as entities that have been part of collections. The ancient
Aztec word Amoxotoca, "follow the path of the book,” gives way to a
kind of ontological production that happens in museums. To develop
this analysis, the author refers to the philosophy of science and how
it answers the question of “what is?” He also examines the extent to
which this question is determined by context.
Jennifer Harris, Australia, sees textual dangers in MLA convergence.
Confusingly, all three types of institution have a rationalist
epistemological background, and they all work now from an
epistemology of unstable, politicized meaning. The similarities,
however, mask significant differences. Although all three institutions
collect and catalogue, the deliberate acts of representation
undertaken by museums to construct narratives mark them as
fundamentally different from the other two. Harris argues that
museums have changed paradigms, moving away from their longterm institutional companions. Convergence is likely to endanger the
textual advances achieved by museums.
Francisca Hernández Hernández, Spain, takes an epistemological
theoretical approach, conceiving of museology as an intellectual
exercise that helps us establish open dialogue with other systems of
thought, such as the social sciences and information and
communication sciences. At this point, the question arises as to
whether or not museology shares the same objectives as these
disciplines. The author suggests museology is a social science that
encompasses the museum object as a document that transmits
information and knowledge on reality, and which constitutes itself as
a support for constructing collective memory. For this reason,
museology cannot ignore those other subjects that deal with the
documentation of memory. She ponders the role played by the
archival and library sciences within the field of museology. The
answer can only be that these social sciences must be regarded as
true documentary sources of museology.
Tereza Scheiner and Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Brazil, also
explore the interdisciplinarity of museology. The question is: Why has
museology established itself as an interdisciplinary field from its
inception? In order to answer this question, Scheiner and Carvalho
focus on the following topics: firstly, a reflection on the concept of
Bruno Brulon Soares and Kerstin Smeds
discipline and interdisciplinarity, using Bourdieu and Burke for a
theoretical framework; secondly, a case study analysis of the Rio de
Janeiro postgraduate program in Museology and Heritage and its
interdisciplinary dialogues. The final consideration is the importance
of professionals and academics in the museological field in setting its
boundaries and building its interdisciplinary dialogues.
Daniel Schmitt, France, takes an enactive approach to museology.
During their visit to a museum, visitors show a surprisingly creative
ability to bind or connect to a reality that they largely construct
themselves. Successfully analyzing the articulation of these links is
an analytical interest that goes beyond the museum field because
these links inform the construction modalities of knowledge in an
ecological situation. The theory of enaction provides a fruitful
conceptual framework to study museology as an operative
relationship between visitors and reality.
Shuchen Wang from Aalto University, Finland, presents some brief
but important notes on an “ecosystem” of museum communication
and documentation in the digital age. Ubiquitous computing
technology, Wang notes, may realize Malraux’s 1947 proposal of a
museum without walls. Previously grounded on materiality, museum
communication andeducation embarks on new frontiers with
digitization. Cloud, linked data, semantic web, online exhibition,
mobile application, e-publication, augmented reality, interactive
display, gamification, 3D scanning and printing – all these cuttingedge technologies contribute to a vision that the visitor/end-user can
visit any cultural site at anytime and from anywhere. As ideal as it
sounds, the journey is still paved with obstacles due to
unsynchronized technical, financial, administrative, and legislative
systems – all factors to be dealt with and solved before we reach this
All the papers presented for this issue of ICOFOM Study Series were
direct responses to ICOFOM’s probing the links among museums,
libraries, and archives. As a result, thinking of MLA as a field
illuminates some of the insecurities we struggle with in museology,
when we look from the inside to the outside and to other
contemporary disciplines and areas of knowledge. The suggestion to
discuss our boundaries is an invitation to reflect on the very status of
museology today. The papers presented here tried to open new
windows on the topic, as well as revisiting some others that were not
fully explored in the past. We hope reading this publication will
provoke continuing discussion and raise new questions.
We wish you a very good read!
May 2016
Kerstin Smeds and Bruno Brulon Soares
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology as Part of Information and
Communication Sciences in Croatia: a View on a
Thirty-Year-Long Experience
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of
Zagreb, Croatia
As early as 1983, museology was established in Croatia as an
empirical discipline forming part of information science together with
librarianship, archive and documentation sciences, lexicology, and
the like. When information science became officially acknowledged, it
was defined as
the discipline concerned with systematic study of
emission, collection, selection, evaluation, processing,
storage, retrieval, transmission, distribution, explanation,
use and protection of information, as well as with all forms
of social communication. (Maroević, 1998, p. 93)
It is not our intention to explore this concept further here but to point
out that we have always had a widest possible understanding of
information science, which is similar to W. Boyd Rayward's
description of the same field of research as a composite of
disciplinary chunks (1996, p. 7).
The year 1984 saw the formation of the Museology Sub-Department,
which has been functioning ever since as a constituent part of the
Department of Information Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities and
Social Sciences in Zagreb. An undergraduate museology programme
was launched two years later in addition to programmes of other
aforementioned disciplines. It is therefore not surprising that we
found the main topic and even sub-topics of this year’s ICOFOM
conference exceptionally close to us, but challenging as well. As part
of the museology staff of the department, we think that it is necessary
to re-examine the position of our discipline in relation to information
and communication sciences and to determine whether they still
provide a fertile ground and motivation for further development.
However, before we pay more attention to that issue, we will attempt
to paint a clearer picture to those unfamiliar with the development of
perspectives through which museology is seen in Croatia as part of
information and communication sciences.
Historical View of Information-Based Affiliation
The person who made efforts to prepare the ground for such
understanding and acknowledgement of museology was Antun
Bauer (1911-2000), a collector and museologist, who founded
numerous museums in Croatia, established a unique documentation
institution – the Museum Documentation Centre in Zagreb – and
launched the first Croatian museological journals (Museology,
Informatica Museologica). In 1966, he also established the
Postgraduate Programme in Museology as part of the Postgraduate
Programme in Librarianship and Documentation Science. This new
environment in which museology found itself clearly speaks about the
Museology as Part of Information and Communication Sciences in Croatia:
a View on a Thirty-Year-Long Experience
change in its academic position. From an elective course that had
been taught since 1950 within the art history programme, museology
developed into an autonomous postgraduate programme in a group
of research fields that were, simply put, related to collection,
documentation, and dissemination of documents and information.
Equally representative of this context, we think, was Bauer's first
lecture given to students of the aforementioned postgraduate
programme . The centre of his interest was not the museum
institution and its functions but collections and individual museum
objects. It is important to mention here that Bauer thought of the
museum object as the object of knowledge, for only as such could it
enter the museum as a form of document, and only with this quality
could it have value. Bauer adopted this view after reading about
similar ideas proposed by Teodor Schmidt, a professor at Leningrad
University, in a well-known survey conducted in Paris and published
in a 1931 issue of Revue Magazine .
In addition, Bauer stressed both the historical and documentary
meaning of artefacts that were, according to him, essential for their
entrance into museum collections. Although he did not give an
explicit name to these meanings, it was clearly not far from the
concept of ‘museality’ that became an exceptionally important
foothold for Central European museology in the late 1960s. Bauer
also addressed the subject-object duality of the museum object. He
differentiated between the museum object as object – the thing
containing the value that museum visitors perceive (mostly works of
art) – and the museum object as subject – the thing that indirectly
takes part in the process of representation when placed in certain
contexts or grouped with other exhibits.
Although Bauer did not precisely define museology as a discipline in
1966, he continued writing about this field of study, claiming that it
essentially relied on documentation – a characteristic that made
museology inseparable from documentation and librarianship. There
is no doubt that Bauer was close in his understanding of museology
to a group of museologists from East Germany (German Democratic
Republic) who published their theses on so-called museum science
in the journal Museumkunde in 1964. For them, museum science
was an autonomous discipline that belonged to the field of
documentation, together with archives and libraries. They clearly
found a common denominator in information and documentation
practices that drew on related professions and consequently
disciplines that started to develop their theoretical frameworks
around these practices.
Unlike Antun Bauer, Professor Ivo Maroević (1937-2007), an
esteemed ICOFOM member, did in fact turn to information science
as a basis for his own theorizing on museology as a ‘scientific’
discipline, its research subject, and fundamental concepts. From
1983 to 1993, the year which saw the publication of his book
Introduction to Museology, Maroević worked on a definition and key
concepts of a certain museological system by using tenets set forth
by European museologists, primarily Peter van Mensch and Zbynek
Stransky, and the then-leading theoretician of information science in
Croatia, Miroslav Tuđman.
The lecture was published in the journal Museology, No 6, 1967, pp 6-21. We have
here interpreted its most important propositions.
More about this can be found in our paper on visitor research in socialist Croatia
soon to be published in the ICOFOM book on visitors.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić
Drawing on the works and theories of Tuđman, Maroević proposed: a
model of the museum object as sign; the differences between
information, documentation, and communication-based approaches
to the museum object as sign; the differences between cultural and
scientific information; and the differences between presentation and
representation of knowledge in relation to the museum exhibition,
He presented his approach at annual ICOFOM meetings, which he
regularly used to disseminate his views but also to examine them
critically. When looking at his work from today's perspective, more
than three decades later, we can say with certainty that there has not
been a single theoretician of related disciplines in Croatia, primarily
library and archive sciences, who adopted Tuđman's premises to
such an extent as Maroević did in his interdisciplinary work.
Unfortunately, time has shown that many of the aforementioned
museological premises were never applied to the museum practice,
which, in our opinion, should have happened since it is something
extremely important for an analytical discipline. It also seems that
some of the concepts (above all the differences between information,
documentation and communication-based approaches to the
museum object) were enclosed within themselves. In other words,
they did not encourage further development of museological thought.
At the same time, a paradigmatic shift occurred in Croatian
information sciences, within which the communication aspect
(theories of communication) developed and strengthened to such a
degree that the name of the very empirical field was changed into
information and communication sciences.
Among Maroević’s museological tenets that have remained in use,
we have focused on the model of the museum object as sign and
changed it by introducing the element that assigns meaning and
creates a sign (Vujić, 1999, p. 202-203). Naturally, that element is a
human being and we call him or her interpreter – a term we find most
appropriate for this context. The role of interpreter can be equally
played by different agents – those who take artefacts from the real
environment and proclaim them heritage, museum and heritage
professionals who research and present them in various ways, and,
finally, visitors for whom the previous activities are done.
There is no doubt that, in the late 1990s, we started strengthening
the position of visitors in Croatia. There have also been efforts to
introduce a social semiotic approach in research, which is much
more present today owing to young researchers at the SubDepartment (Miklošević, 2014). This is, naturally, not surprising
because today there are disciplines that largely do research in social
media and communication.
The ALM annual conference as a place for
contemplating the disciplines and convergence of
related practices
In the mid-1990s, the Croatian cultural and academic community
witnessed the organisation of the first ALM conference, which played
a key role for the development of museology. It also allowed for the
establishment of a dialogue between museology and other
disciplines within information and communication sciences, and
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology as Part of Information and Communication Sciences in Croatia:
a View on a Thirty-Year-Long Experience
above all archive and library sciences. It was a unique conference
organised in South Eastern Europe called Archives, Libraries and
Museums: Possibilities of Cooperation in the Environment of Global
Information Infrastructure. The conference was first held in 1996 by
the Croatian community of librarians (we are all familiar with the
driving nature of these heritage institutions), who realized the need to
open up libraries to other related institutions by redefining their main
issues. They included the concept of library material and its
documentation, especially the principles and rules of cataloguing, a
model for documentation via information system, research of library
users, and so on. Museum and archive communities readily accepted
this invitation to cooperation. Researchers of the related disciplines
were, understandably, at the forefront of the entire event.
The first conference was the occasion at which Ivo Maroević
presented one of his most significant theoretical contributions to
museology in the 1990s – a definition of (collected) items in
museums, libraries, and archives for which he used his model of the
museum object as sign. For him, the value of the museum object is
determined equally by three components – material (reflects the
duration of the object through time), form (reflects the existence and
dissemination of the object's messages in space), and meaning
(reflects the entrance of the object into the awareness and
knowledge of the community) . Archival material depends above all
on the material and meaning, while form can be transformed into
other media and used as such. The most important component of
books, with the exception of old and rare ones, is content or meaning
contained in them, whereas material and form are less important.
Professor Maroević was aware of this simplified view of archival,
library, and museum material, but thought that it still pointed to the
differences between them in an appropriate though very general way.
Today, we would say this: if he had introduced into his view people
as members of societies and social life and taken into consideration
their need to experience collected items, maybe he would have
reached the conclusion that this social need may be their strongest
common ground. For example, if users need the materiality of an
archival document, they will approach it in a similar way as they
would a museum object. If museum visitors need content or
information contained in the museum object in order to understand it,
they will focus exactly on those aspects of the object.
Ivo Maroević introduced three types of environments into the
examination of collected items in AKM institutions: the real
environment of material things, the controlled environment of ALM
institutions, and the virtual environment. For Maroević, museums
adopt a midway position between the real and controlled
environments because they receive objects taken from the real
environment. Archives are on a more abstract level in relation to the
real environment, in that they collect material from exactly that
environment, but, as Maroević correctly points out, the material is
already defined and structured (through different media in archival
fonds). Libraries found themselves, according to him, on a more
abstract level of the controlled environment, approaching the
borderline of the virtual environment. Their material also comes from
the real environment but it represents formatted knowledge and
Maroević considered museum objects as exclusively three-dimensional, and he
disregarded intangible heritage (Maroević, 1998, p. 6).
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić
artistic expression (fiction books, for example) whose digitized
versions enter the virtual environment the fastest (Maroević, 1998,
p. 6).
Graphic Representation of Individual Institutions in Relation to Three
However, the work of ALM institutions does not only consist of
dealing with collected items, but also with information about the items
and about other phenomena. According to Maroević, all information
is contained in the virtual environment, which allows for the most
effective cooperation of all the institutions from the controlled
environment. His position is understandable today since, in 1996, he
would have not been able to take into consideration objects and
phenomena created in the virtual environment (in other words,
digitally born objects, web art, digital archives and so on) which today
completely alter his pyramid scheme.
The ALM conference in Croatia has become a unique platform for
questioning the common ground and its further exploration. A
positive result of the conference is a series of conference
proceedings with interesting and stimulating contributions, on the
bases of which it is possible to see changes in the position and
understanding of common topics in all activities done by the three
institutions, and indirectly the accompanying academic disciplines. In
the early years of conference-related collaboration, it was logical to
agree on types of items and a common platform of information
science and education of information professionals. Soon after, the
focus shifted to computer-based documentation (both descriptive and
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology as Part of Information and Communication Sciences in Croatia:
a View on a Thirty-Year-Long Experience
subject cataloguing: vocabulary control and data standards) and to
common topics initiated by the growing presence of ALM institutions
in the virtual environment – metadata (primarily Dublin Core,
harmonization of different metadata standards) and digitization. The
thing we consider exceptionally valuable for museology and
museums is a turn in the first years of the 21 century towards
collections and collection-level description instead of individual
objects. Collections have been seen as a strong link among the
institutions and academic disciplines
After almost 15 years of ALM activities in Croatia, interests of the
sector were turned towards another important topic – that of users (or
visitors, as a term more appropriate for museums) and the need to
research them. For that reason, a wide range of social science
methods was adopted and tested. These developments reveal the
influence that the need for social responsibility and the global and
local economic crisis exerted on the Croatian cultural sector.
These new research methods were also applied to the ALM
conference. After the first ten years of its organisation, a group of
researchers analysed and evaluated the conference through
quantitative research of information related to presenters and their
topics. An analysis of the number of papers in relation to specific
professional fields showed that the largest number of papers came
from librarians who, in fact, had been the initiators of the ALM
conference. An analysis of topics showed what had already been
expected, that authors presented works most frequently related to
the topics pertaining to their own professional fields. However, it was
evident that librarians and archivists participated in the conference
with topics equally relevant for their individual disciplines and for the
entire ALM community. In contrast, authors who dealt with museum
or museology related topics addressed members of the museum
community rather than the entire sector (Aparac-Jelušić, Faletar
Tanacković,& Pehar, 2010, pp. 25-26).
Another interesting study was presented at the conference, exploring
co-operation between Croatian cultural and heritage institutions and
with other educational institutions and important public and private
organisations. The study showed that, among all ALM institutions,
archives were the most cooperative with other heritage institutions
(84.6% with other archives, 76.9% with museums, and 46.2% with
libraries). On the other hand, libraries came first in cooperation with
education institutions, such as elementary (90.6%) and secondary
schools (57.8%) and kindergartens (78.7%), and to a lesser extent
with other libraries (52%), museums (40.2%), and archives (13.4%).
Interestingly, museums most frequently entered into collaboration
with other museums (89%) and, for example, elementary schools
(68.3%), while cooperation with libraries (35.4%) and archives
(31.7%) was on the bottom of the list (Faletar Tanacković &
Badurina, 2009, p. 39).
These two studies suggest the extent to which cooperation existed
among researchers in individual disciplines and institutions of the
ALM sector. The cooperation was and still is possible, but is also
limited by particular characteristics of each profession. Archives and
libraries often serve as information resources to museums for their
activities (this is especially evident in the work of specialized
museum libraries and archives). However, the reverse is not often
the case. Museums rarely provide their material, activities, or
services merely as support to libraries or archives. Interpretation of
museum and heritage objects and phenomena is a particular feature
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić
of museums. In contrast, libraries and archives are more related to
information services. It has taken us a while to realize that significant
Interpreting the History of Museology Sub-Department in Zagreb
through Exhibition
It was at the first ALM conference, where experiences with visitor
research were shared for the first time, that we came to realize the
key difference between museums on the one hand and libraries and
archives on the other. Surrounded with archive and library
professionals, we were constantly exposed to their terminology, such
as information institutions, information services, and so on. We finally
realized that museums, galleries, and similar institutions were not
primarily concerned with providing access to physical and digitized
items for the sake of their content and information they carry. That is
primarily the task of information institutions. Museums are principally
interpretive institutions. Although they enable visitors to encounter
the material they collect and protect, and give access to items in
study collections mostly to researchers, museums use various
interpretive strategies to shape different communication products for
their visitors – exhibitions in physical and virtual spaces, different
museum publications, educational materials, and the like. Following
that thought, we altered Maroević's understanding of museology,
which can be understood in Croatia today in terms of the following
Museology belongs to the field of information and communication
sciences and it investigates meanings and identities (resulting from
the construction) of heritage, its protection, interpretation, and
communication, as well as forms of institutional activities that are
based on these functions (even museums), in order to maintain
sustainable social use of heritage and well-being.
What can be criticized about the ALM conference is the fact that the
organizers never initiated a single joint project, even though
commonality and shared practices across the sector were discussed
on many levels and from different perspectives! Nor have they
developed a much-needed tool for vocabulary control, or a jointly
created virtual content (aside from the conference website).
However, part of the responsibility rests with us since we have been
participating in certain activities of the ALM conference as well.
We might be able to offer some compensation in the form of
supervision over student theses; information science students,
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology as Part of Information and Communication Sciences in Croatia:
a View on a Thirty-Year-Long Experience
particularly those studying museology and librarianship, have written
the best papers in terms of topics that bring together the practical
work of institutions and research methodologies of different
disciplines. They are mostly MA students (whose theses include
topics such as Museum Libraries in Zagreb, Museum Archives,
Exhibition as Form of Communication in Schools) but PhD students
as well (theses such as Models of Cooperation between Croatian
Heritage Institutions).
In conclusion
By its very nature and definition, museology is an interdisciplinary
discipline; it is therefore not surprising that museologists working in
the Information Science Department are often predisposed toward
interdisciplinary methodologies and research on the convergence of
practical and theoretical work. For example, they can contribute to
study programmes by offering courses such as Heritage Institutions,
Exhibition in School Libraries, and the like. Nevertheless, we find it
necessary to explore further the common characteristics of the
disciplines within information and communication sciences. Without
that, and without a more significant development of the department in
the direction of media and communication, joint growth may not be
By looking at the present research topics and interests of active
Croatian museologists (creation of heritage, heritage literacy,
interpretation and interpretive strategies, and the like), it seems that
museology as both a research discipline and study programme is
ready to move closer to heritage studies (Babić &Vujić, 2012).
Being torn between two or more strands of development is also a
sign of the time in which we live. Therefore, the Museology SubDepartment at Zagreb University does indeed take a contemporary
approach to the reality of both academia and heritage.
Aparac-Jelušić, T., Faletar Tanacković, & S., Pehar, F. (2009). Structure of
the Triple Helix of ALM Seminar – Bibliometric Analysis of Papers
Published in the Proceedings from 1997 to 2007. ALM Proceedings,
13, 13-29.
Babić, D.,& Vujić, Ž. (2012). Education of Museum and Heritage Educators in
Croatia: History, Organization and Quality. In Old Questions, New
Answers: quality criteria for museum education. (pp. 19-26). ICOM
CECA’11 Conference. Zagreb: ICOM Hrvatska.
Faletar Tanacković, S.,& Badurina, B. (2009).Collaboration of Croatian
Cultural Heritage Institutions – Present Situation and
Expectations.ALM Proceedings, 13, 39.
Maroević, I. (1993). Introduction to Museology. Zagreb: Information Sciences
Maroević, I. (1998). Cultural Heritage Phenomenon and Definition of
Collected Items. In Archives, Libraries and Museums: Possibilities
of Cooperation in the Environment of Global Information
Infrastructure. (pp. 14-28). Zagreb: Croatian Library Association.
Miklošević, Ž. (2014).Museum as a Multimodal Communication
System.Doctoral Thesis, University of Zagreb.
Rayward, W.B. (1996). The History and Historiography of Information
Management, 32(1), 3-17.
Vujić, Ž. (1999).Museum object and museum collecting as viewed by
semiotics.Informatologia, 32(3-4), 200-208.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Žarka Vujić and Helena Stublić
The first part of the paper examines early perspectives through which
museology was seen as part of information science in Croatia in the mid1960s. That period saw the establishment of the Postgraduate Programme in
Museology, which was run in parallel with programmes in librarianship and
documentation science. Links between museology and information science
were made even stronger owing to the former ICOMFOM member Ivo
Maroević who set up the Museology Sub-Department in 1984.
The second part of the paper gives a critical overview of the unique
conference, Archives, Libraries and Museums: Possibilities of Collaboration
in the Environment of Global Information Infrastructure that has been held
annually in Croatia since 1996. The conference influenced views on the
convergence of disciplines, but also the development of museology and
solutions for museographic issues in Croatia. Even though the institutions
and their related disciplines have in common numerous activities, research
phenomena, and methodologies, there are evidently differences among them
that need to be respected.
Key words: Museology, museum, archive, library, convergence
L'article commence par interpréter le début de la compréhension de la
muséologie en tant que composante des sciences de l'information en Croatie
au milieu des années 60 du 20ème siècle. A cette époque même à Zagreb,
parallèlement avec les études de bibliothéconomie et documentation, un
Master en muséologie fut fondé. Un lien encore plus fort entre la muséologie
et les sciences de l'information s'est noué en 1984 quand le Département de
muséologie a été crée à l'initiative d'Ivo Maroević, un ancien membre de
En outre, l'article fournit une étude critique de l'activité de la conférence
unique "Archives, bibliothèques, musées : les possibilités de coopération
dans le contexte d'une infrastructure d'information globale", et laquelle se
tient chaque année en Croatie depuis 1996. Ladite conférence a alimenté les
réflexions sur la convergence des disciplines, mais aussi elle a influencé le
développement de la muséologie et apporté des solutions aux problèmes
récemment rencontrés dans le domaine de la muséographie en Croatie. Bien
que ces institutions et disciplines partagent une multitude de phénomènes,
pratiques et méthodologies de recherche communs, il est évident qu'il existe
aussi des différences qui doivent être respectées.
Mots clé: Muséologie, le musée, l’archive, la bibliothèque, la convergence
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal.
La exposición como archivo en proceso
Norma Angélica Ávila Meléndez y Federico Padilla Gómez
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia – Distrito Federal,
No tenemos nada para narrarnos el otro aspecto
de la historia: cómo el objeto hace al sujeto
Bruno Latour
A finales de 1997 la Gaceta de Museos, revista dirigida por el
Arquitecto Felipe Lacouture Fornelli, incluyó un breve texto sobre la
museología como estudio científico del proceso museal, fruto de las
discusiones que el arquitecto sostuvo con Lourdes Turrent y
Georgina Dersdepanian. La museología fue definida como
la ciencia que estudia los postulados, acciones y
consecuencias del proceso museal cuyo hecho central,
con sus repercusiones sociales, es la confrontación de
individuos con una realidad planteada mediante objetos
representativos que son seleccionados, conservados y
exhibidos (Turrent, 1997, p. 7).
El hecho de comprender la museología como una disciplina que
asume responsabilidades derivadas de su gestión de la memoria y
de la representación, indica la existencia de un fuerte vínculo entre
museos, bibliotecas y archivos. Cada una de estas instituciones
gestiona de manera distinta sus fondos, pero las tres instancias
deben reconocer las implicaciones éticas y sociales de sus procesos
de selección, conservación, clasificación y descarte.
Al aceptar la premisa de que la musealización pone en suspenso a
la cosa, transformándola
en musealia y construyendo una
metarrealidad cultural (Dólak, 2010), asumimos que los musealia nos
transforman en observadores de segundo orden. Esto es, dejamos
de mirar la cosa en sí, para mirar su invitación a observarla en tanto
que musealia, en una apertura de tiempo/espacio museográfico que
nos constituye en observadores de una representación de lo real a
través de lo real. Los musealia ciertamente se nos presentan en su
función documental sensible, pero también en su función utópica, en
su capacidad de apertura a otros mundos (Desvallées, 2010, p.50).
Una mirada ingenua reconoce tan sólo las cosas mostradas y no la
función comunicativa de los musealia como parte de un discurso que
responde a circunstancias políticas, sociales y económicas
específicas. Aquí no se trata de acceder a la información, se exige
del usuario una capacidad para decodificar representaciones de lo
social que están ahí con el propósito de legitimar una visión
particular del mundo. A diferencia de las bibliotecas y los archivos,
que suelen activarse a partir búsquedas más o menos específicas de
usuarios individuales, los museos ofrecen encuentros con fondos
que pueden reconfigurarse de innumerables maneras. Si el museo
es capaz de albergar todo aquello que hemos humanizado, no es
menos cierto que los musealia nos humanizan. De ahí que la
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal.
La exposición como archivo en proceso
reflexión sistemática sobre las consecuencias del proceso museal
tenga un carácter impostergable y vital. A falta de una reflexión
continua sobre los valores culturales y mnémicos que legitiman
visiones del mundo, los museos contemporáneos van perdiendo
Estos apuntes presentan un estudio de caso para aproximarse a las
consecuencias de un proceso museal en un contexto específico. Los
apuntes se han organizado en dos apartados, de manera que quede
constancia del contexto institucional en el que surge la Parcela Móvil
Comunitaria, una muestra itinerante en torno a la milpa como
patrimonio biocultural y una reflexión sobre sus posibles
En el primer apartado intentamos esclarecer los postulados que
guían el proyecto de la Parcela Móvil Comunitaria, describimos las
acciones realizadas entre agosto y octubre del 2015 y sus posibles
implicaciones. En el segundo apartado se desarrolla el concepto de
“espacio comunitario” como modalidad del proceso museal que,
desde un enfoque comunicológico, busca transitar de un sistema de
información-difusión a un sistema de información-comunicación
(Galindo, 2011, pp. 214-220). A partir ahí, subrayamos la necesidad
de revaluar las exposiciones efímeras, cíclicas y temporales en
contextos comunitarios. La naturaleza transitoria de estas
exposiciones no permite instituir una versión de la memoria
colectiva, por lo contrario, posibilita un ejercicio ético de construcción
y reconstrucción de archivos (y olvidos) de las memorias posibles
(Barrios, Lazo,& Martínez, 2008, p. 8).
Parcela Móvil Comunitaria: la milpa como patrimonio
biocultural de México
El proyecto museológico de la Parcela Móvil Comunitaria aborda una
temática de interés actual en México: diferentes sectores de la
población realizan acciones en defensa de la soberanía alimentaria,
la conservación de la biodiversidad y los saberes asociados al cultivo
de la milpa.
La diversidad genética del maíz y de otras especies vegetales
básicas para nuestra alimentación se encuentra en riesgo debido a
la introducción de semillas transgénicas, la expansión del
monocultivo y las políticas que desalientan el trabajo de los
campesinos. La relevancia de la milpa es inmensa, hablamos de
9.000 años de un proceso de domesticación y diversificación del
maíz a lo largo y ancho de México, de milpas aclimatadas a sistemas
ecológicos muy diversos habitados por millones de personas. En
pocas palabras, el maíz domesticó al ser humano a través una
relación de mutua dependencia y reciprocidad.
La milpa es una manera de cultivar la tierra que solidariza
las relaciones de los seres vivos. La base es el conjunto
maíz-calabaza-frijol, pero hay otros vegetales que
conviven en el espacio de la milpa: quelites, chiles,
tomates, plantas medicinales y algunas que incluso sirven
para condimentar. Por eso, se dice que la milpa “es”
muchos (INAH, 2015).
En México “hacer milpa” significa efectuar una organización
solidaria, un festejo compartido y la posibilidad de estar juntos desde
nuestra diferencia. Y “hacer milpa” fue el concepto utilizado para
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Norma Angélica Ávila Meléndez y Federico Padilla Gómez
proyectar la Parcela Móvil Comunitaria como un espacio efímero. Es
necesario hacer aquí una breve referencia al contexto de trabajo.
Hay que señalar que desde 1972, el Instituto Nacional de
Antropología e Historia impulsa, a través de la Coordinación
Nacional de Museos y Exposiciones, proyectos experimentales que
suscriben los postulados de la Nueva Museología, tales como la
Casa del Museo, los museos escolares y los museos comunitarios.
Cuando se consideró la opción de reactivar un programa de museos
comunitarios en 2013, las condiciones eran muy distintas a las
existentes en 1995, cuando el INAH y la Dirección General de
Culturas Populares firmaron un convenio para impulsar la creación
de museos comunitarios, acción que concluyó en el año 2000.
El análisis de 2013 planteó la pertinencia de un programa que
trabajara de manera corresponsable con experiencias comunitarias
sin la exigencia de culminar en la figura del museo. El postulado
inicial del nuevo programa, denominado Programa Nacional de
Espacios Comunitarios, cuestionó la figura del museo anclada en
dimensiones espacio-temporales:
El nombre del programa, espacios comunitarios, quiere
proyectar un término amplio, que abarque desde museos y
centros comunitarios hasta espacios alternativos al aire
libre, con distintos tiempos de exposición: permanentes,
temporales, cíclicos o efímeros. Asimismo, se omite la
palabra Museo, porque aún con agregados lingüísticos y
conceptuales como: museos comunitarios o ecomuseos,
la palabra es tan sólida en el imaginario de diversas
poblaciones que consciente o inconscientemente buscan
la reproducción del museo tradicional en su comunidad. El
concepto museo trae consigo, además, dos elementos
definidos cuasi perse, su espacio, que es retomado como
un edificio contenedor, y su temporalidad que tácitamente
se contempla como permanente (INAH, 2013b).
Con referentes metodológicos muy semejantes a los que han
desarrollado los museos comunitarios (INAH, 2013a), el Programa
declaró de manera explícita la necesidad de considerar la dimensión
ética de esta labor y de reconocer los diferentes intereses de los
agentes que participan en cada proyecto.
La Parcela Móvil Comunitaria se inició como complemento de una
exposición sobre la milpa en México creada por especialistas y
producida por la Coordinación Nacional de Museos y Exposiciones
del INAH. Para difundir el tema a nivel comunitario, se planteó
distribuir carteles en localidades rurales y urbanas cercanas al
museo sede. En colaboración con los colegas de la Dirección
Técnica, el Programa Nacional de Espacios Comunitarios diseñó,
como ya se mencionó, una muestra efímera e itinerante. A manera
de experiencia piloto se trabajó, entre agosto y octubre del 2015, con
habitantes de dos localidades de la Ciudad de México: Santa Ana
Tlacotenco (Milpa Alta) y San Lorenzo La Cebada (Xochimilco).
La comunidad de Santa Ana Tlacotenco se ubica en el sureste de la
Ciudad de México y es uno de los ocho pueblos originarios de Milpa
Alta, territorios donde persisten modos de vida ligados al cultivo de la
tierra y a la conservación de la lengua materna: el idioma náhuatl. En
esta localidad, un grupo de jóvenes universitarios escucharon
atentamente a campesinos de ochenta años, recorrieron las calles
del pueblo y visitaron milpas para realizar una producción fotográfica
que aludiera a los modos de ser y “hacer milpa” en Santa Ana
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal.
La exposición como archivo en proceso
Producto de este taller fueron las series fotográficas, testimonios
orales y videos que se integraron al espacio museográfico móvil. Los
jóvenes realizaron indagaciones visuales sobre las transformaciones
del pueblo, por ejemplo, cómo el nopal desplazó al maíz como
cultivo predominante y también identificaron los cruces identatarios
entre jóvenes urbanos que cada día “bajan al centro” para estudiar y
regresan a integrarse como parte importante de la tradición familiar y
comunitaria campesina.
Aunque Xochimilco también se ubica en la zona sur de la ciudad y
en algunas zonas todavía se cultivan las chinampas , el trabajo en
San Lorenzo La Cebada fue distinto, ya que esta colonia fue
urbanizada y habitada por personas que no tenían arraigo en ese
territorio. Junto con un colectivo de artistas radicado ahí, que retomó
la idea de “hacer milpa” para festejar su cuarto aniversario, se inició
la documentación de los orígenes de la colonia y se realizaron
producciones fotográficas sobre oficios y servicios característicos de
La Cebada.
El módulo informativo sobre la milpa fue elaborado con el apoyo de
especialistas de la Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso
de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO); se sumaron textos de poetas y
antropólogos y, por supuesto, los resultados de los talleres en Santa
Ana y La Cebada con información previamente recabada por el
Archivo Fotográfico de Culhuacán.
La milpa también implica la convivencia de seres distintos.
Así como el frijol y la calabaza nutren al suelo y ayudan al
maíz, “hacer milpa entre nosotros” es convivir y aportar al
bien común, desde nuestra diversidad. Las imágenes y
los testimonios compartidos aquí nos invitan a reflexionar
sobre la manera en que perfeccionamos nuestra
capacidad de hacer milpa (INAH, 2015. Texto del módulo
Con la presentación de la muestra en Culhuacán, se cerró la primera
fase del proyecto de la Parcela Móvil. La segunda fase consiste en la
primera itinerancia durante el verano del 2016, incluyendo las dos
comunidades iniciales. El reto es instalarla de tal manera que
funcione como espacio de investigación colectiva a partir de los
textos y las imágenes del módulo informativo. Literalmente debe
contar con “espacios horizontales” que permitan modificar la
información y las imágenes, opinar sobre los modos de hacer milpa
en otras latitudes y reconfigurar en cada sede el orden de los
elementos textuales y gráficos. La tercera y última fase consistirá en
la difusión de estos circuitos y la puesta a disposición del módulo
básico a través de una página web, de manera que cualquier
organización o comunidad interesada pueda utilizar esos materiales
organizando su propia Parcela.
En resumen, los postulados que guiaban el proyecto de la Parcela
Móvil, y que serán descritos en detalle en el segundo apartado, son:
 Respeto a la diversidad de las formas organizativas de las
comunidades, reconociendo que lejos de anclarse en un
modelo único, funcionan adaptándose a diversas
La chinampa es un tipo de parcela artificial sobre el agua del lago en que se
asentaba Tenochtitlán en el valle de México. Las poblaciones sureñas
tradicionalmente habían surtido de legumbres y vegetales a los habitantes de la
ciudad gracias a la pervivencia de las chinampas.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Norma Angélica Ávila Meléndez y Federico Padilla Gómez
Ejercicio ético del conocimiento en el campo de los museos
y del patrimonio. Los investigadores y profesionales de
museos deben responder a los intereses de su institución y/o
de su gremio a la par que identificar la gama de intereses de
los otros agentes (representantes comunitarios, políticos de
diversos niveles de gobierno, comunidades educativas y
académicas, asociaciones civiles, entre muchos otros).
Responsabilidad compartida de las acciones museales y, por
tanto, de las consecuencias del proceso museal.
Repensar la exposición comunitaria como
archivo abierto
Creemos que la Parcela Móvil Comunitaria indaga uno de los
postulados básicos de la Nueva Museología: la generación de
procesos de investigación colectiva que trascienda la autoridad
disciplinar del museo tradicional. La Parcela Móvil Comunitaria no
se concibió como una exposición terminada, sino como un espacio
en proceso, susceptible de ser intervenido, discutido o
complementado por personas de distinta procedencia: científicos de
instituciones distintas al INAH, campesinos, investigadores del
propio Instituto, jóvenes trabajadores y estudiantes, familias, artistas
locales y externos, entre otros.
Para el Programa Nacional de Espacios Comunitarios, estos
procesos de investigación deberían apuntar hacia una conservación
reflexiva debido a la pervivencia de valores absolutos que todavía
acompaña a los bienes patrimoniales en México. El Programa
propuso en 2014 la noción de “conservación reflexiva” para que los
profesionales del ámbito patrimonial y la sociedad en general
reflexionemos sobre las valoraciones otorgadas al patrimonio e
intentar desmontar los discursos, tanto institucionales como de la
sociedad civil y de las comunidades, que continúan reproduciendo
una noción intrínseca del patrimonio, vigente en la legislación
mexicana y en los museos en general.
El valor intrínseco del patrimonio alude a un valor no instrumental, no
relacionado con el uso; el valor intrínseco del patrimonio deriva de
sus propiedades inherentes y tiene un valor objetivo (Villaseñor,
2011, p. 7). Estos puntos de vista llegan al extremo de afirmar que
cierto bien cultural es valioso por el hecho de ser parte del
patrimonio, en lugar de referir que es un bien patrimonial justamente
porque se le atribuyen valores desde cierto enfoque disciplinar o
social que tendrían que ser objeto de debate.
Desde la construcción del conocimiento no se niega
ningún saber, de ahí que el espacio comunitario se
concibe como un espacio reflexivo que permite tejer
relaciones entre sujetos; estos sujetos pertenecen a
diferentes comunidades y sus visiones sobre el patrimonio
cultural suelen diferir. Es decir, el conflicto es un elemento
que subyace al campo de lo cultural, por ello resulta
indispensable visibilizar lo que está en juego y asumir la
responsabilidad de la palabra construida en común (Avila,
Padilla,& Juárez, 2016, p. 183).
En la representación museográfica la diversidad de puntos de vista
suele homogeneizarse, se invisibilizan diferencias y se presenta una
metarrealidad cultural sin disenso. La Parcela Móvil busca un
escenario de conservación reflexiva en el que el disenso sea posible;
aspira a la conservación de los saberes y conocimientos que están
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal.
La exposición como archivo en proceso
inervados en los objetos museales, que se movilizan por una
confrontación de significaciones y no por un supuesto valor
Quizá en el caso de la Parcela Móvil más que de un espacio
estamos hablando de un tiempocomunitario; un tiempo espacializado
que da cuenta de un conjunto de interacciones sociales en torno a la
milpa en dos sentidos: como cultivo agroecológico y como cultivo de
convivencia, en el que pobladores en zonas rurales, semirurales y
urbanas pueden participar y compartir experiencias vitales diferentes
pero con la posibilidad del reconocimiento mutuo.
En el caso concreto de la Parcela, nos enfrentamos a la
representación fotográfica que al convertirse en musealia, cambia lo
representado en muchos sentidos. D. Ernesto Castor, nuestro guía
del cultivo en Santa Ana, observa sus manos sosteniendo un elote
en la fotografía que lo transforma en la representación de los
campesinos mexicanos que conservan los saberes de la milpa; el
joven que trabaja en una “bici-taxi” en una colonia de Xochimilco se
reconoce y es reconocido por sus pares, sin dejar de notar que en la
serie de fotografías representa un momento en la historia de la
colonia. Al llegar estas imágenes y estos textos a otras localidades,
habrá un inmediato reconocimiento comparativo, la posibilidad de
opinar y de reconocerse en el otro.
Al observar los paneles informativos, pero más aún al intervenir con
comentarios y reordenamientos de las las fotografías en las mesas
de archivo, los usuarios de la Parcela tienen la posibilidad de
acceder a la dimensión utópica del museo. Si participan en los
talleres o tertulias de su localidad actúan como gestores de la
memoria y de la representación de su pueblo; el reto es lograr la
construcción de saberes como una de las posibilidades de la
exposición (LAIS, 2014, pp. 264-270).
Y cuando se musealizan las cosas, el mundo cambia; los elotes, las
herramientas y los utensilios para cocinar conservan la afectividad
de sus dueños pero en el ejercicio del orden, de la ubicación, de
volverlos objetos comunicantes, se abre una fisura entre la mirada
primera y la mirada del espectador de museo. Si participan en la
instalación museográfica que presenta los resultados de un circuito
junto con representantes de otras 3 ó 4 localidades, con científicos
que no conocen, con artistas locales, con familias enteras… será
ineludible poner en juego capacidades de negociación, toma de
decisiones conjuntas o solución de discrepancias porque el hilo
conductor sigue presente: de lo que se trata es de hacer milpa entre
El espacio comunitario es configurado como diálogo sobre la
identidad y la otredad, que posibilita miradas de segundo y tercer
orden. Esta reflexividad es la que nos permitirá comprender cómo
conformamos la realidad, cómo nos miramos mirando lo museal en
tanto que ejercicio ético de la memoria y del conocimiento.
Comentarios finales
En la época de expansión de los museos comunitarios en México,
hace unos veinte años, se utilizó la metáfora del espejo para
referirse a la representación museográfica, la comunidad se miraba
a sí misma en el museo, generando a una revaloración de sus
bienes y prácticas culturales:
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Norma Angélica Ávila Meléndez y Federico Padilla Gómez
“La metáfora que iguala el funcionamiento de cierto tipo de
museos, similares en su concepción a los comunitarios,
con un espejo, existe porque el espejo sí funciona: los
museos son el instrumento utilizado por las comunidades
para retomar la iniciativa cultural, para mirarse a sí
mismas y presentar dicha imagen hacia afuera” (Barrera
citado por Morales, 1995, p. 29).
Esta postura fue criticada por no considerar la metarrealidad del
museo, atribuyendo una trasparencia a la representación
Desde un punto de vista ideológico, los museos
comunitarios anhelan la reconstrucción de la etnicidad
sobre la base del “Museo-espejo”. Pero aceptarlo así
equivale a negar nuestra postura inicial: la museografía no
es la cosa en sí misma sino la representación de algo. La
vuelta al pasado, la recuperación de la memoria, pasa por
los criterios de los sistemas de cargos y comités, los
letrados, los presidentes municipales, los antropólogos o
los arqueólogos. Desde este punto de vista es inaceptable
la simplificación que se hace de los museos al
considerarlos ingenuamente como “espejos-reflejos”. Se
trata por lo contrario de “espejos transfigurados” (Morales,
1995, pp.28-29).
Si la representación museográfica y la metarrealidad configurada por
los musealia plantean una mutua implicación con los espectadores,
esto es, si el objeto musealizado construye al sujeto en comunidad,
nos preguntamos si sería posible “atravesar el espejo”, en el sentido
de concebir el espacio museográfico de la Parcela Móvil como una
representación transitoria que, en su posibilidad real de cambio,
enfatice esa dimensión utópica de los musealia. A manera de un
archivo en proceso de clasificación y jerarquización, es posible que
los textos se subordinen, se generen palimpsestos, se encuentren
nuevas lógicas y se identifiquen vacíos.
Según Galindo al centrar la atención en la percepción misma el
mundo cambia, hablamos aquí de un ejercicio de segundo orden. El
objeto musealizado no es la cosa en sí, sino la cosa y mi percepción
de la cosa en una red de relaciones significantes, en una relación de
valoraciones mutuas. Si pensamos en dos o más individuos que
observan con atención se abre la posibilidad de la comunicación, no
tanto mediante la figura de la difusión por la cual uno le dice al otro,
sino de una interacción en que se afecten mutuamente. (Galindo,
2006, p. 78) Finalmente, más allá de la representación
museográfica, suscribimos la idea de que el hecho museal enlaza lo
humano con lo no humano y que la historia de nuestra
musealización está inscrita en los espacios museográficos.
Avila N., Padilla F.,& Juárez A. (2016). Conservación reflexiva: Através de la
palabra del otro. In Estudios sobre conservación, restauración y
museología Vol. III (pp. 178-188). Ponencia presentada en el 8º
Foro Académico de la Escuela Nacional de Conservación,
Restauración y Museografía, abril del 2014, Ciudad de México.
Barrios, J., Lazo P., & Martínez A. (2008). Memoria instituida, memoria
instituyente. México: Universidad Iberoamericana.
Desvallées, A., & Mairesse, F. (2010). Conceptos claves de museología.
Paris: Armand Colin-ICOM.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Apuntes sobre el Proceso Museal.
La exposición como archivo en proceso
Dolák, J. (2010, Mayo 19-21). Museology the recent state and its future. In
Symposium Museology Museum Studies in the XXIst Century: The
recent state and its future. Recuperado de
Galindo, L. (2006). Cibercultura. Un mundo emergente y una nueva mirada.
México: CNCA.
Galindo, L. (2011). Ingeniería en comunicación social y promoción cultural.
Sobre cultura, cibercultura y redes sociales. Buenos Aires: Homo
Sapiens Ediciones.
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia INAH. (2013a). Diagnóstico
documental de museos comunitarios. México: Coordinación
Nacional de Museos y Exposiciones.
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia INAH. (2013b). Programa
Nacional de Espacios Comunitarios. Proyecto. México:
Coordinación Nacional de Museos y Exposiciones.
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia INAH. (2015). Parcela Móvil
Comunitaria. Memoria del proyecto. México: Coordinación Nacional
de Museos y Exposiciones
Laboratorio Audiovisual de Investigación Social LAIS. (2014). Tejedores de
imágenes. Propuestas metodológicas de investigación y gestión del
patrimonio fotográfico y audiovisual. México: Instituto Mora-CNCAConacyt-Fonca
Latour, B. (1998). De la mediación técnica: filosofía, sociología, genealogía
En M.Domènech&F. Tirado (Eds.). Sociología simétrica. Ensayos
sobre ciencia, tecnología y sociedad. Barcelona: Gedisa, pp. 249302
Morales, L. (1995). Los espejos transfigurados de Oaxaca. In Boletín Archivo
General de la Nación, 3 ,13-44.
Turrent, L. (1997). Museología, estudio científico del proceso museal.
Propuesta de una definición sistemática. In Gaceta de museo.
Órgano informativo del Centro de Documentación Museológica, 8,
Villaseñor, I. (2011). El valor intrínseco del patrimonio cultural: ¿una noción
aún vigente? Intervención. Revista Internacional de Conservación,
Restauración y Museología, 3, 6-13.
Al comprender la museología como una disciplina que asume
responsabilidades derivadas de su gestión de la memoria y de la
representación se pone en evidencia la existencia de un fuerte vínculo entre
museos, bibliotecas y archivos. Por otro lado, la especificidad del museo al
transformar la cosa en musealia y generar una metarrealidad cultural, nos
lleva a indagar los mecanismos a traves de los cuales los musealia nos
convierten en observadores de segundo orden, capaces de mirarnos cuando
observamos el acto museal en tanto que ejercicio ético de la memoria y el
conocimiento. Estos apuntes presentan un estudio de caso consistente en
un proyecto museológico sobre la milpa como patrimonio biocultural de
México con el propósito de revisar sus condiciones de posibilidad y ponderar
las consecuencias de este proceso museal concreto.
Palabras clave: espacio comunitario, proceso museal, conservación
reflexiva, milpa como patrimonio biocultural
Notes on the museum exhibition as process.
On the one hand,understanding museology as a discipline that assumes
responsibilities arising from its memory management and representation
indicates a strong link between museums, libraries and archives. On the
other hand, the specificity by which the museum transforms the thing into
museum object and its capacity for generating a cultural meta-reality leads
us to investigate how museum objects make us our own observers – how we
look at ourselves watching the museum fact as an ethical exercise in
memory and knowledge. These notes present a case study of a museum
project on the milpa, a crop-growing system, as biocultural heritage of
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Norma Angélica Ávila Meléndez y Federico Padilla Gómez
Mexico, to revise its possibilities and evaluate the consequences of this
particular museum process.
Keywords: community space, museological process, reflexive conservation,
milpa, biocultural heritage
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia – México D.F.
Los museos, creados en el contexto del proyecto ilustrado, tenían
como una de sus tareas fundamentales exponer públicamente, a
través de los objetos que integraban sus colecciones, las
clasificaciones y estructuras que permitían entender el mundo.
De la mano del llamamiento a “asumir la mayoría de edad”, a
“pensar por nosotros mismos”, propuesto por Kant (2004), venía la
posibilidad de ser testigos directos de aquello en torno a lo cual se
generaba el conocimiento. Elmuseo públicoeraun sitio para
unademocratización deltestimonio, un lugar quemediaba entrela
"cienciade élite" y un público más amplio, y en el que laevidencia
material delas pretensiones de verdadera presentadapara que todos
pudieran verla. Aquíla "verdad"sehacía visiblede forma objetiva
(Swinney, 2013).
Desde la museología surgen preguntas importantes si consideramos
la evolución de las formas de producción del conocimiento científico;
la especialización disciplinaria de los museos frente al modelo
enciclopédico; la tensión que existe entre representación y
presentación cuando hablamos de objetos expuestos; así como el
cuestionamiento que propone la antropología en relación con la idea
de un solo mundo. Ante estas inquietudes se plantea la necesidad
de analizar el estatuto del objeto museal; las relaciones que
gestionan los museos entre la sociedad y estos objetos; y las
finalidades que se persiguen con estas relaciones.
La presente investigación propone que en los museos es posible
experimentar una apertura de la noción de ontología, gracias a una
"puesta en presencia" que trasciende la relación objeto-sujeto de la
epistemología moderna y que abre una nueva vía de conocimiento.
Poner en presencia implica realizar una acción pública en un
contexto determinado (Arendt, 2005). Una acción transitiva, que
implica a un otro o más bien a un universo potencial de otros, y por
otra parte, una acción en un contexto institucional, epistémico, con
sus cargas socio-políticas, históricas y simbólicas
Lo que se ofrece en el museo, tiene un grado de objetivación
específico: ha sido seleccionado para presentarse debido a una
serie de valores que le han sido asignados desde cierta perspectiva
o intención de conocimiento. Sin embargo múltiples predicados han
sido asociados a esa entidad que se pone a disposición, desde las
razones por las que entró a formar parte de una colección específica
hasta el marco discursivo con que es presentado en una exposición
A estos predicados habría que añadir las posibles valoraciones
propuestas por diversas disciplinas: la química, la física, la estética,
la economía o la antropología. Para cada una de ellas el mismo
referente concreto tendrá un valor distinto, pues cada disciplina
puede privilegiar ciertos aspectos sobre otros. Esa selección de los
valores potenciales proviene de la creación de la categoría objeto
Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
que tuvo un papel central en la Ilustración así como en las
clasificaciones de las colecciones de los museos.
La puesta en presencia que se realiza en los museos, puesto que es
un hecho social, debe tomar en consideración tanto los intereses
como los contextos perceptivos de los diversos públicos que acuden
a una exposición, pues dependiendo de los intereses y capacidades
de cada uno, (o si se prefiere el capital educativo, social o cultural),
se producirá una selección de los aspectos que se van a privilegiar...
En otras palabras, ocurre una nueva objetivación.
Si en la epistemología moderna, al menos en la tradición Kantiana,
la objetivación se encuentra vinculada a una intención de
conocimiento, (Kant, 2003) cabe la posibilidad de que cada contexto
epistémico produzca objetos diferentes dependiendo de los intereses
cognitivos. En clave fenomenológica, la objetivación es una
producción a partir de algo concreto, llamémosle "cosa" (Heidegger,
1953), que permite inscribir una tensión entre "lo que hay" y "lo que
tengo ante mí", dentro de un corpus de intereses.
Si es posible reconocer la existencia de algo que antecede al objeto
— la cosa — nos será fácil descubrir cómo en la economía de los
objetos se encuentran los rastros de los mundos concretos, o si se
prefiere, de los modos de existencia (Latour, 2013), que generaron
esos objetos. Tal vez el mejor ejemplo para esta investigación sea la
producción de la categoría patrimonio cultural.
Por otra parte, el reconocimiento de un contexto específico se
inserta en una tradición fenomenológica que no ignora la existencia
de una realidad, pero que privilegia el estudio de los fenómenos
concretos en mundos determinados como vías para entender de
mejor forma la relación entre los humanos y esa realidad.
Al analizar el tipo de relación que han planteado los archivos,
bibliotecas y museos entre sus colecciones y la sociedad, es posible
detectar que la forma de responder a la pregunta por "lo que hay" y
su forma de ubicarlo en relación a un modelo de mundo no sólo es
distinta para cada institución, sino que revela una posición singular
en lo que respecta a los museos.
Parte 1: Códices
Esta hipótesis se desarrolla a partir del análisis de los componentes
institucionales de los principales repositorios de la memoria:
archivos, bibliotecas y museos.
Para poder plantear de mejor forma este análisis se tomó como
punto de partida la exposición Códices de México, Memorias y
Saberes, realizada en 2014-2015 en el marco de las celebraciones
por el 50 aniversario del Museo Nacionalde Antropología y los 75
años del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia y que reunió
por primera vez 44 códices pertenecientes a la Biblioteca Nacional
de Antropología e Historia.
Los códices no sólo son los documentos más valiosos del pasado
mexicano sino que tienen la característica de haber sido a lo largo
de la historia objetos de museos, archivos y bibliotecas.
Esta exposición fue particularmente importante porque tras la
llegada de los europeos al territorio que actualmente ocupa México,
los códices fueron sistemáticamente destruidos para acabar con la
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idolatría, al ver en ellos “figuras del mal” (Meneses, 2012). Esta
destrucción no sólo termina con un “sistema estatal que recogía y
propagaba el pasado por medio de los códices sino que al
desaparecer las instituciones que antes almacenaban la memoria se
perdieron también los instrumentos que aseguraban la transmisión
de una generación a la siguiente”. (Meneses, 2012, p.22).
Los códices se resguardaban en instituciones llamadas Amoxcalli,
que en el ámbito de la sociedad mexica significaba literalmente “la
casa de los libros” (Meneses, 2012). Muchos de estos repositorios
fueron quemados en Tenochtitlán y Tlatelolco, en hogueras “del
tamaño de un monte que ardería por espacio de ocho días” lo mismo
que en territorio maya donde tenemos referencias de la quema de
unos cien mil códices por parte de fray Diego de Landa (Arizpe y
Tostado, 1993; Rayón, 1854).
Los códices eran los registros en los sistemas de escritura nativa del
devenir de la existencia de las sociedades prehispánicas que servían
como soporte para “la elocución de cantares, interpretación de los
sueños, [registrar] cómputos calendáricos y astrológicos, de textos
como los huehuetlahtolli, rituales sagrados, su ley y doctrina. Y así
mismo lo eran de sus historias, genealogías y otras formas de
memoria” (León-Portilla, 1997, p.142).
La función de estos códigos era aportar significaciones más allá del
lenguaje a partir de un complejo sistema en que los glifos, la
estructura y un contexto determinado eran parte fundamental de un
complejo sistema de interpretación (León-Portilla, 1997).
A este sistema, clave para la presente investigación, se le llamaba
Amoxotoca e implica la conjunción del canto y la lectura, un proceso
que requería estar “familiarizado o ser especialista en tal sistema de
discurso, que tiene una estructura interna y convenciones que
permiten captar los significados”. Amoxohtoca, significa ‘seguir el
camino del libro’… indica cómo debía de efectuarse tal proceso que
en el fondo implicaba des-codificar el sistema. Hay incluso, en las
páginas de algunos códices, representaciones de huellas de pie que
justamente marcan cómo ha de seguirse el camino de su lectura”
(León-Portilla, 1997, p.144).
Tras el periodo de destrucción inicial, comenzó un largo proceso en
el que se reconoció paulatinamente el valor de aquellos códices que
lograron salvarse de las hogueras (en el que participaron también
algunos de los misioneros) y que fue llevando a su preservación
primero en archivos, luego en bibliotecas y finalmente con esta
exposición, permitió poder relacionarlos con la sociedad en un
contexto museográfico.
En cada una de estas instituciones, los códices fueron vistos de
formas distintas y desempeñaron diversas funciones. Cada
institución otorgó una ubicación y una función a los códices dentro
de sus acervos y les asignó una forma de valor específica de
acuerdo con la vocación institucional de cada una.
A lo largo de este proceso los códices experimentaron procesos de
objetivación, o si se prefiere, de patrimonialización de acuerdo a
diferentes contextos epistémicos. En otras palabras, fueron objeto de
una producción ontológica.
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Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
Si seguimos la propuesta de Pomian en torno al patrimonio cultural,
las taxonomías de los objetos no sólo se relacionan con su
“apariencia visible”, sino con los usos que se hace de ellos, “Entre
unos y otros se despliega la historia del objeto entre los hombres,
resultado de las variaciones de su función en el tiempo y el espacio,
y de los cambios que sufre por este hecho su apariencia visible”
(Pomian, 1997, p.4).
Esto implica una forma de entender los bienes patrimoniales no
desde el punto de lo que son, sino de lo que son para nosotros.
Pomian propone que además de las clases: cuerpos, desechos,
cosas y medios, podríamos hablar de una quinta categoría formada
por los objetos semióforos: “todo objeto se vuelve semióforo como
consecuencia de la descontextualización y la exposición. Y lo sigue
siendo mientras esté expuesto” (Pomian, 1997, p.4).
De manera simple podemos decir que el semióforo es algo a lo que
se extrae de la naturaleza o del uso y por tanto se cambia su función
para colocarlo ante la mirada y bajo protección: textos, signos
icónicos, sustitutos de bienes, órdenes, insignias y expuestos.
Esto nos desplaza de la pregunta por “lo que hay” hacia lo que hay
para nosotros. Una forma de instrumentalización en la que el
referente es para algo. Y esto nos conduce a una ontología
Parte 2: Pluralismo epistémico
Para pensar en esta dimensión productiva de los objetos,
proponemos acudir a una serie de desplazamientos que se han
desarrollado en la epistemología y la filosofía de las ciencias en los
años recientes y que podríamos denominar pluralismo ontológico.
Esta concepción se encuentra relacionada con una forma de
entender los procesos mediante los cuales se genera el
conocimiento a través del reconocimiento de una multiplicidad
Este pluralismo se confronta con el llamado monismo para el que las
llamadas teorías “fundamentales” serían, “aquéllas que describen la
realidad tal como es en sí misma, mientras que las teorías
“fenomenológicas” o las disciplinas “secundarias” sólo describirían
los hechos tal como se nos aparecen” (Lombardi & Pérez, 2011). El
problema radica en que lo que tenemos ante nosotros en la
producción académica, en las diversas escuelas de pensamiento y
las disciplinas científicas, hasta ahora, no puede englobarse en un
modelo único.
Frente a esta concepción, que hunde sus raíces claramente en la
noción Kantiana del objeto, se postula la imposibilidad de poder
asumir un planteamiento que sea metafísicamente correcto así como
una interpretación única o absoluta de los conceptos. Si no existe
un concepto privilegiado de objeto, ni de existencia que sea el
metafísicamente correcto… esto implica que hay una coexistencia
de “esquemas conceptuales alternativos, no convergentes ni
reducibles a un esquema único (Lombardi & Pérez, 2011, p. 48).
Por lo tanto, la postura pluralista implica que “los enfoques y teorías
científicasno deben serevaluados en relación conel ideal de
ofrecerlaverdad única, completay exhaustivasobre un dominio ....
Diferentespuntos de vista sobrela ciencia, incluyendo el
histórico,normativo-filosófico y socialcientífico [sic], pueden arrojar
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Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez
luz sobrediferentesaspectos de esta empresamultifacética” (Kellert,
Longino, & Waters, 2006, p. XXIV).
A la luz de la producción interdisciplinaria la empresa científica se
torna un fenómeno complejo ya que, como proponen Kellert, Longino
y Waters “ningún enfoque disciplinario puede proporcionar, por sí
solo, un relato plenamente adecuado de sus aspectos conceptuales,
técnicos, cognitivo-psicológicos, sociales, históricos y normativos"
(2006, p. IX).
Hay un punto en el que tanto científicos como filósofos se ven en la
necesidad de reconocer los beneficios de contar con distintas
descripciones y distintas aproximaciones, continuando con Kellert,
Longino y Waters, “ya que algunas descripciones ofrecen mejores
relatos de algunos aspectos de una situación compleja y otras
descripciones ofrecen mejores relatos de otros aspectos. Y ésta
puede ser la forma en que siempre será”. (2006, p. XXIV). Esta
pluralidad en el plano epistémico tiene su correlato en la dimensión
del objeto, si pensamos en la propuesta de Pomian sobre la
idoneidad de atender a la función de los objetos y no a los objetos en
sí: “se concluye, que ningún [objeto] está relacionado de una vez y
para siempre con la clase a la cual pertenece por su génesis.” (1997)
Una aproximación que nos recuerda la propuesta de Martin
Heidegger, sobre algo que antecede al objeto y que podría explicar
de forma clara la base sobre la cual se construyen los procesos de
objetivación, la cosa. “Algo autónomo puede convertirse en objeto si
lo ponemos ante nosotros, ya sea en la percepción sensible
inmediata, ya sea en el recuerdo que lo hace presente. Sin embargo,
la cosidad de la cosa no descansa ni en el hecho de que sea un
objeto representado (ante-puesto), ni en el hecho de que se pueda
determinar desde la objetualidad de un objeto” (Heidegger, 1953,
p. 2).
De esta forma si reconocemos a la cosa como eso que existe, previa
a la objetivación, el problema no estaría en determinar qué es lo que
realmente existe sino en “aceptar que todo objeto de conocimiento,
del tipo que sea, está constituido en el marco de nuestro esquema
categorial y es, por tanto, “objeto para nosotros”… Sin que ello
niegue la existencia de “lo nouménico” o “cosa-en-sí” (Lombardi &
Pérez, 2011).
Pluralismo ontológico
Este año en el que conmemoramos los 200 años de la publicación
de las Considérations morales sur la destination des ouvrages de
l'art,Quatremère de Quincy, podremos recordar la relevancia que
tiene el contexto en relación con el patrimonio cultural. El lamento
por la “sustracción a su país natal de los modelos de la Antigüedad”
[que] comportaría la “privación de todos los términos de comparación
que los explican y realzan su valor” (De Quincy, 2007), se vincula
directamente con lo que la filosofía de la ciencia llama hoy en día
modelos conceptuales.
Los objetos de la ciencia existen en relación con los modelos o
esquemas conceptuales. “Desmenuzamos el mundo en objetos
cuando introducimos uno u otro esquema descriptivo” (Putnam,
1988, p.52). Ya sea que hablemos de abstracta y concreta, o de
objetos y eventos, o possibilia y actualia (Turner, 2010), en todo
momento nos referimos a algo que existe dentro de un modelo. “De
aquí que la pregunta sobre qué es lo que hay en el mundo requiera
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Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
de la especificación del esquema conceptual desde el cual se
plantea e intenta responder” (Lombardi & Pérez, 2011, p. 48).
Cuando Bruno Latour en su Investigación sobre los modos de
existencia habla de la preposición, se refiere a la existencia de un
código, de una clave a partir de la cual hay que interpretar algo y que
nos ayuda a reconocer un modo particular de ser. Como señala
(Latour, 2013), cada código produce, o si se prefiere, reconoce,
formas distintas de ser. Algo que podríamos leer en Aristóteles
cuando dice que “el ser es dicho de múltiples maneras.” (Turner,
Si la palabra categoría proviene kata-agorien, “como hablar sobre o
contra algo o alguien publicamente”, (Latour, 2013) las categorías
mismas, tendrían resonancia en un contexto específico. De ahí la
necesidad de analizar no sólo lo presente, sino el lenguaje y el
código de interpretación mediante el cual se predica sobre algo.
(Moulines, 1980; Latour, 2013)
Múltiples mundos.
Si la producción de ontologías se realiza en relación a un modelo,
una intención de conocimiento, o un contexto de enunciación, esto
implica el reconocimiento de la existencia de muchos mundos. No
hablamos aquí de distintas realidades, sino de la construcción de
múltiples mundos (Olivé, 2015). Algo que la propia antropología ha
postulado una y otra vez y que, de cara a las sociedades
postcoloniales, adquiere una dimensión política específica.
Finalmente la ciencia es desarrollada por individuos y comunidades,
con una dimensión histórica y social determinada, que inciden de
una forma u otra en las intencionalidades con las que desarrollan su
producción científica (Olivé, 2015).
Para cerrar esta sección es importante mencionar que, a pesar de
que se hable de muchos mundos que se encuentran en el interior de
prácticas y dinámicas sociales y de la existencia de múltiples
modelos, esto no implica un llamamiento al relativismo general.
Cada comunidad y cada ámbito poseen sus propios “criterios
objetivos de evaluación” (Lombardi & Pérez, 2011) y formas
específicas de determinar la mala investigación (Kellert et al., 2006),
o como propone Latour, formas específicas de veridicción (Latour,
Parte 3: Instituciones de la memoria: Museos,
Archivos y Bibliotecas
Una vez analizado el modelo de los pluralismos, es necesario
confrontarlo con las instituciones de la memoria: museos, archivos y
bibliotecas para ver el tipo de relación que establecen entre la
sociedad y el mundo.
Las tres instituciones comparten una forma particular de gestionar
las relaciones de la sociedad con materiales que se encuentran
separados de los flujos económicos. Concentran cosas a las que se
ha otorgado un valor transitivo, pues al separarlas de lo cotidiano, se
ha querido socializar su función. Las tareas fundamentales de estas
instituciones de la memoria son investigar, preservar y difundir sus
acervos. Para ubicarlas con mayor claridad dentro del campo de las
instituciones sociales podríamos llamarlas dispositivos según la
acepción que propone Giorgio Agamben, ya que su función es
mediar en las relaciones entre los seres y la sociedad (2006), con la
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Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez
particularidad de que los seres que gestionan se ubican en el campo
del patrimonio cultural.
Las tres instituciones tienen una relación compleja entre el pasado y
el presente, y proponen a su vez formas de organización y
clasificación que buscan ofrecer una forma de ordenamiento de sus
acervos según formas específicas de entender el mundo. Si bien,
estas formas de ordenamiento han cambiado a lo largo del tiempo,
mantienen una voluntad de orden que da cuenta del contexto en que
se inscriben: en ellas podemos ver actuar a los agentes que les
aportan legitimidad, recursos económicos y patrones culturales
Si revisamos las definiciones propuestas por las entidades rectoras
de bibliotecas, (Gill, 2001; Fernández Abad, 2008) museos (ICOM,
2007) y archivos (ICA-UNESCO, 2011), podemos ver que en todos
los casos sus fondos son preservados para cumplir una finalidad
social: educación, esparcimiento, investigación, promoción de la
democracia, mejora en la calidad de vida o salvaguarda de la
memoria individual y colectiva. De estas mismas definiciones se
desprenden las tres funciones fundamentales de las instituciones de
la memoria: preservación, investigación y comunicación (van
Mensch, 1992).
Las relaciones que se gestionan en torno al patrimonio cultural entre
acervos y sociedad responden de forma explícita e implícita a una
instrumentalidad entendida no como una fatalidad sino, como
propone Gibson, como una de sus condiciones inherentes (2008).
No se trata únicamente de resguardar la memoria sino de realizar
una serie de acciones para lograr un fin específico.
Especificidad ontológica de las instituciones de la memoria.
Para poder acceder a lo específico de cada una de estas
instituciones de la memoria proponemos analizar, por un lado, cómo
se desarrollan estas tareas fundamentales y por otro, tres aspectos
que nos permitirán delimitar sus ámbitos de acción, impronta y uso
que se hace del patrimonio cultural a través de tres categorías de
análisis: ontologías, relaciones e instrumentalidad.
a) Funciones fundamentales desarrolladas por las instituciones de
la memoria.
Preservación.La preservación implica tanto la protección, resguardo
y conservación de los aspectos físicos del objeto, como el registro y
documentación de los valores que le han sido asignados, así como
las razones por las que se le sustrae del lugar que ocupan dentro del
mundo y por las que se le asigna una utilidad social. De esta forma
la preservación se desarrolla de la mano de la producción
Aquí se incluye también el incremento de las colecciones, que
implica tanto la consolidación de una forma de intelección del mundo
como los medios para poder desarrollar modelos que permitan hacer
una adecuada representación de una postura epistémica (Kellert et
al., 2006).
Investigación.Las "cosas" antes de pasar a formar parte de una
colección deben ser sometidas a un proceso en el que se les
"disciplina". Este proceso al que, a falta de un mejor término
llamaremos patrimonialización (Scheiner, 2006), implica la
asignación—o si se prefiere, el reconocimiento—de una serie de
valores dentro de un contexto epistémico específico. De cosas
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Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
pasan a ser objetos de conocimiento, lo que implica necesariamente
su separación del contexto en el que se encuentran ubicadas y el
traslado a uno diferente. Este movimiento no es sólo físico, implica
tanto un cambio de función como la ubicación en un ámbito con
diferentes flujos simbólicos, epistémicos y sociales.
El proceso de registro y clasificación es asimismo parte de esta
acción por la cual se les asigna un lugar dentro de un contexto
epistémico y por tanto una posición dentro de un modelo de mundo.
O en palabras de Quatremère de Quincy “aleja a la obra de su
función original, la desplaza de su lugar de nacimiento y se la sitúa
ajena a las circunstancias que le otorgaron significado” (de Quincy,
1815, p.68).
Todo proceso de objetivación, en tanto que implica una producción a
partir de una "cosa", genera una jerarquización de sus
características. Se privilegian o relegan aspectos constitutivos de la
"cosa" según la axiología particular del contexto epistémico. Esta
acción emplaza al objeto "producido" en un lugar específico dentro
del contexto epistémico, lo que le confiere una nueva dimensión
Esta primera adscripción no solo añade una lectura al referente sino
que también lo ubica en relación con los otros objetos dependiendo
de su importancia dentro del campo de conocimiento y dentro del
conjunto propio de los objetos que, junto con él constituyen los
acervos. Esta primera dimensión ontológica está además sujeta a
unas condiciones que son susceptibles de cambios en el tiempo.
Como sabemos, tanto las técnicas clasificatorias como las
disciplinas científicas y las interrupciones experimentan cambios –
que se reflejan en la forma de ubicar un objeto dentro un conjunto o
modelo mayor. (Swinney, 2013)
Sabemos por los estudios de la sociología de la ciencia que los
contextos epistémicos se encuentran también emplazados en un
entorno concreto y que por tanto están condicionados por factores
internos y externos, lo que los hace no sólo cambiantes en el tiempo
sino parcialmente determinados por las prácticas científicas que
están influenciadas por condiciones sociales, históricas y
geográficas. (Olivé, 2015)
Comunicación – acceso.Como tercera acción común se encuentra la
puesta en relación con la sociedad (Chevallier, 2011; Arendt 2005).
En el caso de las instituciones vinculadas con el patrimonio cultural,
esta relación incluye una vocación educativa y una dimensión de
acceso universal.
Estas instituciones cumplen la misión de poner a disposición de la
sociedad, materiales que han sido resguardados con la conciencia
de que poseen, o pueden poseer, una utilidad social. Cada una
posee diversos niveles y sistemas de acceso a las colecciones, del
contacto directo al objeto en resguardo mediante protocolos de
consulta y sistemas de clasificación, a los sistemas anaqueles
abiertos, la consulta in situ, el préstamo domiciliario o la
contemplación mediada por dispositivos físicos o electrónicos.
Si bien en los archivos y las bibliotecas las formas de poner-enrelación se encuentran profundamente vinculadas con los sistemas
clasificatorios, en los museos opera una dimensión diferente, en
tanto cuanto la exposición produce nuevas formas de objetivación al
introducir una narrativa y una intencionalidad comunicativa en la que
los objetos adquieren una nueva función, distinta de aquella que
tienen en los acervos.
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Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez
b) Diferencias entre archivos, bibliotecas y museos
Una vez que consideramos las tareas que comparten estas tres
instituciones proponemos una serie de enfoques que nos permitirán
observar de una forma más clara los elementos que las diferencian.
En un primer plano las diferencias parecerían concentrarse en el tipo
de materiales que resguardan. Podríamos decir que la biblioteca
conserva libros, el archivo documentos y el museo objetos. Sin
embargo, como podremos ver, la diferencia va mucho más allá pues
su especificidad no sólo radica en el tipo de cosas que conservan,
investigan y comunican, sino que la forma de poner a disposición,
las formas de asignar valor o verosimilitud (Latour, 2013) y la forma
en que se asigna una función social a sus acervos, es también
Ontologías.Si pensamos en las categorías con que se clasifican los
componentes de cada tipo de acervo, podremos detectar algunas de
las primeras diferencias. El documento es el registro de algo, la
huella de una acción que suele además formar parte de un conjunto
que le brinda un contexto de inteligibilidad particular, su importancia
suele estar vinculada a la información que contiene. Cuando
pensamos en un ejemplar (ie: libro o publicación periódica)
reconocemos que se trata de uno entre varios que comparten las
mismas características, una materialización particular de un múltiple.
La información que contiene bien puede encontrarse en otra parte,
se trataría de un objeto diseñado ex-profeso para transmitir una
información determinada.
En el caso de los objetos llamados musealia (van Mensch, 1990),
hablamos de objetos cuya dimensión significante se encuentra tanto
en su materialidad como en los diversos códigos de comunicación
con que cuentan.
Como se podrá ver, a pesar de que los tres: documento, ejemplar y
musealia cuentan con una dimensión significante, la diferencia de los
medios para interpretarlos es tan importante como el lugar que
ocupaban antes de ser adscritos a un determinado sistema
Relaciones. La consulta de un objeto de archivo suele darse
exclusivamente in situ y con protocolos muy estrictos, mientras que
en la biblioteca es más frecuente la consulta en otros entornos,
como puede ser el préstamo domiciliario o los préstamos inter
bibliotecarios. Los museos proponen múltiples vías de acceso que
van desde préstamos de colecciones entre museos a la consulta in
situ de los fondos y por supuesto, la presentación dentro de un
código discursivo museográfico.
Si bien estas dimensiones de uso no son tan tajantes como se han
propuesto, sí queda claro que el nivel de acceso a los materiales
varía entre las tres instituciones y eso es algo que puede entenderse
a partir de la función que cada una asigna a los componentes de sus
colecciones y al tipo de vínculo que propone para los diferentes tipos
de públicos que a ellas acuden.
La presencia física de los materiales apela de distintas maneras a
los visitantes dependiendo del tipo de institución que se trate. En el
caso concreto de los museos públicos, se apela a un testimonio
compartido, una huella a partir de la cual se propone la construcción
de imaginarios de identidad, representación y memoria. La visita al
museo como hecho social invoca al espacio colectivo y la discusión
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Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
Instrumentalidad.En el caso de los materiales que pertenecen a un
archivo, al ser comúnmente registros únicos de la actividad humana,
adquieren la dimensión de pruebas. Son, al mismo tiempo, entidades
únicas y fragmentarias ya que son insustituibles y si se les mira de
forma aislada difícilmente pueden dar cuenta cabal de la información
de que son portadores. En el caso de los libros, dependen casi
totalmente de los códigos lingüísticos y son portadores de
información auto-contenida (aunque existe información valiosísima
en su soporte material). Podríamos decir que son unidades de
sentido dentro de un código compartido.
Finalmente, los objetos resguardados en los museos cumplen una
doble función de representatividad y alteridad ya que a través de
ellos se pretende dar una visión de la cultura material del mundo,
pero inevitablemente se requiere hacer una selección tanto de lo que
compone un horizonte cognitivo para su incorporación al museo,
como de los materiales que se encuentran en los acervos y en otras
colecciones para su exposición. Su dimensión de alteridad proviene
de la necesidad de un contexto para poder interpretarlos ya que
señalan siempre la ausencia de algo que no está presente y ante la
cual cobraban sentido.
Especificidad del museo.
Al pensar de nuevo en los códices, podemos ver que al entrar al
museo, se produce una apertura en su dimensión ontológica. La
acción museográfica pone en tensión el código de interpretación, lo
comparte como propuesta hacia el público.
Ahí se agolpan las taxonomías, las miradas, las intenciones de
conocimiento por parte de los expertos y se propone un código que
los separa del resto de las cosas y los enmarca a la vez en una
propuesta de sentido. Es el páregon planteado por Derrida (2001),
pero que ha de ser activado por una multiplicidad de personas cuyas
intenciones de conocimiento y experiencias son distintas.
El museo es una suerte de máquina ontológica que superpone los
discursos curatoriales a las taxonomías clasificatorias y a la vez
pone en suspenso la pregunta por el qué hay, qué es esto, cómo se
relacionaba con el mundo y cómo ha venido relacionándose con los
distintos a lo largo del tiempo, para finalmente abrir la pregunta a
qué es eso para ustedes, para mí, para nosotros.
Pareciera que esa antigua práctica del Amoxohtoca, seguir el
camino del libro, se encuentra permanentemente en estado de
tensión en el museo, pues cada vez que nos hacemos la pregunta
por aquello que está ante nosotros, tenemos que confrontar los
diferentes modelos de mundo que se hacen presentes.
Si los museos actuales ya no responden al modelo enciclopédico, es
necesario cuestionar el estatuto de los objetos museales, de la
misma forma que necesitamos comprender desde dónde se habla,
cómo se producen y proponen modelos de mundo en cada museo.
Finalmente seguir el camino del libro otorga la posibilidad de trazar
las trayectorias de las diversas producciones ontológicas que se han
realizado en torno a una ‘cosa’. Al hacerlo, podemos indagar sobre
los modelos de mundo en los que estamos imbuidos y por eso
mismo poder reinventarlos.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Alejandro Sabido Sánchez Juárez
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Chevallier, J. (2011). Fenomenología del presentar. Literatura: teoría,
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Gibson, L. (2008). In Defense of Instrumentality.Cultural Trends, 17(4), 247257.
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ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Amoxcalli. Un análisis sobre la dimensión ontológica
de los códices en los archivos, bibliotecas y museos
Turner, J. (2010). Ontological pluralism.The Journal of Philosophy, 107.1, 534.
van Mensch, P. (1990). Methodological Museology; or, Towards a Theory of
Museum Practice (pp. 141-157). In S. Pearce (Ed.), Objects of
van Mensch, P. (1992). Toward a methodology of museology. Unpublished
Ph. D. dissertation, University of Zagreb
Para analizar lo específico de los museos en relación con archivos y
bibliotecas, se toman como punto de partida los códices como entidades que
han formado parte de las colecciones de las citadas instituciones. La noción
mexica Amoxotoca, “seguir el camino del libro” abre paso a un tipo de
producción ontológica que tiene lugar en los museos y que se sitúa de forma
problemática ante el proyecto de la Ilustración.
Para desarrollar esa dimensión ontológica, se acude a la filosofía de la
ciencia, a las formas en que se responde actualmente a la pregunta ¿qué
es? y se analiza hasta qué punto esta pregunta se encuentra determinada
por contextos específicos. En concreto, se analizan las formas de producir
ontologías y relaciones sociales y de instrumentalizar los objetos de los
acervos * de museos, archivos y bibliotecas.
De este análisis se concluye que en los museos se produce una apertura de
la dimensión ontológica que permite analizar la coexistencia de diferentes
mundos. Seguir el camino del libro implica en este texto el estudio de las
múltiples formas de objetivación a partir de cosas y la relación entre esta
acción y el devenir museológico.
Palabras claves: Ontología,
especificidad y contexto.
Amoxcalli. An Analysis of the Ontological Dimension of Codices in
Museums, Libraries, and Archives
To analyze the specifics of museums in relation to archives and libraries,
codices, as entities that have been part of these collections, are taken as a
starting point. The ancient Aztec word Amoxotoca, "follow the path of the
book", gives way to a kind of ontological production that happens in
museums, which is problematic if confronted with the enlightenment project.
To develop this ontological dimension, we turn to insights from the
philosophy of science. We examine the ways in which the philosophy of
science currently answers the question “What is?” and to what extent this
question is determined by clearly defined contexts. Specifically, the ways of
producing ontologies, social relations, and instrumentalization of objects in
collections of museums, libraries, and archives are analyzed.
This analysis concludes that, in museums, an opening of the ontological
dimension occurs, which allows us to analyze the coexistence of different
worlds. “To follow the path of the book” in this paper implies the study of
multiple forms of objectification from things and the relationship of this action
in museological transformations.
Keywords:Ontology, pluralism, epistemology, amoxotoca, specificity and
A lo largo del texto se emplea la pablara “acervos” para referirse a las colecciones de
museos, archivos y bibliotecas. En otros países de lengua castellana se les denomina
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
Jennifer Harris
Curtin University - Perth Australia
As museums, libraries, and archives have converged, it has become
a trope to say that they have returned to their original administrative
grouping. Note, for example, these titles of papers on convergence:
“What’s old is new again” (Given & MacTavish, 2010) and “Coming
back together?” (Marcum, 2014). For some writers, the fact of their
separation in the late 19 century and into the first part of the 20
century is the exceptional fact in the histories of these culture
repositories, not their contemporary convergence. The risk inherent
in such observations, especially when they are used to allay fears
about convergence, is that they tend to gloss over the radical
narrative changes that museums underwent in the late 20 century.
The emphasis on narrative in exhibition work and, therefore, the
recognition of the textual potency of representation, ought to be
among the key elements in assessing the philosophic impact of
convergence. Of signal importance also is the fact that museum
narratives are spatialized (Hillier & Tzortzi, 2006; Leahy, 2012),
however, this is beyond the scope of my thoughts here.
This paper argues that the implication of invoking 19 century, and
earlier, groupings of museums, libraries, and archives in the Western
world as evidence for the natural alliance of what are sometimes
called “memory institutions” (Robinson, 2012, p. 413) is an unwitting
denial of recent museology and the textual advances of museums.
This paper starts by reflecting on the historical co-existence of the
three types of institution and the fact that this lends support to
convergence pressures. It then examines the confusing appearance
of epistemological similarities, which might suggest that convergence
would not create substantial changes to their functioning. Finally, it
considers the dominant role of narrative in museums, arguing that it
is so fundamental a difference from the dominant work of archives
and libraries that full convergence would be likely to be achieved at
the high price of the loss of representation through narrative, which is
one of the chief philosophical advancements of museums in the last
It is the potential loss of narrative as a result of convergence that
looms as the chief textual danger. This paper uses text in the
semiotic sense, that is, “a meaningful structure understood as being
composed of signs. The meaning of a text is determined by rules (or
codes)” (Edgar & Sedgwick, 1999, p. 415). Textuality, in the semiotic
sense, refers to the politics of meaning, the instability and flux of
meaning generation, and the problematic dialogism of
communication. Self-conscious acts of museum representation
activate rich textuality. It is this paradigmatic difference between
museums and the library-archive world that is at stake. The museum
narrative experience is one of history plus imagination, a lyrical
environment that fosters poetic engagement by visitors. It is a world
of connotation, political provocation, visitor performance, and
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
By comparison, denotative acts of collecting and cataloguing are rich
in a different way. I acknowledge that libraries and archives also
produce exhibitions, but they are often on a much smaller scale in
comparison to museum exhibitions, object-focused rather than ideafocused, only tentatively politicised, and not part of the wider
narratives of the institution. The overlap of the production of
exhibitions in all three institutions, therefore, is not sufficient to
explain or justify convergence and fails to address the potential risk
to sophisticated museum textuality.
Together in the past
One of the justifications for convergence is that this cultural
movement is little more than a return to a historic, coherent approach
to memory preservation, that museums, libraries, and archives were
once almost indistinguishable, especially when their various
elements are traced back to Renaissance cabinets of curiosities
(Marcum, 2014, p. 80). Given and McTavish (2010) describe, for
example, how linking the three types of institution in the UK, US, and
Canada in the 19 century was held to be good for educating the
lower classes and a sign of civilization for the wider community, as
also described by Hooper-Greenhill (2000, p. 14). This section
considers this problematic link, first, through the historic slide
together of museums and libraries via looking and reading as key
pedagogical modes and, secondly, through the philosophic impact of
a possible return to this approach in museum learning.
Acts of reading and learning have been highly significant in the
historic merging of libraries and museums. Nineteenth century
learning through a combination of looking and reading is described
by Given and MacTavish (2010), who illustrate the historical process
of these two pedagogical modes coming together and, through them,
the gradual merging of museums and libraries. They describe the
history of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, established
in 1862, as an exemplar of 19 century pedagogy. It started with an
emphasis on the vital importance of visual contemplation of the
object under study. Initially, looking was understood to reveal more
knowledge than reading alone. Reading complemented looking, it did
not suffice in itself.
The proponents of the natural history collections in Saint
John and elsewhere similarly held that when people looked
intensively at material objects they gained access to
information that books could not provide. (Given &
McTavish, 2010, p. 10)
Looking, however, was later complemented by reading. Small
reading rooms and book collections were established to accompany
material culture collections.
The complementary understanding of reading and looking
was not unusual, extending beyond natural history
societies to other kinds of museums and the broader
educational system in North America. In 1887, Luigi Palma
di Cesnola, the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of
Art in New York, argued that museums were in effect
libraries of objects … The notion that material objects could
be “read” like books, even though they were ultimately
distinct from printed sources, was also encouraged. (Given
& McTavish, 2010, p. 11)
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Jennifer Harris
It is important to distinguish the idea of an object being “read” in the
19 century from late 20 century concepts of reading. In the former,
the idea of reading an object encompassed the centrality of looking,
as if one were reading a book, skimming its words and identifying its
denotative meaning. By comparison, in the late 20 and into the 21
centuries, under the impact of semiotic theories, reading is
philosophized as a dynamic process of meaning generation that is
understood to emerge from three components, first, the original text,
secondly, the engaged viewer or reader and, thirdly, the shifting
contexts of production, historic meanings, and contemporary
It was reading, as a process of accessing denotative meaning, that
motivated the 19 century establishment of libraries as attachments
to museums. They were intended to provide background information
designed to complement the knowledge gained by intense scrutiny.
During the 20 century, however, the role of the librarian and
museum curator became strongly differentiated (Given & McTavish,
2010, p. 16), and the two types of institution eventually split with
separate professional staff training.
The past differentiated institutional roles of curators are changing,
while contemporary roles now draw attention to themselves. In
focusing on the expression of narrative in this paper, I am choosing a
key difference among these three institutions, rather than a similarity.
The rise of the celebrity curator (Balzer, 2014), for example, is an
emerging shared feature of art galleries and some museums, note,
for example, the work and status of Hans-Ulrich Obrist in galleries
and, in social history museums, the role of Fred Wilson.
The experience of many western places, however, is not connected
to the new energy of the curator. The library evolved through much of
the 20 century to become a more significant and vibrant communityth
educational institution than the museum, which by the mid-20
century, in many places in the Western world, was focused on
research and housed static and moribund displays of objects. In the
late 20 century, museums surfaced as treasured community assets
because of the rise of historical consciousness in response to
impacts of globalization, tourism, and widespread valuing of material
To focus on returning the three institutions to their earlier cohabitation and institutional lack of distinction is to accept implicitly the
return of the museum object, philosophically, back to its pre-semiotic
status. Pre-semiotically, it was understood to contain meaning quite
outside reading and interpretive contexts. Robinson (2012, pp. 414415) notes that the idea of the “memory institution” has been taken
up enthusiastically by policymakers, the idea of the coherence of
memory being the logical glue for the three institutions, but the
significance of the different styles of presentation of objects is
brushed aside. There is the danger of a philosophic slip back to the
pre-semiotic status of the object, book, or document as denoting
meaning outside the act of reading and outside the framework of its
collecting institution, that is, the home of the object would be likely to
become irrelevant in interpreting the object. (What would the Mona
Lisa mean outside of the Louvre?)
Robinson (2012) observes also the significant historic power of the
technological innovation of digital searching in reducing the status of
the object. All three types of institutions are now able to provide
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
digital searches. This gives the impression of, first, similarity between
types of organisations and, secondly, the transcendence of the object
or document from its institutional context. The meaning of the object
thus appears to be enduring, stable, and beyond interpretation.
From this point of view, museums libraries and archives
are differentiated primarily by the typological distinctions of
their collections (objects, books, documents) that seem
arbitrary and redundant in an age when users, with the aid
of digital technologies, can bypass the institutional
gatekeepers and access collections directly. (Robinson,
2012, p. 415)
Featherstone (2000), however, on contemplating the inexhaustible
reach of collecting fever in the 21 century, speculates on an archive
of radical direct access and its potential to overwhelm the searcher;
he calls this “disintermediation”. He ponders whether the public might
request the organization of material by institutions to be reinstated.
Will disintermediation, the direct access to cultural records
and resources from those outside cultural institutions, lead
to a decline in intellectual and academic power or will the
increased scope and complexity overwhelm the untutored
user and lead to greater demands for reintermediation,
involving the context framing and mapping skills of cultural
intermediaries? (Featherstone, 2000, p. 166)
Writing 14 years after Featherstone, Marcum (2014), by comparison,
seems to gloss over the role of cultural mediation as she focuses on
the demand of users for information with no apparent interest in its
For those of us concerned with the history of cultural
institutions, the collaborative movement takes on an
additional dimension … We are recombining cultural
resource fields and curatorial service professions that have
too long been separated. (Marcum, 2014, p. 80)
For those of us who are attached to the curatorial organization of
archives, libraries, and museums, there is little doubt that we would
be likely to request the resumption of cultural mediation. The great
ease of radically direct access to collection records suggests that a
request for institutional framing of information would not be
widespread. Under the impact of digital searching possibilities,
therefore, the institutional contexts of collections are in danger of
being disregarded. That is, the mission and philosophy of the
individual institution that collected the object, book, or document
could be held to be of little or no significance in meaning. The items
in the collection could be seen to have slipped back to their 19
century denotative status without the textual framing of the institution.
In order to access knowledge – implicitly understood as stable
knowledge – all that one would need do is look, supplemented by
reading. This epistemological slip and potential intellectual loss are
not widely addressed during convergence debates.
Institutional similarities
A rationalist epistemology, once shared by museums, libraries, and
archives has been almost abandoned. Departure from this
epistemology has not, however, resulted in the appearance of a
shared replacement of approaches to learning, another crucial
difference that is rarely taken into account in the convergence
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Jennifer Harris
debate. Learning from professionally curated exhibitions, which start
from the assumption that museum objects are to be approached as
representational, is very different from the relatively simple provision
of access to documents and books. The educational difference is
possibly obscured by the fact that all three institutions usually accept
semiotic theories of textuality and understand objects, books, and
documents as deriving meaning from contexts - with the concept of
text applying equally to objects, books, and documents. Texts are
understood as politicised and unstable. It is not difficult to see,
therefore, why this dramatic epistemological shift - from
understanding the concept of meaning as being something that is
found through denotative information, to its opposite, the volatility of
textuality - has led naturally, for many people, to a broad acceptance
of convergence as a natural philosophic (and happy economic)
institutional fit. Volatile textuality demands an active visitor/reader. It
is the conception of the visitor as a creative generator of meaning
that now provides the institutional similarity for all three in practical
textual terms.
A key reason for considering that convergence for the three
institutional styles is appropriate emerges, therefore, from their
mutual orientation to their various visitors and communities in the late
20 and early 21 centuries. A celebratory mood of discovering
multiple post-colonial and post-modern publics has accompanied the
move to converge. Extensive public programming, collections that
reflect diverse publics and specific exhibitions targeted at children
and minority groups have become the norm for all three.
Despite the shared approaches to visitors and reading, this paper
argues that it is not sufficient to justify institutional convergence and
results in neglect of fundamental textual differences. The reality is
that libraries and archives take as their dominant roles the acquisition
of documents, their storage, and the creation of access for visitors
either in their buildings or online. Their work centres on making
documents available. By contrast, museums collect and store
objects, and make them broadly available when visible storage is
implemented. Museums also take on another task – they create selfconscious narratives for learning as part of their everyday work.
Narratives rely on the presence and engagement of the visitor for
their meaning; this is an essential difference between museums and
the other two institution types. Museums are now in dialogue with
their visitors (Given & McTavish, 2010, p. 21), they set out to expose
institutional choices to their visitors in a highly self-reflexive manner
(Kavanagh, 2004). The role of the visitor is, therefore, tangled and
complex, making convergence seem natural and common sense
while also obfuscating discussion about it. In a nutshell, libraries and
archives construct their work for the visitor, but museums are
constructed through visitor learning. On one hand, the philosophic
conception of the visitor seems to explain why convergence is a
natural future state for the three institutions, but, on the other hand,
reflection on the status of the active, learning visitor in museum
narrative undermines arguments for convergence and their implicit
assumption of stable meaning.
Strangely, this assumption sits side by side with its direct opposite,
that is, the institutional acceptance of semiotics and unstable
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
Museum narrative
The final section of this paper draws together visitor and narrative
threads. I differentiate here between the deliberate narrative adopted
in exhibition work and the concept of the implicit narrative. It is widely
accepted by librarians and archivists that there are implicit narratives
expressed through collecting and cataloguing in libraries (Robinson,
2012, p. 416) and that there is no neutrality in archiving (Cook, 2009,
pp. 515-517). The fantasy of the neutrality of the collecting museum
is described by Hooper-Greenhill (2000). She compares the function
of maps to that of what she calls “modernist museums”, that is,
museums engaged in the apparent depiction of reality.
The modernist museum depicts “reality” and shows “the
way things are” in a seemingly neutral manner. Both
museums and maps work through a combination of word
and image. In maps, these fix a name and a shape to a
place. In the modernist museum the texts next to the
objects signal how the object should be viewed…
Hierarchies of value are constructed, inclusions and
exclusions made, the self and the other separated. Maps
do this conceptually, with drawings and two-dimensional
symbols. The museum does this with things, which are
understood as fragments of reality itself. (HooperGreenhill, 2000, p.18)
It seems extraordinary that it was as recently as the year 2000 that
such a description of museum institutions should have seemed
broadly the reality – “the objectification of reality and the denial of
subjectivity” (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000, p. 106). Museums, of course,
continue to have implicit narratives framing their collections and
catalogues and have always used artefacts in a connotative manner,
wittingly or unwittingly. Powerful, creative narratives have sprung
from deadpan placements of museum objects with limited descriptive
labels. Implicit narratives often function below the threshold of
articulation for many museum workers, for example the triumph of
the nation or the social and economic progress associated with
mining or agriculture.
This type of narrative is almost hidden in the protocols of collecting
activity. It is very different from the deliberate storytelling undertaken
by museums, often controversially, which is designed to call attention
to itself; indeed, such storytelling has become the bedrock of
contemporary exhibition and relies on the active role of visitors to
make sense.
Robinson observes that, in recognising that while ideologies implicitly
frame catalogues in all three institutions, “it is problematic to equate
them with curatorial interventions applied to museum collections …
only museums … actively and self-consciously author historical
narratives through their objects” Robinson (2012, p. 423). Museum
exhibition narrative starts from the lyrical ideal that museum work is
about representation, that it is not limited by denotation, and that
material culture can be used imaginatively to tell stories. I now turn to
the central issue of the place of self-conscious museum narrative in
the MLA convergence project.
Just as the attachment of libraries to museums in the 19 century led
to the atrophying of museums (Given & McTavish, 2010), so danger
looms again. In the 19 century, libraries and museums worked from
the same basic epistemology, but once the role of reading in
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Jennifer Harris
education was elevated over observation, the fading of museums in
community intellectual life commenced. Now, with MLA convergence,
the danger is that the leap museums have taken into provocative
narrative could be reversed under the pressure to conform to the
style of collecting and cataloguing undertaken by libraries and
archives. The fact that some commentators regard convergence as
unproblematic reveals that they have not observed the differences
between museums and other memory institutions.
Although it is evident that catalogues order experience, a different
kind of ordering is found in the experience of exhibition narratives.
Hetherington (2006) argues that it was the experience of modernity
that was the focus of the museum at the end of the 18 century.
Many writers trace the multiple lines of museum evolution through a
variety of pre-existing institutions, but Hetheringon says that
it is its direct engagement with issues of experience
(whether that be the experience of art, history,
civilisations, ethnographic encounter or locality expressed
in material cultural form) that marks it out as something
new. (Hetherington, 2006, p. 599)
Hetherington draws on Benjamin’s (1973a; 1973b) and Koselleck’s
(2004) distinction between, on the one hand, the broad sense of an
experience of life’s wholeness that was characteristic of the premodern experience and, on the other, the experience of
fragmentation that is characteristic of modernity. Some of this
analysis was pre-dated by Nora’s (1989) work on the sensation of
being ripped from an everyday environment of memory and Harvey’s
(1989) discussion of time-space compression: the experience of the
crushing of space as an effect of globalization and the loss of time
through the speed of communication and travel. Hetherington (2006,
p. 600) describes the awesome loss of “a shared topos in which a
community existed as a knowable whole to its members” and the
disorientation that followed that loss, a disorientation that we all
struggle with every day. In the past, he says,
people dwelt in this shared topos in a time that was
perceived to be continuous and natural and were able to
experience the present as a present. There was no sense
of emergence, trajectory or novelty in such experience...
With modernity comes disruption of the social relations
that underpin such a form of experience. (Hetherington
2006, p. 600)
One of our central responses to this crisis, according to Hetherington
(2006, p. 600), has been a “shift from natural to historical time … as
cultural understanding seeks to reorientate itself to radically changed
circumstances”. Western museums’ play with narrative through
material culture has been one of the most powerful ways that this
time shift has been expressed.
The museum is one of the key modern institutions in which
this sense of experience as lack and disconnection from a
natural topos is addressed… it seeks through its display
regimes, their narratives and ordering logics to provide
people with a sense that they are living in a world where
our uncertain and complex set of experiences make
sense. (Hetherington, 2006, p. 600)
Museums of social history work with everyday objects, solid and
palpable in their physicality, to address “this sense of experience as
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Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
lack”. Visitors can see that the objects have endured, surviving from
times of coherent community experience. The historical structuring
and arrangement of the objects gives reassurance that there is still
some order in the world. Although many museums now seem to
prioritize ideas over objects, see, for example, as long ago as Vergo
(1989), it is in fact material, mostly non-documentary, culture that
creates the first difference between museum exhibitions and other
institutions. Narratives are produced through the touchstone of
material culture, giving visitors both the solidity of objects and the
creative, speculative intangibility of narrative explorations. Visitors
are invited to use their imaginations and memories to amplify
curatorial stories, producing personalized, often politicised meanings.
Nascent responses to the fracturing experience of modernity
appeared in museums in the early 19 century. Pearse (2007), for
example, uses the concept of spectacle to describe William Bullock’s
Egyptian Hall, also known as London Museum or Bullock’s Museum
at 22 Piccadilly, London. This English example is used here to
illustrate the beginning of self-conscious narrative-based exhibition.
The Egyptian-inspired building was erected in 1812 and used for
natural history display, but Bullock had displayed animals before this
time. He used the Linnaean classification system to order his
taxidermy animals with accompanying catalogue numbers, but
seems to have been subject to visitors’ complaints.
From the viewer’s perspective, this would have been
confusing not only because of the need to understand the
system itself, but also because Bullock’s presentation of it
must have been inevitably bitty and disjointed, given the
large gaps in his collection. He needed to please his
public, and matching numbers on the objects and in the
catalogue Companion proved much more intelligible.
(Pearse, 2007, p. 17)
In other ways also, Bullock needed to soften the rigidity of the
Linnaean system in order to please his public. Naturalistic settings
were created, still knowable to us today from an aquatint of 1810.
Five ceiling-height artificial trees, one a coconut palm, are
dotted about; two of the trees have very large snakes
twined up them and two have birds in their branches.
Between the trees stand large animals and birds, including
an elephant, a zebra, a bear, a kangaroo and at least four
birds including what seems to be a black swan. (Pearse,
2007, p. 18)
Ironically, the settings were accompanied by juxtapositions of
animals that would be impossible outside the worlds of taxidermy and
zoos. So, on one hand, Bullock began to produce a narrative of
exotic vegetation and animal interaction but, on the other, grouped
the animals more or less scientifically. He also produced more
deliberate narratives; the evidence for this is from a surviving display
of a fighting tiger and a large snake. The snake, a Python reticulates,
is 5.7 metres long (Pearse, 2007, p. 24). Although this is the correct
length for a python, it was achieved by Bullock for the exhibition by
the joining of two specimens. Further artificiality is evident in the fact
that the python’s head is carved from wood. Pearse (2007, p. 24)
says that Bullock was sometimes forced to use composites and to
manufacture them in order to create “a show that was as complete as
possible” in a taxonomic sense. He must also have felt pressured to
depart from a strict Linnaean order because he was unable to show a
complete display of animals due to gaps in his collection. He seems
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Jennifer Harris
to have been driven, therefore, by visitor expectations of two
discursively different elements: classification completeness and,
simultaneously, high drama. The violent interlocking of the tiger and
the python, reproduced in a terrifying photograph by Pearse (2007,
p. 25), elicits dread from the viewer as one imagines being caught in
the ferocious jaws. The visitor, therefore, is inserted into the drama
and invited to respond imaginatively.
The example of Bullock’s Museum and numerous others show that
the world of fairground drama was an inspiration to English museums
in the early 19 century. With the progress of science throughout the
19 century in Europe, however, narratives became muted as they
were replaced with displays of rigid taxonomies.
Narratives re-emerged strongly in the late 20 century, a timing
coincident with the disrupting experience of the fragility of modernity
described by Hetherington (2006) as one of the hallmarks of
contemporary culture. Museum narratives adapted especially well to
the demands of the exhibition of post-colonialism, a central disruptive
experience of modernity. Contemporary museum narratives are able
to cover broad historical periods while providing often heart-rending
emotionality through breakouts from the main narrative to include
individual stories of particular people. The individual stories illustrate
the broader story by providing colourful detail and also foster visitor
engagement with historical characters on a human level. The textual
move between general histories of, for example, nation building,
conquest, forced migration, environmental destruction, and so on are
accompanied by stories of specific, individual people. This steady
movement between the generality of history and the particularity of
individual people has become an established museological rhythm
and engages visitors powerfully at an emotional level.
The plethora of historical films and novels also appears to address
the bedevilling time shifts of modernity, identified by Hetherington.
Television particularly is full of historical series; noteworthy is
Downton Abbey, a six-season UK series that charts the collapsing
power of the British aristocracy in the 20 century. Following on from
Hetherington’s comment that the museum is positioned uniquely
through its narrative style to address the fragility of modern
experience, one needs to query why novels and films do not also
take on the role. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address this
question in detail, but it is important to note that the pressure of
realism as the contemporary mode of storytelling floods film and
novel narratives. Realism offers a reassuring sense of closure.
Closure, however, tends to draw a line under the story, as if the
characters’ experiences are co-terminus with the events. As the story
draws to an end, the chief characters’ conflicts are resolved. The
family at the heart of Downton Abbey, for example, provides the
textual focus for the closure of realism. Although the characters have
uncertain fortunes, our riding of those fortunes with them has the
textual effect of reducing our experience to the experience of the
characters, despite the script’s attention to significant historical
events. This is because our emotional involvement with individual
characters is often more intense in realist texts than our need to use
their stories to make sense of the wider world. Our identification with
the characters also tends to reduce the likelihood of us taking the
narrative experiences beyond the world of the story. Our emotional
involvement can have the effect of reducing political awareness. This
is a most restrictive aspect of realism if one wishes to use realist
narrative to foster political engagement.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Textual Danger in MLA Convergence
Although Hetherington notes that museum narratives tackle
uncertainty while providing reassurance to the visitor, they do not do
so through the emotional closure characteristic of the realism of films
and novels. By contrast, the world of the museum narrative is one of
provocation. Museums’ narrative forces us to look beyond the
museum and, in idealized circumstances, become politically alive.
Museum representation through narrative is unlike any other, despite
its discursive links: to cinema and theatre in terms of public
performance; to fairgrounds in terms of the experience of shock and
awe; to shopping in terms of the inspection of objects; and to all of
these in terms of performative demands on the visitor. Museum
narrative elicits emotional engagement with a lyrical, poetic
dimension set against historical events. Recognition of the fact of
representation cuts across curatorial domination and empowers
visitors to interrogate museum stories.
The visitor is celebrated by archives, libraries, and museums.
Further, all three institution types concur: visitors/readers are
fundamental to the generation of meaning. These are significant
philosophic similarities. The role of visitors in the exhibition narrative
process, however, highlights the core difference between museums
and their companion memory institutions. At the heart of the narrative
process is the work of representation. Museum curators grasp that
their work is focused on representation, particularly in a deliberate
and self-conscious way as expressed via narrative. Museum
narrative, with its multiple poetic possibilities, offers communities a
bulwark against the authoritarianism that is threatened in a dominant
curatorial voice. The narrative process helps institutions to guard
against the loss of institutional identity (Parker, 2011, p. 187),
encourages diverse interpretations, and empowers individual visitors.
How ironic that museums should undergo pressure in the early 21
century to converge with libraries and archives, after having gone
through the long process of separating themselves from the other
two and finding another way to present their collections. The
spectacular rise of self-conscious museum narrative has been a vast
achievement in textual terms. Further convergence would be likely to
be a retrograde step.
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Benjamin, W. (1973a).The storyteller.In Illuminations. (pp. 83-107). London:
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Featherstone, M. (2000).Archiving cultures.The British Journal of Sociology,
51(1), 161-184.
Given, L., &McTavish, L. (2010). What’s old is new again: the reconvergence
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Harvey, D. (1989). The Condition of Post-Modernity: An Enquiry into the
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ourselves and the British Past through exhibitions in history museums.
In Carbonell, B. (Ed.).Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts.
(pp. 348-355). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Koselleck, R. (2004). Futures Past. New York: Columbia University Press.
Leahy, H. (2012). Museum Bodies: The Politics and Practices of Visiting and
Viewing. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Marcum, D. (2014). Archives, libraries, museums: Coming back together?
Information and Culture: A Journal of History, 49(1), 74-89.
Nora, P. (1989). Between memory and history: Les lieux de memoire.
Representations, 26, 7-25.
Parker, S. (2011).Convergence of archives, libraries and museum.IFLA
Journal, 37(3), 187-8.
Pearse, S. (2007). William Bullock: Inventing a visual language of objects. In
S. Knell, S. MacLeod & S. Watson (Eds.).Museum Revolutions: How
Museums Change and are Changed. (pp. 15-27). London and New
York: Routledge.
Robinson, H. (2012). Remembering things differently: Museums, libraries
and archives as memory institutions and the implications for
convergence.Museum Management and Curatorship, 27(4), 413-429.
Vergo, P. (1989). The New Museology. London: Reaktion Books.
The convergence of museums, libraries, and archives challenges museums
to maintain their insistence on the intellectual gains to be derived from selfconscious representation through exhibition narrative. Confusingly, all three
types of institution have a rationalist epistemological background, and all
three now work from an epistemology of unstable, politicised meaning. The
similarities, however, mask significant differences. Although all three
institutions collect and catalogue, the deliberate acts of representation that
are undertaken by museums in the construction of narratives mark museums
out as fundamentally different. This paper argues that museums have
changed paradigmatically, moving away from their long-term institutional
companions. Convergence is likely to endanger the textual advances that
museums have achieved.
Key words: convergence, narrative, rationalist epistemology, representation
Le Risque Textuel de la Convergence
La convergence des musées, bibliothèques et archives constitue pour les
musées un défi de maintenir leur insistance sur les acquis intellectuels que
l'on dérive de la représentation consciente à travers le tissu narratif d'une
exposition. Le fait que ces trois types d'institutions soient issus d'une
tradition rationaliste épistémologique et que toutes trois opèrent maintenant
à partir d'une épistémologie au sens instable et politisé, est une source de
Ces similarités masquent cependant des différences
significatives. Bien que ces trois institutions collectionnent et cataloguent, les
actions de représentation entreprises par les musées pour construire leurs
récits en font des institutions fondamentalement différentes. Cet article
soutient que les musées ont changé de façon paradigmatique, se
démarquant de leurs compagnons institutionnels de toujours. Une
convergence aurait toutes les chances de menacer les avancées textuelles
faites par les musées.
Mots clés: convergence, récit, épistémologie rationaliste, représentation.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and
Francisca Hernández Hernández
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
documentation approach of memory
Today more than ever, we need to think of museology as an
intellectual exercise that helps us establish a dialogue with other
systems of thought, so that we can perceive reality in all its
complexity. If we regard museology as a social science, we cannot
deny that it possesses a strongly interdisciplinary character that
impels it to collaborate with other branches of knowledge in order to
focus interest on the common object of study, the museum and the
activity it involves.
In consequence, we can say that museology, as a social science, is
closely linked to the disciplines involved with documentation of
memory in its contribution to a better understanding of society.
Moreover, we concur with Davallon (1997, p. 29) in the belief that
museology is less and less a “science of the museum” and is
increasingly becoming a “science of the treatment of museum
objects,” insofar as these are regarded as a heritage and a support
for information. The information and communication sciences would,
in that case, be called upon to contribute their own fields of
knowledge (HernándezHernández, 2006, p. 73).
But which are the information sciences? These include all those
disciplines whose principal aim is the diffusion of information. Among
them, we can cite library science, archival science, documentation,
and museology. All belong to different areas of knowledge and
provide us with extremely important informative and symbolic capital
(QuinteroCastroet al., 2009, p. 205) on the events that have taken
place throughout history. Also they furnish a raison d’être for the
functions of conservation, processing, analysis, classification,
organisation, and diffusion of documents carried out by libraries,
archives, museums, and documentation centres.
We can define sources of documentary information as “those
institutions which provide, amass, manage, transmit or serve
information” (Osuna Alarcón,2011, p. 246). When we speak of these
sources, we are therefore referring to the documents that are the
supports of information, given that the latter is what offers us the
possibility of acquiring new documents. In this context, museum
objects are considered authentic documents that contribute to
promote research.
Standard UNE-ISO 5127 (2010) defines a document as any
“recorded information that can be considered as a unit in a process
of documentation,” while documentation is the “collection and
treatment of recorded information in a continuous and systematic
fashion that permits its storage, recovery, use and transmission.” The
museum, meanwhile, is defined as a “collection of documents of
cultural or scientific interest, stored permanently and arranged for
Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and Perspectives
exhibition,” though it is also described as an “organisation whose
function consists of the gathering, conservation and exhibition of
museum documents.”
When library science, archival science, and museology provide us
with systematic knowledge, they do so because they start from an
analysis of the relationship established by human beings with the
reality around them, and which these disciplines collect and update.
It is regardless of the institutions they represent or the objectdocuments and treatment techniques they employ. All the information
provided to us by the object-documents collected and processed
within these disciplines leads us toward a fuller knowledge of the
contexts and milieus within which they arose, and of the possible
significances they are intended to transmit. From this point of view,
they are no longer considered institutions whose basic purpose is
custodianship, as initially assumed, instead the emphasis is on their
capacity to produce new knowledge (ÁvilaAraújo, 2013, p. 258).
Each of these disciplines gathers information on documents and
objects, becoming an object of knowledge in itself; that search for
knowledge, and its consequent production, is where the three areas
meet, as they are called upon to collaborate closely. In this way, they
offer greater and greater knowledge of objects and documents,
giving rise to a new concept of information. A continual dialogue
among the areas, while each retains its specificity without being
forced to merge unnecessarily, can help enrich their investigations,
the conclusions reached on their theoretical basis, and the functions
they perform.
Since these disciplines are the repositories for the cultural heritage of
humanity, they become places of memory in all its various senses.
Libraries offer us bibliographical memory, archives are historical
memory, and documentation centres and museums offer cultural
memory. All share origins in documentary information and also have
the same goal: to act as transmitters of the collective memory of
peoples. At the same time, each possesses its own specificity,
autonomy and disciplinary identity as a subject to be distinguished
from documentary information, which is their object of study and
We begin on the basis that these areas must be considered part of
the social and human sciences, in that social and human phenomena
provide their object of study. Employing a methodology of their own
that takes into account the specific hermeneutics, phenomenology,
didactics, and linguistics of critical theory, they lay bare the way in
which we come to know social and human reality. Today’s social
sciences cannot turn their back on the transformations experienced
by systematic thought, and they need to resort to “multiple
epistemologies” (Herrera, 2009, p. 47) closely involved with the
multicultural dimension of our society and with different ways of
conceiving and explaining reality.
The documentary information sciences can make use of these
epistemologies, intrinsic to the social sciences, applying them to their
object of study, methodology and investigation. All are directed
towards work with documents, information, and records that have to
be preserved, organised and classified with the purpose of
contributing and communicating new knowledge to society. However,
let us see how these subjects have evolved theoretically. Since
antiquity, libraries, archives, and museums have been viewed as
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Francisca Hernández Hernández
institutions whose mission was to preserve and transmit the
experiences and knowledge related to the culture of different
peoples, which might be manifested either in literary texts or in
collections of objects and artwork.
From the start, these institutions formed part of the same trunk of
knowledge, since they all involve organising and storing documents
of every kind, and so had many things in common even if each had
its own specificity and procedural techniques (Ortega, 2004, p. 3).
Moreover, the origins of the library and museum are closely linked,
for there was no museum in ancient times without a library, and no
library without art objects, pictures, medals, or coin collections
evidencing its encyclopaedic character (López de Prado, 2003,
p. 11). If museums are centres for research as well as conservation
and exhibition, libraries too are not only essential means of
conservation but also instruments for change through the spread of
knowledge, where the user becomes someone who deliberately
accepts involvement.
When we analyse the origins and theoretical evolution, we find many
similarities across these institutions. Although it was unclear for some
time exactly what the sense of each was, even to the point of some
confusion over their respective aims, in fact each has specific
functions, while they all use objects, books and documents to
preserve and conserve the history of humanity. Such institutions
arose with the idea of guarding objects, writings, and documents, and
there is clearly a close link between safeguarding objects and
documents and preserving memory. José Luis Borges (1998) said
the book “is an extension of the memory and the imagination.” We
can also say that documentary heritage, of which these places are
the repositories, forms part of the collective memory of peoples and
is the expression of their cultural and linguistic diversity. In this
respect, they are considered institutions of social memory, with an
interdisciplinary character; as systems of memory, they form part of
the information-processing system of society (García Marco, 2010,
p. 61). All these repositories are expected to take care of cultural
properties and place them at the service of the society. They cannot
then be regarded as mere depots or storehouses, but must be
viewed as spaces open to creativity and to the study of their
contents, and therefore made accessible to all those who wish to visit
or consult them.
These institutions arise when human beings try to express their
thoughts, ideas, knowledge, and feelings through different written or
pictorial techniques, or by creating certain objects and records of
knowledge. When these objects acquire material existence, it creates
the need to preserve and collect them with a variety of aims, whether
religious, literary, artistic, philosophical, or political (ÁvilaAraújo,
2013, p. 238). The creation of different objects on various supports
leads them to be subject to various processes of intervention,
according to the institutions that take charge of them, in a given
period of a syncretic nature, when it will be very hard to tell whether
the institution is an archive, a library, or a museum, according to Da
Silva (2006).
The Renaissance brought a great interest in works created by human
sensibility, regarded as genuine works of art that therefore had to be
kept and preserved. For this reason, what we know now as library
sciences, archival sciences, and museology built up their knowledge
on the basis of a patrimonial vision. The development of the
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Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and Perspectives
Humanities during the Enlightenment paved the way for studies in
philosophy, literature, and history, while archives, libraries, and
museums became the spaces containing the materials of interest to
those branches of knowledge. In this manner, they attracted
bibliophiles, literati, historians, and art critics, who then carried out
the functions of archivists, librarians, and museologists. Thus these
disciplines became the generators of knowledge in fields other than
their own (ÁvilaAraújo, 2013, p. 239). However, the French
Revolution, the arrival of the modern era, and the rise of positivism in
the 19 century heralded the creation of modern institutions that laid
more emphasis on social values, creating national archives, libraries,
and museums focused on safeguarding cultural items and preserving
historic memory.
As the positivist and scientific movements developed in the 18 and
19 centuries, the auxiliary subjects of archiving, documentation, and
museology became increasingly independent and regarded as
autonomous disciplines, although closely related to heritage and
memory. All have the mission of safeguarding, preserving, and
organising cultural elements, whether loose documents, books, or
artifacts, which are studied and analysed on the premises of
systematic theory. At first, however, not all researchers accepted the
methodical and objective character of these disciplines, voicing
serious objections motivated by the absence of an epistemological
basis. Meanwhile, defenders argued that these subjects could not be
compared with pure and natural sciences because heritage varies in
technique, materiality, and the spaces where it is preserved.
On the other hand, we may wonder if museology shares the same
object as information sciences, and whether it is consequently
possible to consider the museum object as a document in terms of
documentary information. Library science, archival science, and
documentation are all aimed at the transmission of bibliographical,
historical, political, cultural, and artistic memory. This is made
manifest in the documentary information contained by each
approach, and their studies, research, and procedures are dedicated
to this task. The same can equally be said of museology, since the
museum object also possesses historical, aesthetic, and cognitive
characteristics that make it an informative document, closely related
to that of the documentary information sciences.
Some authors like Quintero Castro (2013, p. IX) distinguish between
the disciplines that study documentary information, separating them
into general subjects (library sciences, documentation, and
information science) and specific disciplines (archival science,
bibliography, and museology); they also assert that the similarities
and differences existing between these categories are not clear. If we
analyse the conceptual aspects of the documentary information
subjects, the first question that arises is whether or not it is possible
to agree on a definition of the object of study of library science. If so,
this will mean defining the discipline’s object of study according to
different schools and signalling the points on which they coincide,
since the terminology and conceptual diversity is very great. Even so,
all these approaches take the world of documentary information as
their field of phenomena. While the origin and development of each
area is different, they can be said to have reached a point of union
and convergence today. What differentiates them is the set of cultural
assets they possess and the institutions that hold them, since the
function they attribute to documents is always based on the
informational content they possess. Homulos (1990) calls the set of
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Francisca Hernández Hernández
archives, libraries, and museums “culture collecting institutions”,
each one deciding what is to be preserved, managing memory,
producing documentary information, and acting as mediators for
information by means of books, objects, or series of documents.
Therefore the interdisciplinary character of such disciplines now must
be analysed on the premises of analogical hermeneutics in order to
discern their common elements and discover their differences. For
what is it that really distinguishes the information sciences from
According to Smit (1999, p. 4), these disciplines, rather like three
estranged sisters, have long ignored one another’s theory,
methodology, and practice, leading to an emphasis on their
differences and specificities rather than their similarities. These
differences can be seen through analysis of their nature, their
genesis, and the methodology followed in their technical treatment of
documents, as well as in the characteristics of the institutions
themselves. Archives, libraries, and museums are expected to offer
society the world’s memory with the aid of the specific materials they
possess, which must be properly managed. Their mission can be
only to organise and facilitate public access to information resources.
Because their attention is focused differently, however, they employ
different methods of selecting, processing, and broadcasting
information; their tools and techniques, of course, are different as
well. We might say that while archives and libraries have taken words
into their custody, museums have inclined more toward the
protection of objects (Morero González, 2006, p. 98) and, above all,
of what lies behind them.
The information sciences focus more on the gnoseological dimension
of knowledge production, which is closely related to mathematics,
logic, and new technologies. Their task is to study the properties of
communication processes that can operate in archives and libraries.
Furthermore, they must attempt to explain the conceptual and
methodological foundations of the systems used to manage gathered
According to Da Silva (2002, p. 577ff), library science and archival
science, like documentation and museology, were originally
constituted as modern methods on the basis of a patrimonialist
paradigm, characterised by its “historicist, empirico-technicist,
documentalist, empirico-patrimonialist” vision. This was a
patrimonialist empiricism founded on the work of historiographers
and the emotional, aesthetic, and economic value attached to ancient
or rare artifacts and documents. Arising in the mid-19 century, it
developed within public institutions such as national libraries,
archives, and museums, following the model of L’École Nationale
des Chartes, created in 1821, and L’École du Louvre, of 1882. The
paradigm is made manifest in the following ways:
* The overvaluation of custodianship, conservation, and restoration of
the support as the fundamental professional activity of librarians,
archivists, and museologists.
* The foregrounding of memory as the legitimising source of the
modern Nation-State and the intellectual construction of the past on
which it is founded.
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Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and Perspectives
* The importance of access to the content of documents and objects
through the development of research instruments like guides,
inventories, and catalogues.
* The formal and professional distinction of the archivist, librarian,
and museologist, along with acceptance that they are cultural agents
working with heritage who conserve, preserve, gather, order, classify,
and disseminate documentation in a broad sense that also includes
the objects of museum collections.
Lacking a theoretical and methodological basis that would lay the
groundwork for research, the practical training received at both
academic and institutional organisations tended to overvalue
custodianship, conservation, and support (da Silva, 2013, p. 27 ff).
Nevertheless, according to the same author, we have now entered a
second phase characterised by its post-custodianship, informational,
and methodical dimension, which is associated with an evolutionary
perspective that leans towards a “trans-disciplinary” information
science. That results from the fusion of the practical disciplines of
archival science, library science, documentation, and, a little later,
museology. With the appearance of new technologies, information
starts to be valued much more as a dynamic element in contrast with
the tradition of documentary immobility. From that moment, the
object of these disciplines becomes information considered as a
phenomenon to be taken into account and a process to be
developed. Their consideration as documentary sciences means they
are called on to manage memory, produce more documentary
information, and become mediators of information, communicating it
to users. Such mediation takes place between the object-documents
and individuals converted into potential users with the objective of
facilitating communication between what the object represents and
the subject who interprets it, so that the user can construct new
knowledge once the information is gathered (DottaOrtega, 2013, p.
The museum as documentation centre
Documentation can be regarded as one of the museum’s most
important functions, to the point where the museum is viewed as a
true documentation centre where information on cultural heritage is
gathered, managed, and disseminated. The museum is the social
space for the collection, conservation, recording, documenting,
investigation, and diffusion of the collective memory of material and
immaterial heritage, which has been gathered and transmitted by a
community throughout its history, as a source of information and
communication for current and future generations. At the same time,
however, it is the place where society participates in the recreation of
that memory. Consequently, we understand museum documentation
as a set of very diverse documents in terms of supports, contents,
origins, and cultural value. It is also a process consisting of various
sequences of work involved in producing the different sets of
documents or managing the museum.
When an object enters the museum, it is deprived of the context in
which it originally emerged, ceasing to be an ordinary object and so
losing its protective condition, transforming itself into a document by
becoming a product of human action. The museum object is then
attributed with cultural, aesthetic, symbolic, and historic values that
are destined to form part of museum collections in a manner
susceptible to documentary treatment. When speaking of museology
as a documentary source of memory, it is necessary to indicate
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Francisca Hernández Hernández
which hermeneutic methodology is to be followed in the process of
analysing the relationship between objects or documents and the
memory to which they give rise, for the results will differ greatly
depending on the course we choose to follow. It has to be seen
whether we should depart from the object-document to reach
recognition of what it has signified for a particular community, or
whether on the other hand we should halt at the object-document
and limit our purpose solely to exhibiting it, making no reference to its
significance. We shall obviously choose the first option, since it is on
the basis of the object that we will be able to discover its own
memory, avoiding the danger pointed out by De Meneses (1992, p.
106) of classifying objects into “a priori categories, univocal vacuums
of documentary meaning that lead to the fragmentation of
knowledge” by dividing it into historical, artistic, or symbolic objects,
and giving to understand that the signifieds were generated by the
objects themselves, not by society.
Museological documentation is the result of a constant process of
museological development that implies not only the compilation of
every existing class of information but also the attempt to
communicate knowledge. It aims to recover all the information about
the object and, to this end uses the techniques and procedures of
library science such as acquisition, registration, identification,
numeration, indexing, and the gathering or recording of all the data
that can contribute information about the object. However, it cannot
content itself with being a mere database that can be consulted at
any time but offers mere data without any content. Rather, it must be
the place where it is possible to communicate a message about the
reality contained by the objects and their contexts. The main function
of museological documentation is to communicate how the
relationship between human beings and their surrounding reality has
occurred; in this way, we can clearly understand their systems of
values, symbols, and signifieds as manifested in object-documents
created all through the history of peoples. When objects enter the
museum, they therefore become documents and, as Ivo Maroevic
points out (1989, p. 34; 1994, p. 118), so the theoretical maturity of
the museological discipline rests upon the recognition of the
informative value of the object, and consequently of its status as
document. Manifestly then, the author (1998, p. 163) readily relates
museology to the information sciences, and does so while presenting
museological objects or musealia from a heritage perspective.
For their part, museum archives are concerned with conservation of
the documentation the museum generates, such as correspondence,
memoirs, reports, proceedings, personnel records, and accounts. We
can therefore say that they are repositories of its historic memory,
where we find its origin and development, its collections and
activities, and everything related to its functioning, as an essential
source for writing its history. To this we must add the museum library,
considered as one more instrument for communication by means of
the most appropriate techniques of the information and knowledge
contained by the object-documents. All that the library acquires,
organises, stores, and disseminates is found in books and
documents, regardless of whether their support is paper, electronic,
or magnetic. All its activity therefore has to be aimed at satisfying the
users’ information needs, by offering them the information contained
in the documents related to the museum’s objects. The current trend
of today’s museums is to create their own centres for the
simultaneous management of the archive, library, and
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and Perspectives
documentation, examples being the Prado and the Reina Sofía Art
Centre in Madrid.
The concept of document and cultural heritage applied to
the areas of museology, library science and archival
We may wonder whether or not it is possible to apply the concepts of
document and cultural heritage to the areas of museology, library
science, and archival science. Some authors insist on leaving
museology, museums, and displayed cultural properties outside the
field of documentation. For instance, although Emilia Currás (1982,
p. 26-27) accepts the application of the concept of document to
museological objects, she keeps museology separate from the field
of information sciences. Paul Otlet (1934, p. 216-217) initially
adopted a functional view of the document to ask whether sculpture,
museum objects, and live animals ought to be considered as
documents; he eventually included the museum object inside the
broader field of documentation, together with other inventions like the
telegraph, radio, television and gramophone record, which he
regarded as substitutes for the book. When it comes to studying and
comprehending the physical and functional relation of the document,
Otlet does not hesitate to resort to the methodical research of other
disciplines like library science, archival science, museology,
linguistics, sociology, logic, psychology, technology, and pedagogy.
The fact that many authors theoretically accept the broad concept of
the document does not mean that they approve of its application to
three-dimensional objects. In methodological terms, they restrict
documentary research and analysis to the written and, at most, twodimensional testimony. In any case, a distinction must be made
between the specific document of each particular area and the
sources of information they employ. According to Standard UNE-ISO
5127 (2010), museum documents are characterised by the “cultural
and scientific interest they must possess in order to be permanently
stored in readiness for exhibition.”
The object-document is important in that it is the physical support
that contains a series of pieces of information necessary for its
understanding. It would not perform its true mission if it did not
become a source of documentation and information, providing new
knowledge that can be transmitted and updated in space and time.
Such is the informative concept of the object-document, which can
also be accompanied by a static and dynamic concept, according to
López Yepes (1997, p. 16). Two attitudes can be adopted in the
contemplation of one specific artwork, such as Velázquez’ The
Surrender of Breda at the Museo del Prado. If we view it from an
aesthetic perspective, we will enjoy its formal beauty, but if our
perception acquires a documentary dimension, the picture also
furnishes us with several pieces of information on the armour and
uniforms worn by soldiers at that period; the museum will in this
sense become a documentation centre.
An object-document in a museum is valuable in that it provides us
with a set of information, concepts, and ideas that must be studied
for a better understanding of the message they are intended to
transmit. The more we know about the relationship between the
object and the human being who created it, the more committed we
shall be to its conservation and transmission. The object goes from
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Francisca Hernández Hernández
being an isolated and decontextualised unit of data to becoming a full
museological entity that demands active implication on the part of
man to acquire a life of its own and transmit significance to the
society that contemplates it.
Every object, material or immaterial, natural or cultural, makes
reference to a concrete reality that has occurred in history, and which
offers us various series of information. Through them, we can learn
how people thought in the past and confront their ideas with those of
the present day. It is here that the museological context offered by
the object can indicate what value systems, symbols, and signifieds
were used in the relations established between societies and
individuals, both among themselves and with nature. They even went
so far as to transform, resulting in the creation of new objects that
enrich the knowledge already acquired. As an object of knowledge,
the museum object becomes a support for information through the
possession of aesthetic value or historical testimony. It is thereby
transformed into a representative symbol of a particular cultural
manifestation, from which a good deal of information is to be drawn
(CarriónGutiérrez, 1987).
We must bear in mind that museological documentation is not
intended to be anything but retrieval, as far as possible, of all the
information held by the object-document, which will then be used to
confirm its aesthetic, artistic and historic value when it enters the
museum. At that point, the item becomes a fragmented object that
offers us a partial view, not a global one, of the cultural production of
society at a particular moment of history. This means that
documentary action must go beyond the mere retrieval of information
from the object itself to investigate the context of the cultural item’s
production, a method conducive to the construction of knowledge
about the historically produced cultural artifact, as asserted by
Rosana Andrade do Nascimento (1994, p. 36). Once more, we
repeat that the object-documents of the museum are supports for
information that require conservation, since they contain all the
information data necessary to gain an idea of what they signify and
contribute to the history of humanity.
Our remarks on the museological object draw attention to the close
relations between museology and the information sciences. They can
moreover be applied to the documents gathered through the library
and archival sciences with a view to organising, storing, preserving,
and exhibiting them for educational and cultural purposes. The
function of the documentation sciences, like that of museology, is to
provide the information that can be gleaned from the data
possessed. The more information they retrieve, the greater their
contribution of knowledge to society. For this reason, all these
disciplines are dedicated to the retrieval of information in order to
prevent its loss and allow it to be used as a documentary source.
Nevertheless, what distinguishes museology from the other
information science areas is that when it proceeds to gather certain
objects, it does so on the basis of the idea that it is necessary to
document the real and create a museum space for it. Anna
Gregorová (1980, p. 20) affirms that museology “is a science
studying the specific relation of man to reality, consisting in
purposeful and systematic collecting and conservation of selected
inanimate, material, mobile, and mainly three-dimensional objects
documenting the development of nature and society and making a
thorough scientific and cultural-educational use of them.”
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Documentary Sources of Museology: Reflections and Perspectives
For Stránský (1995, p. 38-40), “The object that is musealised cannot
be considered a document in the sense employed by information
science,” where the document is understood as a data resource that
has been created intentionally and fixed on a support. Although this
author argues that incorporating objects into the museum can
possess certain characteristics of documentation, he sees an
essential difference between the ontological focus of museology and
the gnoseological focus of information science. He also admits that
while information and documentation science can help museology,
they are not in a position to solve its specific problems. The
appropriation of reality does not consist merely of collecting or
preserving but also of a ‘culture-generating process’.
In the same way, Peter van Mensch (1992) follows Stránský in
distancing himself from models originating in the information
sciences and trying to analyse objects on the principle of the
museum itself. The object as data carrier can only be understood
through the analysis of all the moments that form its history. An
object’s information value is the result of an historical process in
which different phases may be distinguished: invention (cultural
identity), realisation (factual identity), and use (actual identity). The
researcher, historian, or ethnologist will concentrate on the analysis
of factual identity, and this is another of the aspects differentiating
museology from the information sciences.
However, the relationship between Documentary Information Science
and Museology can be said to have undergone a certain
harmonisation, an assessment repeated in recent years by Johanna
W. Smit (1999), Francisca Hernández Hernández (2002), Carlos
Alberto Ávila Araújo (2011) and Armando Malhiero da Silva (2013).
Both disciplines attach great importance to documentary processes,
take the informative aspects of objects into account, and employ
instruments that will allow them to be described with the aid of the
new information technologies.
From an institutional and professional point of view, we observe that
archival science, library science, documentation, and museology
possess differences that individualise them, such as their
documentary supports, the organisational methodologies they adopt,
and their transmission of information. However, they also have the
same object of study, one proper to the information and
documentation sciences, which unites them and leads them to place
the information they possess at the disposal of society.
With the passage of time, these disciplines have undergone an
historic, systematic, and social transformation that has closely
interrelated them and made possible an open dialogue between
them. They have thus gone from an emphasis on the objectdocument to a preferential focus on the information to be provided to
users, even if, as Smit observes (1999, p. 3), there is still a certain
dialectical tension between those who support the importance of the
document (archivists and museologists) and those who accord
priority to the information (documentalists and librarians) to be
safeguarded and shared.
When considered in its own right, every museum object-document
represents and contains documentary information that makes the
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Francisca Hernández Hernández
task of museology possible within its field of study, and which is
made accessible to users. That is why museological documentation
is so important for the life of a museum. In the same way, the
information sciences can bring a focus to other viewpoints and
perspectives contained in documents, whose information could lead
to new knowledge. The interrelationship between the disciplines
counters any attempt to create unnecessary distancing through
common grounding in the different information contents and in the
way they are transmitted to society. These disciplines are ultimately
in charge of managing the memory that has been stored and
recorded over time, institutionalising information so as to satisfy
society’s requirements. Here we have confirmation that all the
elements defining the museum object-document are related to the
internal dynamics of the documentary information sciences, with
which they share the same object of study. On the other hand, further
progress needs to be made on the consideration of museology as a
discipline that goes beyond the mere communication of objects in
trying to offer a vision of reality from the museum’s own experience.
Only in this way can the museum experience acquire a true
gnoseological and, above all, ontological significance that will
distinguish it from other approaches.
MuseologiaIntegradas na Ciència da Informaçâo: As Experièncias
da UFMG, da UNB e da UFRGS.PontodeAcesso, Salvador, 5 (1),
Ávila Araújo, C. A. (2013). Integraçâo entre Arquivologia, Biblioteconomia
eMuseologia como marco identitario para a Ciência da Informaçâo.
In Rendón Rojas, M. A. (coord.). El objeto de estudio de la
Propuestas, discusión, análisis y elementos comunes. (pp. 235264). México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Borges, J. L. (1998). Borges oral.Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
Carrión Gutiérrez, M. (1987). Manual de Bibliotecas. Madrid: Fundación
Germán Sánchez Ruipérez. Pirámide.
Currás, E. (1982). Las ciencias de la documentación: biblioteconomía,
archivología y documentación e información. Barcelona: Mitre.
da Silva, A. M. (2002). Archivistica, Biblioteconomia e Museologia do
empirismo patrimonialista ao paradigma emergente da Ciência da
Informaçâo. In 1º Congreso Internacional de Arquivos, Bibliotecas,
Centros de Documentaçâo e Museus. (pp.573-607). Sâo Paulo:
Impresa Oficial SP.
da Silva, A. M. (2006). A informaçào: da compreensâo do fenómeno e
construçâo do objecto científico. Porto:Ediçôes Afrontamento,
da Silva, A. M. (2013). A Ciência da Informaçâo e a trasiçâo paradigmática.
In Rendón Rojas, M.A. (coord.). El objeto de estudio de la
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México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Davallon, J. (1997). L´état de la muséologie en France. Museology and
Memory.ICOFOM Study Series, 28, 25-31.
de Meneses, U. B. (1992). A exposiçâo museológica: reflexôes sobre
pontoscríticos na práctica contemporánea. Ciências em Museus, 4,
do Nascimento, R. A. (1994). Documentaçâo Museológica e Comunicaçâo.
Cadernos de Museologia, 3, 31-.39.
Dotta Ortega, C. (2013). Ciência da informaçâo: do objetivo ao objeto. In
Rendón Rojas, M. A. (coord.). El objeto de estudio de la
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Propuestas, discusión, análisis y elementos comunes. (pp. 151177). México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
García Marco, F. J. (2010). Las instituciones de la Memoria ante el cambio
digital: Una propuesta sobre la articulación interdisciplinar de las
Ciencias de la Documentación. Pliegos de Yuste, 11-12, 61-70.
Gregorová, A. (1980). Museology -science or just practical museum work?
Museological Working Papers (MuWoP), 1, 19-21.
Hernández Hernández, F. (2002). Museología como ciencia de la
Documentación. In López Yepes, J. L. (coord.). Manual de Ciencias
de la Documentación. (pp. 159-178). Madrid: Ediciones Pirámide.
Hernández Hernández, F. (2006). Planteamientos teóricos de la museología.
Gijón: Trea.
Herrera, J. D. (2009). La comprensión de lo social. Horizonte hermenéutico
de las cienciassociales. Bogotá: CINDE.
Homulos, P. (1990). Museums to libraries: a family of collecting institutions.
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López de Prado, R. (2003). Bibliotecas de museos en España:
características específicas y análisis DAFO. Revista General de
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López Yepes, J. L. (1997). Reflexiones sobre el concepto de documento
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Maroevic, I. (1989). The Museum Message between the Document and
Information.In E. Hooper-Greenhill (Ed.).Museum, Media, Message.
(pp. 24-36). New York: Routledge.
Maroevic, I. (1994). The Museum Object as a Document.ICOFOM
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Maroevic, I. (1998). Introduction to Museology: The European Approach.
Munich: Verlag Christian Müller-Straten.
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Ortega, C. (2004). Relaçôes históricas entre Biblioteconomia,
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practique. Bruselas: Mundaneum.
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(pp. 179-204). México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
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Arango, C., & Tabarda Ortiz, J. (2009). Identificación de las
ciencias de la información documental. Revista Interamericana de
Bibliotecología, 32 (2), 195-229.
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y diferencias. Ciencias de la Información, Havana, 30 (3), 3-10.
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van Mensch, P. (1992). Towards a methodology of museology.PhD thesis.
Taking an epistemological theoretical approach as our starting point, we can
think of museology as an intellectual exercise that helps us establish an open
dialogue with other systems of thought, such as the social sciences or
information and communication sciences, so that we can perceive reality in
all its complexity. At this point, however, the question arises of whether or not
museology shares the same objective as these disciplines. From our point of
view, we believe museology to be a social science that encompasses the
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Francisca Hernández Hernández
museum object as a document that transmits information and knowledge
about reality, and constitutes itself as a support for constructing collective
memory. For this reason, museology cannot ignore those other subjects that
deal with the documentation of memory. This leads us to ponder the role
played by archival and library science within the field of museology. The
answer can only be that these areas must be regarded as true documentary
sources for museology. Why? Because they consider the museum objects as
documents bearing information and knowledge. They also help to conceive
the museum as a space and instrument for communication. This constitutes
the theoretical basis for the work of the museum.
Key words: Museology, Documentary Sources, Documentation Science,
Information Science.
Partiendo de un planteamiento teórico epistemológico, podemos pensar la
museología como un ejercicio intelectual que nos ayude a entablar un
diálogo abierto con otros sistemas de pensamiento como las ciencias
sociales o las ciencias de la información y la comunicación, de manera que
podamos percibir la realidad en toda su complejidad. Pero es aquí donde se
nos plantea la cuestión de si la museología comparte o no el mismo objeto
que estas ciencias. Desde nuestro punto de vista, pensamos que la
museología es una ciencia social que comprende el objeto museal como un
documento que transmite información y conocimiento sobre la realidad y se
constituye en soporte para construir la memoria colectiva. Por esa razón, la
museología no puede desentenderse de aquellas otras ciencias que tratan
sobre la documentación de la memoria. Esto nos lleva a preguntarnos sobre
el papel que la archivística y la biblioteconomía desempeñan dentro del
campo de la museología. Y la respuesta no puede ser otra que éstas deben
considerarse como auténticas fuentes documentales de la museología. ¿Por
qué? Porque consideran los objetos del museo como documentos que son
portadores de información y de conocimiento. Y, además, contribuyen a
concebir el museo como un espacio e instrumento de comunicación. Todo
ello constituye la base teórica que fundamenta el trabajo del museo.
Palabras clave: Museología, Fuentes Documentales, Ciencias de la
Documentación, Ciencias de la Información.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology and its constituent dialogues: inside and
outside the boundaries
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho6
Graduate Program in Museology and Heritage (PPG-PMUS,
UNIRIO/MAST) - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Federal University of Alfenas (UNIFAL-MG) – Brazil
Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner7
Graduate Program in Museology and Heritage (PPG-PMUS,
UNIRIO/MAST) - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Preliminary thoughts
Science practitioners of the 17 and 18 centuries started to divide
knowledge into niches to understand the aspects of the world that
still had to be known. The classification of knowledge, started in the
18 century, influenced those knowledge branches that already
existed. This work was initially developed, memorably, by Diderot
and D’Alembert, who used a “knowledge tree” graphic to divide
knowledge into three parts related to human understanding: “memory
(including the history and the natural history), reason (philosophy,
mathematic and law) and imagination (the arts)” (Burke, 2012, p. 73).
The expression “science practitioners” was used to refer to the 17
and 18 centuries because the term “scientist” was only created in
1830. These were scholars of the natural and social world, although
they were distinguished from previous scholars; they gradually
changed their practices into professions and organized themselves
as a community – the science community. Therefore it is possible to
infer that each discipline creates its own world – or reality – based on
how this kind of knowledge is noticed as a collectivity; this collectivity,
by the way, can be the West (macro) or a specific knowledge area
Interdisciplinary debates on Museology are as old as the first debates
about Museology itself. Thus, the discussion about the nature and
objective of Museology has always been permeated by interfaces
with other fields. According to the paper presented at the 2014
ICOFOM meeting, Museology exists as a claim on the part of
museum professionals for recognition of their distinctive knowledge
and objective, resulting from a systematic, disciplined, and academic
process, as provided and encouraged by museum courses. The
arising question is: why has Museology been configured as
interdisciplinary since its beginning? To answer this question, the
following trajectory is proposed: 1) Reflection about the concepts of
field, discipline, and interdisciplinarity using Pierre Bourdieu for a
Master and PhD student in Museology and Heritage at the Federal University of the
State of Rio de Janeiro – UNIRIO.Museologist and Director at the Museum of Memory
and Heritage of the Federal University of Alfenas – UNIFAL-MG, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
PhD in Communication and Culture (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – UFRJ).
Professor and Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Museology and Heritage (PPGPMUS, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro - UNIRIO/ Museum of
Astronomy and Related Sciences - MAST), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Museology and its constituent dialogues:
inside and outside the boundaries
theoretical framework; 2) brief notes about the first relevant debates
related to interdisciplinarity in Museology; and 3) a case study
analysis of the Graduate Program in Museology and Heritage and its
interdisciplinary dialogues. The final considerations intend to point
out the importance of Museology professionals, not only in shaping
the boundaries but also in building interdisciplinary dialogues.
Microphysics8 of the fields: Bourdieu and his
methodological contributions to the social universe
analysis. The systematic field case
According to Bourdieu, a field can be defined as a social universe, as
well as a range of forces and disputes that is dialectically articulated
to preserve and change itself; a “social space of objective
relationships” (Bourdieu, 2012, p. 64) between distinct groups, a field
possesses its own reality as a symbolic system. In other words, it is a
relatively autonomous microcosm that obeys its own laws. While a
field responds to a macrocosm (e.g. society) and its laws, it also
affords autonomy; this autonomy resides exactly at the interface: the
microcosm (field) takes advantage of the same mechanisms of its
own society to free itself from external impositions and create
conditions where it can only recognize its own internal impositions
(Bourdieu, 2003, pp. 20-21). These impositions can be called capital:
each field is a place for constituting a specific form of capital
(Bourdieu, 2003, p. 26).
The efficacy of a symbolic field resides in its capacity to reproduce
the natural and social world, sorting this world by means of
representations and senses that are allegories of the real structures
of social relationships. Considering this premise, the more
autonomous a certain field is, the more it reflects social impositions,
changing them in such a way that they might be unknowable – that
is, these impositions might seem to belong only to this given field.
Furthermore, the field autonomy gives its agents a specific authority
that allows them to go beyond the field boundaries, and then to
speak about the field with authority and efficacy (Bourdieu, 2003).
The concept of capital, known in economics and common sense as a
set of material properties, is different within cultural fields (in a more
intelligible way than in economics): capital is symbolic (and
incorporated), but also represents a power acting upon the field;
capital also can be accumulated – considering the fact that each field
possesses particular types of capital. Forms of capital are not just
defined in each field, they are organized, institutionalized and mainly
recognized by those in the field. The symbolic capital only exists by
means of the agents’ acknowledgement, endowed with perception
categories of the field in which they participate (Bourdieu, 2012).
Science can be defined as a power field . It is not the only one; every
society is constituted by a set of fields, claimed by Bourdieu as
“spaces of position” ordered in a hierarchical way according to
established rules of these fields, on which every field is subordinated
to the same segmentation and “polarizing logic” (2013, p. 18). What
is at stake in the scientific field is to obtain the scientific competence
or the scientific capital monopoly, i.e., the capacity or power to act
It refers to Michel Foucault’s book “Microphysics of Power”.
This is Ione Valle’s affirmation at the book presentation of Pierre Bourdieu, Homo
Academicus. As stated by Bourdieu, the university field is entered in the power field
and in the social field (2013, p. 65).
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner
with authority and be authorized, in a legitimate and recognized way,
by its participants (Bourdieu, 2012, p. 1). The scientific field structure
can be defined by means of struggle between the leaders, and they
can be agents or institutions that dispute the distribution structure of
a symbolical capital.
Bourdieu pointed to the Copernican revolution (in the sense given by
Kuhn) as a demand for autonomy of a specific field that desired to be
“scientific”; this autonomy would be from the religious, philosophical
and political fields. It was a demand that resulted in “the affirmation of
the scientists’ right to decide scientific issues” (2012, p. 21). The
belief in knowledge that distinguishes itself from others, independent
of social claims, is also the result of an arbitrary movement that
exposes the science itself. The main goal of “struggle” or dispute in a
scientific field, beyond positions and classifications, is the monopoly
of recognition that a certain point of view is legitimate, not
considering that each one is “particular, located and dated”
(Bourdieu, 2013, p. 51).
Museums played a fundamental role in the diffusion of a specific way
of thinking that is actually hegemonic: the scientific way. Being an
institution or phenomenon, the museum entity also participated in the
consolidation of the scientific field. As an unquestionable source and
reference (the museum discourse is rarely put to the test), museums
served as a diffusion center and legitimizer of knowledge.
The disciplines and (inter)disciplines cycle
Specialization within the sciences may have allowed human beings
to know more than they had already, offering niche variety to many
different scholars (Burke, 2012, p. 203). Consequently, specialization
took part in a division of labor process, considering Adam Smith,
Ferguson and even Marxian perspectives. However, it is necessary
to consider that, in general, it was not a spontaneous and nonintentional process (Burke, 2012, pp. 206-208). Burke points out the
fact that the 19 century was permeated with the appearance of
numerous groups – “the age of associations,” reports Karl Preusker –
which had an important role in the creation of new disciplines; many
of these associations started with the aim of creating a new discipline
(2012, p. 208). International meetings and congresses, including their
publications, also assumed important roles in shaping the identity of
disciplines, even through conflicts between participants.
The main highlight of this process was the foundation of many
subjects and an institutional “explosion” in universities during the
second half of the 19 century; these universities, known as
educational institutions, broadened out to become research centers
while the disciplines became independent (Burke, 2012, p. 212).
Therefore this is a recent process, although usually seen as timeless
by their members; in fact, this fragmentation of scientific knowledge
as we know it nowadays started only a few centuries ago. As claimed
by Burke, the disciplines are historical artifacts that were gradually
built, in a certain time and space, to answer challenges and problems
(2012, pp. 212-213). It is possible to forecast a trajectory (not
universal but common) of a discipline: from a society to a journal; and
then from a chair in a faculty to a seminar; and finally from a
department or institute where it belonged before becoming
independent, even sometimes by strong ruptures. The pioneers in
this process were the United States and Germany (Burke, 2012, pp.
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Museology and its constituent dialogues:
inside and outside the boundaries
In some cases, there are disciplines that started by means of a
personal effort by scholars such as Humboldt (Geography), Linnaeus
(Botanic), Adam Smith (Economy), Durkheim and Weber (Sociology).
By contrast, some theoreticians criticize this perspective; Foucault
said that no one creates disciplines (Burke, 2012, p. 216). It is
important to stress that some of these agents and others had
important roles in the defense and institutionalization of their future
disciplines in the corresponding universities. It is said “future”
because these disciplines did not exist before their actions – if they
are “founding fathers”, so, by definition, they could not belong to the
disciplines that they were creating (Burke, 2012, p. 217). Thus
according to Burke, based on Hagstrom, the new disciplines were
heterogeneous by themselves because their antecedents had distinct
origins - this fluidity is a particular characteristic of this first moment.
When a second generation comes (those who graduated from this
discipline), they take the existence of the discipline as a consolidated
fact (2012, pp. 217-218).
Bourdieu (2013, p. 153) considered an academic discipline to be a
subfield within the university fields (as well as Languages, Social
Sciences, and Natural Sciences, among others); it is important to
emphasize something that is already known but barely said: every
discipline that has claimed itself to be a "science" is a human creation
- that means it is not natural. Science is constituted of its own
members struggling for monopoly, as well as its own "di-vision"; it is a
viewpoint achieving sense and consensus and consequently
producing discontinuity. In other words, the creation of a discipline is
a result of the wish to acquire authority (Bourdieu, 2012, p. 113). The
boundaries are just results of a division more or less close to the
“reality”. In reality, which is not natural either, it is an outcome of a
“legitimate delimitation” (Bourdieu, 2012, p. 115). Science itself – by
means of its agents – invokes its authority to found the arbitrary
division that it wants to impose. The power said to be ‘scientific’
brings or makes possible the existence of a group and a space with a
specific vision and division – a vision of a specific identity and unity
(Bourdieu, 2012, pp. 116-117).
Interdisciplinarity arose as a movement against specialization.
According to Burke, it is not a new movement if we consider the way
that knowledge used to be categorized. However, it is only possible
to think of interdisciplinarity as we know it today, after the emerging
concept of disciplines. The need for interdisciplinarity arose to fill the
gaps in disciplinarity itself, which did not allow broader approaches
and relationships between knowledge fields (Burke, 2012, pp. 223224). This movement also started as more or less organized and in
the same way as the disciplines, by means of societies, publications,
and institutions. At the time (essentially the second half of the 20
century with some earlier traces) the organization of certain studies
were proposed, such as Middle Eastern Studies, Near Eastern
Studies, among others. In the specific case of the United States,
these studies were promoted by political efforts in order to stimulate
teamwork (Burke, 2012, pp. 224-225).
The museum became an exclusive subject appropriated by the
discipline of Museology from the moment that this cultural capital
rendered it “a distinct gain” (Bourdieu, 2013, p. 214). Claiming to be a
“specialized field”, Museology organized itself with the same logic as
any area: “as the specific capital amount possessed and as its
antiquity” (Bourdieu, 2013, p. 217). In an ongoing search for the
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner
monopoly and such points of view, a question that has always arisen
is the very definition of the discipline, in which such points of view
have a place – therefore each person will use a definition that is
closer to his or her interests.
However, the “great turn” that changed the museum field’s pathway
occurred in the 20 century. After the creation of ICOM, a group of
professionals from different countries met to debate museums in a
distinct way from other discussions about museums in Anthropology,
Social Sciences and other human disciplines, by means of their
personal and even academic experiences. For some theorists,
museum practices are not just the subject of study, but the museum
in itself, its existence, meaning, and – mainly – the possibility of a
specific systematic discipline for museums.
Constituent dialogues of Museology – ICOFOM and
its importance as a centralizing agent and diffuser of
a new discipline
Considering ICOFOM as an important agent in the process of
shaping Museology and its boundaries is no coincidence. This
committee arose exactly when ideas and theories about Museology
or Museum Studies were being developed throughout the world, and
they converged in this space. In the second ICOFOM meeting held in
Poland in 1978, an Editorial Board was established, composed of G.
Dieszner, W. Klausewitz, A. Razgon and Vinos Sofka - whose task
would be to work on paper selections based on “fundamental
museological problems” (Jelínek, 1980, p. 57). In the following year,
during the 1979 ICOFOM meeting held in Torgiano, Italy, the creation
of a debates journal by assembly was approved, initially called
Working Papers.
In the first volume of MuWoP – Museological Working Papers –
Vinos Sofka presented it as a birth: “A new arrival is announced in
the international museum community. Nickname: MuWoP. Size: 67
pages. Weight: 203 g” (1980, p. 3). The purpose of MuWoP was to
provide an open forum for Museology's fundamental questions, in
which such discussion would occur in the form of themes according
to a defined program that could be changed by the ICOFOM
community. Another reason would be to become a forum for the
development of a specific museological terminology.
MuWoP nº. 2: interdisciplinarity in Museology
In addition to discussing questions about a definition of Museology,
its subject of study, and terminology, there was a concern by
ICOFOM members regarding the potential interdisciplinary nature of
Museology. Interdisciplinarity was the theme of the second volume of
MuWoP, with the contributions of each author presented here.
According to Vinos Sofka, the MuWoP authors could be divided into
two groups: those who defined Museology as a discipline, an
emerging social science; and those who emphasized its practical
aspect – it would be simultaneously an art or an applied science.
Considering that, the authors of the second volume directed their
inferences about the limits and boundaries of Museology and how
much is interdisciplinary or not.
In the Czech Josef Benes’ perspective, the museum domain was a
cultural specialty (1981, p. 10-12); the American Flora S. Kaplan
considered Museology as a social science (1981, pp. 14-15); Zybnek
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Museology and its constituent dialogues:
inside and outside the boundaries
Z. Stránský claimed that a science specialist or theorist would not be
able to answer the question of Museology being a science or not due
to the lack of personal experience and contact with museums’ reality
and practice. Therefore, Stránský considers the experience with the
museum phenomenon as an important fact in Museology analysis
(1981, pp. 19-21); the Polish Jerzy Swiecimski enunciated that the
museum’s problems could be seen by means of scientific-analytical
approaches, i.e., the practical understanding of museums in the light
of individual systematic aspects – history of culture, specific
branches of philosophy, art theory, and others (1981, pp. 22-24).
The American G. Ellis Burcaw started his paper explaining the
difference between “multi” and “inter” – “multi” means more than one
and “inter” is between or among. He pointed that the “Museology
science” has basically worked in connection with other sciences, on
the basis of the multi and interdisciplinarity (1981, pp. 29-30). In a
more pragmatic perspective, the Israeli Michaela Dub ensured that
for each kind of museum a set of specific knowledge areas are
necessary; as an example of interdisciplinarity in museums, she
mentioned the exhibition process that in turn requires action of
various professionals from different knowledge areas (1981, pp. 3031).
Museology is an interdisciplinary approach, as pointed out by the
Czech Anna Gregorová, both in a practical museum viewpoint and
for Museology itself: 1) considering the fact that museum activities
are conducted and influenced by a large variety of scientific, social
and natural disciplines; and 2) Museology, studying the specific
relation of man to reality, can be related to other analytical disciplines
such as: Ontology, Gnosiology, Psychology, Axiology, Ethics,
Pedagogy and Sociology (1981, pp. 33-36). The German Ilse Jahn
emphasized that, if there is an interdisciplinarity, it presumes the
existence of a discipline “museology” (a “real science”) and of a
specific museological knowledge. The interdisciplinarity would work
as a knowledge exchange to resolve problems that cannot be solved
with a specific knowledge (1981, pp. 37-38). Therefore, the
interdisciplinary relationship in Museology should be firstly examined
through Museology’s nature itself, as maintained by the American
Flora S. Kaplan, but it could be found in the practical museum, in
which “each museum professional partakes of the interdisciplinary
nature of museology” (1981, p. 40).
The Canadian Louis Lemieux worked with the concept of discipline
as a study field, but he considered that, if a professional practice
(Medicine, for example) requires knowledge from other disciplines,
such a profession is multidisciplinary; and when a variety of
disciplines interact in the pursuit of a common objective, this action is
interdisciplinary. In the museum universe, the exhibition was used
again as a good example of interdisciplinary activity (1981, pp. 4142).
The Catalans Domènec Miquel i Serra and Eulàlia Morral i Romeu
highlighted the pluridisciplinary concept – the coexistence of distinct
disciplines leading to interdisciplinarity, as two dimensions that are
complementary; they used the Catalonian museums as a study case
(1981, pp. 44-45). In this range, the Czech Jirí Neustupný declared
that museum work and Museology’s character are heterogeneous
(1981, p. 46), in which Museology has applied the theories and
methods of other disciplines to museum work.
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Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner
The American Robert W. Ott pointed to the importance of
interdisciplinarity in the context of art museum exhibitions – in order
to understand interdisciplinarity in museums, a basic enlightenment
of “the various philosophies of interpretation and criticism in arts”
(1981, p. 48) is necessary: mechanistic criticism, contextualistic
criticism, organistic criticism, formalistic criticism, and an integration
of these viewpoints. As pointed out by the Russian Awraam M.
Razgon, “Any effort to interpret Museology as a scientific discipline
inevitably brings up the necessity of determining the nature of
museological research” (1981, pp. 51-53); the French Georges Henri
Rivière approached the dynamic of the role of interdisciplinarity in the
museum institution (1981, pp. 54-55); and the Brazilian Waldisa
Rússio Guarnieri maintained that interdisciplinarity should be a
research method in Museology, in museum work, and in Museology
training courses for museum professionals (1981, pp. 56-57).
The German Klaus Schreiner asserted that “every scientific discipline
examines a certain field of reality and its specific laws”, and that
Museology examines the complex process of the
acquisition, the conservation, the identification and
recording, the research, the exhibition and communication
of selected movable original, authentic objects of nature
and society. (1981, p. 58).
Even with its specialization, every field of activity of a discipline
includes a connection and reciprocal effects of different fields of
knowledge (1981, p. 58). Yugoslav Tibor Sekelj also mentioned, as
an example, exhibition work as an interdisciplinary cooperation in
museums (1981, pp. 60-61). The debate about interdisciplinarity in
Museology arose in connection with the debates about the basic
character of Museology, as proposed by the Polish Jerzy Swiecimski.
Therefore, we start right from this point of view. Although the MuWoP
discussion comes from the 1980s, we approach it here in this paper
for the following reasons: 1) We consider the period of 1950 to 1980
of prime importance in understanding the Museology formation
process; and 2) a worldwide forum was established to discuss
interdisciplinarity as an emerging discipline. As we said before, it is
only possible to talk about interdisciplinarity on the basis of the
existence of disciplines and, in this case, of a specific discipline.
Although most contributions mentioned above are based on practical
museum work, the authors tried to justify an already existing
interdisciplinarity in Museology. Indeed, this is possible to infer not
because of interdisciplinarity involving museums’ practical work, but
because of the epistemic moment when Museology configured itself
as a discipline. Museology made room as a systematic discipline in
the Academy in the second part of the 20 century, when its
supporters aspired to a study objective that permeated museums
with distinct perspectives. It all happened simultaneously in the
moment when the theme of interdisciplinarity was in vogue.
Those first authors who reflected about Museology did not belong,
obviously, to the discipline, as it was not a proper discipline at the
time; in order to consolidate its existence as a subject, they brought
along methods, theories, and investigative techniques from their
consolidated original areas. Now they claimed for Museology the
status of an interdisciplinary subject to justify their existence within
this emerging area and to validate their thoughts. Finally, if
Museology were not interdisciplinary, a thought, method, or theory
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology and its constituent dialogues:
inside and outside the boundaries
based on Philosophy, Communication, or Arts, for example, would
not have a reason to exist inside that discipline.
PPG-PMUS and its interdisciplinary dialogues
According to Capes , the core of a graduate program is research,
performed exclusively by students through dedicated study . Their
results contribute directly to the amount of knowledge produced in a
certain field and, in addition, consolidate it together with their
master’s and doctoral studies. An area offering graduate courses can
be seen as an discipline holding a consolidated production of
knowledge, validated and recognized both internally and externally.
The Graduate Program in Museology and Heritage (PPG-PMUS) is
the result of a partnership between the Federal University of the
State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) and the Museum of Astronomy and
Related Sciences (MAST). This is the first Museology graduate
program in Brazil, offering a Master’s program since 2006 and a PhD
program from 2010. It is not necessary for a candidate to have a
degree in Museology in order to start a Master’s or Doctoral degree
in this program, indeed the student can have graduated from any
field of study and be enrolled in the program. The teaching staff is
composed of professors from the following areas: Museology, Arts,
Information Science, Social Sciences, Communication, Education,
Engineering, Geology, History, History of Science, and Linguistics.
The basic subjects of this course are “Theory and Methodology in
Museology” and “Heritage Theory”, being of equal importance in the
discipline of “Museology, Heritage, Documentation and Information”.
However, the program offers students a range of topics, such as:
“Museology and Conservation”, “Museology and Communication”,
“Museology, Heritage and Sustainable Development”, “Culture and
Society: symbolic itineraries”, “Heritage, Nature and Biodiversity”,
“Heritage, Museology, Education and Interpretation”, “Museology and
Art”, “Museum: Theory and Practice”, besides the study seminars
and those matters related to dissertations and thesis development.
Nevertheless, the most interesting indicators of how diversified PPGPMUS is are its research lines. The two areas, named “Museum and
Museology” and “Museum, Total Heritage and Development”, include
research projects discussing a large variety of themes, such as the
terms and concepts of Museology; exhibition languages; memory of
Museology; “Education as a Cultural and Personal Heritage”,
imagined communities, inventory of geodiversity valorization, among
other specific and distinct themes . It is along these lines that
dissertations and theses are developed – so it is possible to visualize
the diversity of investigations and results (dissertations and theses)
already existing in Brazilian Museology.
If the existence of an undergraduate course is a fundamental part of
shaping a new discipline, a graduate program ensures a
methodological status to this discipline. The Museology Program
CAPES (the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) is the
Brazilian Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education. It is a
foundation of the Ministry of Education (MEC), and it establishes guidelines for the
Graduation courses strictu sensu (Master and Doctorate) across the whole country.
CAPES – Historia e Missão. (2015, August 29). Available at <
http://www.capes.gov.br/historia-e-missao >.
This perspective can be found in the Plano Nacional de Pós-Graduação (National
Graduate Program) 2011-2020.
The information presented here can be found at PPG-PMUS site. PPG-PMUS
homepage.(2015, August 29). Available at: < http://ppg-pmus.mast.br/inicio.htm >.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner
(PPG-PMUS) approaches a large variety of subjects, making it
heterogeneous and even interdisciplinary. The investigations carried
out in this program extrapolate Museology boundaries – boundaries
that for some are already defined, but are still undefined for others.
An important addendum: those seeking a closer approach to
Museology, especially because of the undergraduate course in
Museology, usually defend the idea that Museology has limits and a
defined object of study; for others, from other subject areas,
Museology has not only undefined boundaries but also wide
boundaries, as it allows their points of view to be included within the
Final Remarks
Foucault (2007) pointed out the end of the human being as an object
of study. It is possible to figure the end of science as an entity whose
knowledge is the only legitimate one. The whole process of
knowledge production is permeated with the relativity of knowledge
and human perception. Therefore what we can see are systems
created by groups seeking to legitimize their own specialties using
the symbolic capitals of science and other analytical subjects, trying
to conceal the arbitrary as much as they can (Bourdieu, 2007,
p. 164).
The human is an invention of the human being itself, as stated by
Foucault, but this one also invents something besides himself/herself
– in Kant's opinion, through the construction of a world it is possible
to know the real world. However, more than the attempt to know the
real world, humans have created distinct worlds through the process
of systematizing knowledge, using his/her way of thinking based on
his/her society. Science is a created world that, despite the fallacy
that it can understand what can be named as the real world, it has
conquered for itself through the time autonomy from this fallacy and
today the science already exists in itself.
In the same way, that process also happens with disciplines: they
start from an attempt to understand a certain object, and the more
they become autonomous, the further they stand from their objects because their existence is no longer conditioned to have an object
and to support them. At long last, their agents are many and have
distinct perspectives when disagreeing to legitimize their viewpoints,
all with claims to obtain the exact answer about the discipline’s
objective; knowingly or not they take part in a movement that has yet
to reach a verdict. Maybe the existence of a verdict about such an
object will make the act of seeking obsolete, and along with it the
science and its discipline; however in contradiction, the seeking is
also its motor, driving the field.
It is important to mention that no discipline is interdisciplinary in itself
– what is interdisciplinary are the agents or members. Nevertheless,
after discussing a field as a social construct, no knowledge is solely
disciplinary. The discipline is an artificial distinction of the overall
knowledge, which in turn is a speech or a way of seeing the world;
interdisciplinarity can also be a justification of the peculiar
characteristics given to Museology.
It is also important to consider that “what is at stake in the internal
struggle by the scientific authority in the science socials field, that is,
the power to produce, impose and instill the legitimate representation
of the social world, it is what is at stake between the classes in the
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Museology and its constituent dialogues:
inside and outside the boundaries
political field” (Bourdieu, 1976, p. 27). Museology or Museum Studies
started its first steps in the beginning of the 20 century. The first one
was created in the United States in the 1900s; Museum courses,
afterward denominated as Museology, were created after the 1920s
in countries like France and Brazil. However it is possible to disguise
two trajectories, both considering the interdisciplinarity phenomenon,
as these currents started to consolidate around the world in the
second half of the 20 century, in distinctive ways: 1) a perspective
through which museum studies is configured using approaches from
different disciplines, with the purpose of improving practices in the
museum universe; and 2) a slope which claims the existence of a
specific subject for analysis and systematic study, even though
methodological approaches or theoretical bases from other
disciplines are necessary – for such a slope, the name Museology is
more appropriate.
Bourdieu, P. (1976). O Campo Científico. (2012, October 24). Retrieved from
Bourdieu, P. (2003). Os usos sociais da ciência.Por uma sociologia clínica
do campo científico. Tradução: Denise Barbara Cartani. São
Paulo: UNESP.
Bourdieu, P. (2012). O Poder Simbólico. Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil.
Bourdieu, P. (2013). A Economia das Trocas Simbólicas. São
Paulo: Perspectiva.
Burke, P. (2012). Uma história social do conhecimento. Da Enciclopédia à
Wikipédia. Trad. Denise Bottmann, vol. 2. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge
Zahar Editor.
CAPES – Historia e Missão. (2015, August 29). Retrieved from
Desvallées, A.,& Mairesse, F. (Eds.). (2010). Conceptos claves de
Museología. Paris: Armand Colin.
Foucault, M. (2007).As Palavras e as Coisas. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.
ICOFOM.(1981). Museological Working Papers, 2.
PPG-PMUS homepage. (2015, August 29). Retrieved from http://ppgpmus.mast.br/inicio.htm.
The debate on interdisciplinarity in Museology is as old as the debate about
the museological field itself. In fact, the discussion about the nature and
object of the Museology field has always been permeated by interfaces with
other fields. As we asserted in the 2014 ICOFOM meeting, Museology exists
as a claim for recognition of museum professionals for our specific
knowledge and objectives. It is the result of a process that is willing to be
systematic, disciplined and academic, fostered and formed by the museum’s
major programs. Therefore, the question is: Why has Museology set itself as
an interdisciplinary field since its beginning? In order to answer this question,
we propose the following topics: 1) Reflection on the concept of discipline
and interdisciplinarity using Pierre Bourdieu and Peter Burke for the
theoretical framework; 2) Brief considerations of the first discussions related
to interdisciplinarity in Museology; 3) Case study analysis: the graduate
program in Museology and Heritage of Rio de Janeiro and its interdisciplinary
dialogues. The final consideration points out the importance of museum
professionals in the museological field, not only in the configuration of its
boundaries, but also in the construction of its own interdisciplinary dialogues.
Keywords: museology, interdisciplinarity, Bourdieu
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Tereza Cristina Moletta Scheiner
Más allá y hacia adentro de fronteras en construcción: diálogos
constituyentes de la Museologí
El debate sobre la interdisciplinariedad en la Museología es tan antiguo
como las primeras discusiones alrededor del propio campo museológico.
Con efecto, las discusiones sobre la naturaleza y el objeto del campo de la
Museología siempre han sido permeadas de interfaces con otros campos.
Como hemos afirmado en el encuentro del ICOFOM de 2014, la Museología
existe como reivindicación de profesionales de museos por una
especificidad de conocimiento y objeto, y es resultado de un proceso que se
desea científico, disciplinario y académico, propiciado y fomentado por los
cursos de museos. La cuestión que se presenta es: ¿por qué la Museología
ya se configura, desde sus primordios, como interdisciplinaria? Para
responder a esa cuestión, se propone la siguiente trayectoria: 1) reflexión
sobre el concepto de disciplina e interdisciplinariedad, utilizando como
referencial teórico a Pierre Bourdieu y Peter Burke; 2) breves apuntamientos
sobre las primeras discusiones relevantes relacionadas a la
interdisciplinariedad en la Museología; 3) análisis de un estudio de caso: el
Programa de Posgrado en Museología y Patrimonio de Río de Janeiro y sus
diálogos interdisciplinarios. Las consideraciones finales apuntan para la
importancia de los actores en el campo museológico, no sólo en la
configuración de las fronteras, sino también en la construcción de los
propios diálogos interdisciplinarios.
Palabras clave: Museología,interdisciplinariedad, Bourdieu
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie
Daniel Schmitt
Université Lille Nord de France ;
UVHC, DeVisu – Valenciennes, France
Comme l’ont bien montré André Desvallées et François Mairesse
(2005), la muséologie est un champ de recherche très hétérogène.
L’une des dernières acceptions définit la muséologie comme une
« relation spécifique entre l’homme et la réalité caractérisée comme
documentation du réel par l’appréhension sensible directe »
(Mairesse & Desvallées, 2005, p. 131). Bernard Schiele, en citant
Jorge Wagensberg (2006), précise que cette relation spécifique entre
l’homme et la réalité réside dans le fait qu’un « musée, quel qu’il soit,
cherche d’abord à comprendre et faire comprendre la réalité ». Pour
arriver à faire comprendre la réalité, le musée « utilise des fragments
de cette réalité dans des situations de communication conçues à
l’intention de ses visiteurs. […] réalité et communication sur la réalité
vont donc de pair au musée. Elles en sont les deux piliers. »
Schieleen déduit que l’objectif de la formation en muséologie est de
« permettre d’appréhender […] ce qu’il y a d’essentiel et de
structurant dans le musée : l’opérativité de la relation nouée entre les
visiteurs et les vraies choses » (Schiele, 2012, p. 96).
À titre d’hypothèse et pour la suite de la discussion, nous retenons la
proposition suivante : la muséologie étudie une relation spécifique
entre l’homme et la réalité caractérisée comme documentation du
réel par l’appréhension sensible directe. Cette relation opérative
s’appuie sur des fragments de la réalité, des vraies choses, dans des
situations communicationnelles conçues à l’intention des visiteurs.
Cela nous oblige à faire un détour par les concepts de réel, de réalité
et de vrai.
Un détour préliminaire par la question du réel, de la
réalité et du vrai
La relation au monde en général et à celui du musée en particulier
s’appuie sur un ensemble de perceptions qui relèvent à la fois du
corps et de l’esprit comme structure biologique et comme trajectoire
historique. Ce que nous nommons la réalité, le monde que nous
percevons avec ses formes, ses couleurs, ses textures, ses odeurs,
ses sons, provient d’expériences vécues à partir des interactions
récurrentes que nous entretenons avec le réel. Cette approche
kantienne est loin d’être nouvelle et elle a probablement été de tout
temps au cœur des préoccupations humaines.
La théorie de l’énaction proposée par Francisco Varela (1989) a
formellement montré qu’il n’existait pas de relation univoque entre le
réel et notre représentation du réel, ce que nous nommons la réalité.
Cette théorie prouve, au contraire, que la réalité telle que nous la
percevons s’appuie certes sur des fragments du réel, mais qu’elle est
surtout rendue possible par les diverses actions que nous
accomplissons dans le monde. Nos actions construisent nos
perceptions et notre cognition, qui guident en retour nos actions et
stabilisent et renforcent ainsi des schèmes de perceptions-actions.
(Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1993, p. 35). La boucle récursive d’une
Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie
action s’appuie sur le réel, passe par la cognition et le corps agissant
et percevant, construit une réalité et crée du sens tout en guidant
l’action. Cette boucle est au cœur de la théorie de l’énaction. Dans
une perspective énactive, on dit plus simplement que la cognition est
une propriété émergente du couplage acteur-environnement à partir
de la structure biologique et de l’histoire de l’acteur.
Par exemple, la couleur rouge que nous percevons et qui semble
bien exister là-bas, au-dehors de nous, est dans une large mesure
indépendante de la longueur d’onde émise. Je perçois du rouge làbas, non pas parce que je peux saisir les caractéristiques
intrinsèques de l’environnement comme une longueur d’onde, mais
parce qu’il se trouve que des perturbations possibles et récurrentes
au sein de ma structure biologique, de mon histoire et de mon
système neuronal me font vivre une expérience que nous qualifions
de rouge dans l’espace intersubjectif du langage : en fait, « il n’y a
aucun moyen d’établir une correspondance entre la grande stabilité
de la couleur des objets que nous voyons et la lumière qui en
provient » (Maturana & Varela, 1994, p. 8). D’autres auteurs
partagent aujourd’hui le même constat. Le linguiste Didier Bottineau
(2011, p. 212) le dit de façon radicale : la réalité en elle-même n’est
pas connaissable, il s’agit d’un X-monde. La physicienne Mioara
Mugur-Schächter (2006, p. 145) conclut de même : « Il apparaît au
grand jour que la tendance limitative à percevoir ce qui est, tel que
c’est, à découvrir, à contempler, est fondée sur des illusions
cognitives ». Nous n’avons aucune possibilité de connaître le réel en
Nous pouvons néanmoins connaître et partager des
réalités vraies
La connaissance n’est connaissance que si elle permet une
expérience stable, « quelque chose que l’organisme construit dans le
but de créer de l’ordre dans un flux d’expérience – en tant que tel,
informe – en établissant des expériences renouvelables, ainsi que
des relations relativement fiables entre elles » (von Glasersfeld,
1988, p. 41). Et, bien que nous ne puissions pas connaître l’essence
du réel, nous connaissons le monde et les choses à travers des
interactions stables et récurrentes. Le réel se manifeste à travers
l’expérience du réel pour constituer notre réalité, notre monde
Prononcer « rouge » est un comportement communicatif pour une
communauté culturelle partageant des interactions récurrentes (une
histoire) qui signifie un certain état cognitif. Lorsque, au gré des
interactions, le comportement linguistique « rouge » peut être
partagé par une communauté pour qualifier une certaine sensation,
cela signifie que ce que nous nommons la « réalité » n’existe pas
stricto sensu, mais existe assurément en tant qu’expérience
individuelle et ensuite en tant qu’expérience partagée par un groupe
humain, lequel circonscrit des éléments, formule des lois, des
relations entre les choses qui restent valables aussi longtemps que
ces relations « conviennent » à la situation telle que ce groupe la
perçoit. La réalité est une communauté de mondes propres (von
Foerster, 1988, p. 69), et l’objectivité relève d’un consensus
intersubjectif (Mugur-Schächter, 2006, p. 57). Il est donc possible de
nous accorder au quotidien sur la réalité en tant qu’accord sur notre
relation au réel. Relation au réel et réalité se co-définissent et
forment à la fois le processus et le produit de ce processus. Le
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Daniel Schmitt
« vrai » émerge donc à partir de consensus intersubjectifs qui
proviennent eux-mêmes de relations au réel, de mondes propres.
Dans le cadre du musée, on peut formuler cela de la manière
suivante : la réalité physique du musée, de la sculpture, du tableau
ou de l’expôt dans le X-monde est la même pour tous les visiteurs,
mais c’est l’expérience singulière des visiteurs qui confère une réalité
individuelle à ce qui est perçu. Mais où les « vraies choses » se
trouvent-elles ? Est-ce dans l’expérience singulière des visiteurs ou
préexistent-elles à l’expérience des visiteurs ? Plusieurs remarques
invitent à une approche énactive de la muséologie :
puisque la réalité est un monde propre qui provient d’une relation
spécifique et historique au réel, seuls les visiteurs peuvent décrire les
« fragments
réalité »
« situation
communicationnelle » qui émergent au cours de leur expérience ;
la nature de la relation à la réalité étant nécessairement liée au
corps, produit d’une ontogenèse et d’une histoire cognitive, on peut
légitimement penser que l’opérativité de la relation passe aussi par
les émotions en tant que liaison, voire en tant que connaissance de
la réalité vécue. Or, les émotions en tant que liaison au réel trouvent
peu de place dans les théories de l’information.
Au-delà des nombreuses enquêtes sur l’expérience des visiteurs
(Eidelman, Gottesdiener, & Le Marec, 2013), nous souhaitons ici
saisir la nature de l’opérativité de la relation nouée entre les visiteurs
et les vraies choses du musée, co-constitutive de la réalité, en tenant
compte de la dimension corporelle et émotionnelle de l’expérience.
Pour cela, il faut pouvoir analyser l’expérience des visiteurs à travers
un cadre épistémique qui permette de penser l’information comme
formée à l’intérieur du visiteur et donc de penser la relation en
termes d’in-formation. C’est exactement ce que nous propose la
théorie de l’énaction.
Accéder à la relation visiteur-environnement
Nous avons déjà décrit une méthode d’enquête appelée « re-situ
subjectif » (Rix & Biache, 2004; Schmitt, 2013) qui permet de saisir
et de comprendre la relation des visiteurs avec le réel tel qu’ils le
perçoivent durant leur visite. Cette méthode d’enquête s’inscrit dans
le sillage du « cours d’expérience », un important programme de
recherche développé à partir des années 1990 par Jacques
Theureau (1992, 2004, 2006), qui lui-même s’appuie sur la théorie
de l’énaction (Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1993). Daniel Schacter
(1999, p. 82) a de plus montré que le rappel d’informations visuelles
propres à l’environnement d’un acteur tel que cet acteur l’a vécu est
crucial pour faire l’expérience de « se souvenir ». Il a également
montré qu’il suffit seulement d’une fraction de l’événement original
pour faire se souvenir de l’épisode entier vécu et qu’enfin le souvenir
peut atteindre des niveaux d’exactitude extrêmement élevés lorsque
le bon indice est disponible lors de la tentative de rappel. Dans notre
cas, la trace vidéo du regard subjectif du visiteur joue le rôle de
stimulus ecphorique (processus de rappel du souvenir) et permet à
celui-ci de décrire et de commenter son activité, ses émotions, d’une
façon assez fidèle à ce qu’il a vécu précédemment.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie
Figure 1.Les visiteurs sont équipés d’un eye tracker (oculomètre) pendant
leur visite. Les visiteurs sont ensuite invités à décrire leur expérience à
partir de l’enregistrement vidéo de leur perspective subjective enrichie du
point de focalisation de leur regard. © Daniel Schmitt, 2015.
En équipant des visiteurs avec des minicaméras et en les exposant,
à l’issue de leur visite, à leur propre flux d’images vidéo, on peut
accéder très finement à l’articulation de la production de sens telle
qu’elle a eu lieu au cours de leur visite. Ce dispositif permet au
visiteur de revivre son passé, mais, à la différence d’un entretien
réalisé pendant la visite, cette fois le visiteur peut prendre le temps
de décrire et de commenter son expérience sans que cela induise un
biais significatif dans le cours de sa visite ou dans la description de
son expérience. Ce dispositif est adapté à une analyse approfondie
de fragments de l’activité de visite (Schmitt, à paraître). Depuis, nous
avons enrichi cette approche en équipant les visiteurs avec un eye
tracker (oculomètre, figure 1). Le dispositif produit une vidéo de la
perception subjective des visiteurs avec une trace de la focalisation
de leur regard. La trace vidéo subjective a une fonction d’indiçage de
la mémoire épisodique, et l’eye tracker renforce cette fonction en
indiquant à tout instant ce sur quoi le visiteur a porté son regard.
Lorsque, à l’issue de la visite, nous stimulons le visiteur avec sa
propre vidéo subjective enrichie de son point de regard, non
seulement le visiteur se souvient de son expérience, mais de plus il
peut décrire ses émotions, ses perceptions et les différentes étapes
qui lui permettent (ou ne lui permettent pas) de construire du sens.
Cet ensemble de verbalisations sert ensuite à catégoriser les
attentes, les savoirs mobilisés, la nature des engagements
récurrents (voir, toucher, identifier, comparer, mais aussi éprouver de
l’empathie, de la crainte, de la méfiance, du dégoût…), et connaître
l’état émotionnel quantifié à l’aide d’une échelle graduée. On dispose
ainsi d’une méthode qui permet d’approcher, d’identifier et de
partager la nature de la relation au monde des visiteurs.
Premiers apports
Cette approche confirme tout d’abord que les visiteurs entretiennent
des relations de grande confiance avec les expôts proposés. Dans la
quasi-totalité des expériences de visite, les œuvres sont perçues
comme vraies (musées) et les animaux comme de vrais animaux
naturalisés (muséums). Même dans les centres de culture
scientifique, les manipulations sont appréhendées comme des
dispositifs qui donnent accès à de « vrais fragments » de la réalité ;
ils sont là pour montrer de « vrais effets », de « vraies lois » de la
nature. Il s’agit bien d’espaces qui montrent de « vraies choses ». De
même, la « parole vraie » que l’on prête au musée est vécue comme
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Daniel Schmitt
telle par les visiteurs de musées et de centres de culture scientifique.
La confiance des visiteurs envers la parole du musée déployée sous
différentes formes (cartels, panneaux graphiques, audioguides,
films…) est exceptionnelle (Schmitt, 2012, p. 162). Du point de vue
des visiteurs, le musée est un lieu qui présente de « vraies choses »
assorties d’une « parole vraie ». Et, en cela, les entretiens réalisés
en re-situ subjectif confirment et confortent la confiance du public
envers l’institution muséale, comme l’a montré Joëlle Le Marec
(2007). On note cependant l’expression d’un doute, voire d’une
certaine défiance à l’égard de l’institution lorsque l’expérience des
visiteurs entre en conflit avec leurs croyances religieuses (présenter
un squelette humain et un squelette de chimpanzé côte à côte ne
prouve pas qu’ils aient un ancêtre commun) (Schmitt, 2012, p. 136).
La parole de l’institution perçue comme « vraie » vaut pour ceux qui
visitent des musées et la méthode employée ici ne dit rien sur la
confiance des non-visiteurs envers l’institution muséale.
Les émotions participent assurément de l’opérativité
de la relation au réel
Les principaux apports de la méthode des entretiens en re-situ
subjectifs concernent surtout une nouvelle compréhension de la
construction de sens en situation naturelle, ce qui est au cœur de la
relation au réel. Lorsque les visiteurs passent le seuil de l’entrée du
musée, tous les expôts sont susceptibles de devenir des intrigues.
Du point de vue des visiteurs, ces expôts ont été présentés, mis en
scène, éclairés, renseignés à dessein. Les visiteurs évoluent de leur
point de vue dans un contexte informationnel : leur « mission »
consiste à retrouver les raisons qui ont prévalu à cette mise en
exposition et, pour cela, il y a des informations ou des indices qui
devraient les guider. Toute œuvre, tout expôt, se transforme en une
intrigue lorsque le visiteur isole un fragment de l’expôt, une forme,
une couleur, un geste qui fait naître des attentes. Ces attentes sont
identifiées le plus souvent comme des questions (pourquoi une
forme, une couleur, une relation, une action…) qui appellent des
réponses pour lesquelles chaque visiteur mobilise ses savoirs mais
aussi ses expériences sous forme de souvenirs, d’images, de
rêves… tout élément qui pourrait contribuer à relier le visiteur à ce
fragment de réalité en rapport avec la question qu’il se pose. La
« parole vraie » du musée (le cartel, le film, le message sonore, etc.)
peut être saisie et mobilisée pour tenter de répondre aux attentes.
C’est cette quête de ressources en rapport avec les attentes qui crée
un sentiment de tension au sein du corps pensant et agissant du
visiteur. Les ressources d’information alentour ou embarquées, tout
comme les ressources proposées par les accompagnants sont
importantes mais loin d’être le seul moyen permettant de construire
une relation avec les expôts. On constate qu’il peut exister de
nombreuses formes de résolution de la tension qui passent par un
vécu émotionnel sans que l’on puisse parler de captation
d’information ou de réponse à une question formelle. La situation
communicationnelle semble indispensable pour construire l’autorité
de la parole sur les « fragments de réalité ». En revanche, elle ne
joue pas un rôle systématique dans la résolution des tensions.
L’empathie par exemple est en soi une forme possible de résolution
de la tension et du point de vue du visiteur ; il s’agit d’une relation qui
« convient » à la situation telle que celui-ci la perçoit. Vivre la scène,
ressentir le contexte, l’ambiance d’un tableau peut suffire à être
« connaissance ». Le visiteur vit des émotions qu’il prête à ce qu’il
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie
perçoit, il « ressent » les émotions d’un « autre ». D’une façon qui lui
appartient, le visiteur « connaît » émotionnellement la chose qu’il
perçoit, et cette connaissance est suffisante pour que la relation
existe et fasse sens. L’empathie est une relation opérative qui ne
relève pas nécessairement de la communication du musée au sens
informationnel, mais plutôt d’une histoire personnelle. On trouve
aussi des relations construites à partir du souvenir, du rêve ou de la
réminiscence.Ce type de relation fait revivre une relation
émotionnelle où le visiteur éprouve des émotions proches de celles
qu’il a déjà vécues. La reviviscence d’une expérience peut
également suffire à établir un lien avec l’objet perçu et qui n’est pas
communicationnelle. Regarder un phacochère naturalisé dans un
muséum et y voir Pumbaa – un personnage de dessin animé – suffit
à établir une relation qui fait sens pour le visiteur et qui lui permet de
se relier à son environnement, à le connaître. Il n’y a pas
d’information nécessaire, mais simplement une reviviscence qui naît
dans un contexte muséal, et la reviviscence de cette émotion est
également une relation opérative, car elle est connaissance ou
reconnaissance de ce qui est perçu. Nous identifions également des
relations comme le « frisson », une relation où l’émotion oscille entre
la crainte, la peur et le sentiment de sécurité. Cette émotion de
frisson suffit à établir une relation avec l’objet ; elle est connaissance
pour le visiteur. Par exemple Juliette au musée zoologique regarde,
fascinée, des araignées. Elle connaît les araignées à travers une
émotion qui oscille entre le dégoût et l’attirance :
Après voilà les araignées parce que je suis complètement
arachnophobe… du coup je me suis vraiment arrêtée sur
les araignées… [ici] elles ne peuvent pas m’embêter…
oui, les araignées, en fait, ça me fascine de les voir
comme ça, je pourrais presque les regarder des heures…
oui, dégoûtantes, enfin, ça me donne des frissons dans le
Ce type de relation n’est pas propre aux musées zoologiques.On le
retrouve dans tous les musées. Roman devant une chimère du
MoyenÂge :
J’ai un petit peu, pas peur, mais disons, il y a une émotion,
un petit peu de méfiance… ils sont comme des démons
qui sont endormis… qui [vont] surgir, mais bon, je suis
dans une autre époque.
La notion d’information ne suffit pas à rendre compte de l’opérativité
de la relation qui passe par des émotions. Le corps en émotion est
bien une forme de relation opérative en ce sens qu’elle relie le sujet
au fragment perçu et que cette relation est suffisante pour
« connaître » le monde des visiteurs tel qu’ils le perçoivent. Le corpsémotion n’est pas nécessairement le résultat d’une situation
communicationnelle au sens classique des théories de l’information
quelles qu’elles soient. Le corps-émotion relève d’un couplage à
l’environnement qui fait émerger à la fois perception et tension, et
dont l’apaisement s’accompagne fréquemment d’une sensation de
plaisir. Ce qui est nouveau, ce n’est pas de dire que les visiteurs de
musées vivent des émotions, mais d’affirmer que les émotions
constituent une forme créative de relation aux expôts qui, du point de
vue des visiteurs, peut suffire à les « connaître ». En ce sens, les
émotions sont aussi des relations opératives qui permettent de
connaître les « vraies choses » du musée.
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Daniel Schmitt
Nous avons vu que le musée montrait de « vraies choses » et qu’il
les associait à une « parole vraie » ou, en tout cas, digne de
confiance. Mais le crédit accordé aux vraies choses et à la parole
vraie du musée est un préalable. Car cela ne suffit pas pour que les
visiteurs puissent construire du sens. Le schéma relationnel qui
semble rendre compte de la construction de sens et de l’expérience
peut s’énoncer comme suit : un objet dans un musée est présumé
vrai. Ce réel sert de substrat au visiteur, qui cherche à circonscrire
un élément, à saisir une partie du « fragment de réalité ». À un
moment précis, l’objet vrai peut devenir une intrigue pour le visiteur
et, lorsque c’est le cas, l’intrigue appelle une résolution. L’intrigue
peut prendre la forme d’une question formelle, d’une interrogation
(Que représente la scène du tableau ? Pourquoi ces animaux
naturalisés ont des couleurs différentes ?, etc.), et on peut alors en
effet parler de communication sur la réalité. Mais l’intrigue peut aussi
se résoudre à travers les émotions qu’elle génère, comme
l’empathie, le souvenir, la reviviscence, le frisson, le dégoût ou la
peur. Elle s’autorésout en quelque sorte à travers la perception et
l’histoire du corps-émotion. Le point important que nous souhaitons
mettre en évidence est le suivant : que l’on parle de résolution-savoir
ou de résolution-émotion, dans les deux cas, du point de vue des
visiteurs, il s’agit bien d’une relation au réel qui est connaissance de
la réalité. Quand les visiteurs affirment « comprendre » quelque
chose dans les musées, nous devons entendre précisément qu’ils
arrivent à relier et à se relier à un ensemble d’éléments perçus d’une
façon qui convient à la tension qu’ils vivent (Schmitt, 2015). La
communication sur la réalité est un préalable qui actualise la parole
vraie du musée et qui offre des pistes de tensions et de résolutions,
donc qui structure un potentiel de relations au monde du musée.
Mais les émotions, comme la médiation, permettent de réaliser des
liaisons parfaitement opérationnelles pour connaître la réalité du
La réalité et la relation au réel sont les deux faces d’un même objet.
Questionner l’opérativité de la relation nouée entre les visiteurs et les
vraies choses revient à saisir la nature de la relation au monde dans
ses différentes dimensions. La méthode des entretiens réalisés en
re-situ subjectif tente de saisir la nature de la relation visiteurenvironnement, co-constitutive de la réalité, en insistant sur sa
dimension corporelle, cognitive et émotionnelle. Pour les visiteurs,
connaître un fragment de réalité est bien une relation opératoire,
mais cette connaissance ne consiste pas toujours à rechercher des
savoirs formels pour pouvoir se lier aux fragments, aux expôts.
Connaître des fragments de réalité, c’est avant tout se relier à la
chose perçue d’une « façon qui convient », c’est réussir à réduire la
tension que la chose perçue fait surgir, c’est trouver une résolution à
À la lumière de ces premières recherches, une relation opérative
peut être vue comme un lien, une relation qui relie à la fois le corps
et l’esprit à un fragment de réel, lien qui fait émerger une tension,
elle-même résolue par différentes solutions, dont les savoirs formels
ne sont qu’un aperçu des solutions possibles. Les relations
émotionnelles semblent également très efficaces pour pouvoir se lier,
pour établir une relation stable et robuste avec la réalité. Poursuivre
des recherches en ce sens pourrait enrichir considérablement notre
connaissance de la construction de sens et la nature des relations
opératives des visiteurs dans les musées. Plus largement, quelles
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Pour une approche énactive de la muséologie
que soient les activités humaines, ces recherches pourraient éclairer
les processus mis en œuvre lorsque nous construisons des
connaissances en situation écologique.
Bottineau, D. (2011). Parole, corporéité, individu et société : l’embodiment
entre le representationnalisme et la cognition incarnée, distribuée,
cognitives.Intellectica, n 56, 187-220.
Desvallées, A.,& Mairesse, F. (2005). Sur la muséologie. Culture & Musées,
n 6, 131-155.
Eidelman, J., Gottesdiener, H.,& Le Marec, J. (2013). Visiter les musées :
expérience, appropriation, participation. Culture & Musées, horssérie, 73-113.
Le Marec, J. Publics et musées, la confiance éprouvée. L’Harmattan, Paris,
Mairesse, F.,& Desvallées, A. (2005). Brève Histoire de la muséologie. Dans
P.-A. Mariaux (dir.).L’objet de la muséologie (pp. 1-50). Neuchâtel :
Institut d’histoire de l’art et de muséologie.
Maturana, H.,& Varela, F. (1994). L’Arbre de la connaissance. Racines
biologiques de la compréhension humaine.Paris : Addison-Wesley.
Mugur-Schächter, M. (2006). Sur le tissage des connaissances. Paris :
Rix, G.,& Biache, M.-J. (2004). Enregistrement en perspective subjective
située et entretien en re-situ subjectif : une méthodologie de la
constitution de l’expérience. Intellectica, n 38, 363-396.
Schacter, D. (1999). À la recherche de la mémoire. Le passé, l’esprit et le
cerveau. Bruxelles : De Boeck.
Schiele, B. (2012). La muséologie, un domaine de recherches. Dans
A. Meunier & J. Luckerhoff (dir.) (2012).La Muséologie, champ de
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l’Université du Québec.
Schmitt, D. (2012). Expérience de visite et construction des connaissances :
le cas des musées de sciences et des centres de culture
scientifique. Thèse de doctorat. Strasbourg, Université de
Schmitt, D. (2013). Décrire et comprendre l’expérience des visiteurs.
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Schmitt, D. (2015). Ce que “comprendre” signifie pour les jeunes visiteurs
dans un centre de culture scientifique. Dans P. Chavot &
A. Masseran (dir.). Les Cultures des sciences en Europe (2).
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– éditions universitaires de Lorraine. Coll. Questions de
communication, série actes, n 25.
Schmitt, D. (à paraître). Saisir l’expérience des publics dans les musées :
comment construit-on du sens lors d’une visite ? Dans J.-M. Barbier
& M. Durand (dir.), Encyclopédie de l’analyse des activités. Paris :
Theureau, J. (1992). Le Cours d’action : analyse sémio-logique. Essai d’une
anthropologie cognitive située. Berne : Peter Lang.
Theureau, J. (2004). Le Cours d’action : méthode élémentaire. Toulouse :
Theureau, J. (2006). Le Cours d’action : méthode développée.Toulouse :
Varela, F. (1989). Autonomie et connaissance.Paris : Le Seuil.
Varela, F.,Thompson, E.,& Rosch, E. (1993).L’Inscription corporelle de
l’esprit. Paris : Le Seuil.
von Foerster, H. (1988). La Construction d’une réalité. Dans P. Watzlawick
(dir.),L’Invention de la réalité, contributions au constructivisme
(p. 45-69). Paris : Le Seuil.
von Glasersfeld, E. (1988). Introduction à un constructivisme radical. Dans P.
Watzlawick (dir.).L’invention de la réalité, contributions au
constructivisme.Paris : Le Seuil.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Daniel Schmitt
Wagensberg, J. (2006). Toward a total museology through conversation
between audience, museologists, architects and builders. Dans
R. Terrada et al., The Total Museum (p. 11-103). Barcelone : Sacyr.
Au cours de leur visite dans un musée, les visiteurs font preuve d’une
créativité surprenante pour pouvoir se lier, se relier à un réel qu’ils
construisent en grande partie eux-mêmes. Réussir à saisir l’articulation de
ces liaisons est d’un intérêt scientifique qui dépasse le cadre du musée, car
ces liaisons renseignent sur les modalités de construction des
connaissances en situation écologique. La théorie de l’énaction offre un
cadre conceptuel fécond pour étudier la muséologie en tant que relation
opérative entre les visiteurs et le réel.
Mots-clés : muséologie, réalité, émotions, énaction, expérience des
Towards an enactive approach of museology
During their visit of a museum, visitors show a surprising creativity to be able
to bind, to connect themselves to a reality that they largely construct
themselves. Succeeding in analyzing the articulation of these links is of a
scientific interest that goes beyond the museum field because these links
inform the construction modalities of knowledge in ecological situation. The
theory of enaction provides a fruitful conceptual framework to study
museology as an operative relationship between visitors and reality.
Key words : museology, reality, emotions, enaction, visitor experience
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016
Case Studies
Etudes de cas
Estudios de caso
Shuchen Wang
Aalto University – Finland
Ubiquitous computing technology is believed to
realize Malraux’s museum without walls
proposed in 1947. Previously grounded on
materiality, museum communication and
education now embarks on a new frontier with
digitization. Cloud, linked data, semantic web,
online exhibition, mobile application, epublication, augmented reality, interactive
display, gamification, 3D scanning and printing
– all these cutting-edge technologies contribute
to a vision that visitor/end-users can visit any
cultural site at any time from any where. As
ideal as it sounds, the journey is still paved
with obstacles due to unsynchronized
legislative systems.
Among the strongest performers in innovative
digital technology (van Dijk, 2008), Finland
provides a good example. Modest in many
ways, arts and culture here acts rather as
social commons than consumable luxuries for
the privileged (Robertson, 2005). Currently
ongoing are nationwide GLAM (Gallery,
Library, Archive, Museum) digitization, FINNA
– the centralized search interface for all
cultural institutes, and the latest reorganization
of the national gallery’s governance. It is
expected to see a sustainable
Operation model constructed between the
atoms and bits of cultural heritage.
Nevertheless, what follows is still to be
considered for development.
Virtual Representation of Authentic
Differ from other memory institutions, the
museum presents the authentic object in a
reconstructed context. Walking around the
exhibition hall, our perceiving body is provided
with a chance to have direct contact with a
past embodied and enshrined in the object’s
aura (Benjamin, 1936). Within this contact
between the information of our physical senses
and the sensed object, a limbo-like space is
unrolled to engender a sense of inside and
outside, self and the ‘other’, I-the-(wo)man and
the lifeworld (the thing), meanwhile projecting
an inter-subjectivity, enabling our self to
penetrate into a past/space/horizon about
which a temporal and spatial notion is nowhere
to be found and we thus become part of it
(Merleau-Ponty, 1945). Other than knowing,
understanding, and reasoning, this bodily
episteme can be acquired only through
physical perception (Varto, 2013). Yet, to
transfer or recreate the sensuality of the object
onto various digital platforms remains an
representation of museum experience.
Value Network of Museum Economy
in Digitization
Cultural tourism used to be the main tool to
generate revenue for the museum industry.
Now with digitization, new business models are
to be sought urgently, especially when public
subsidy and private sponsors remain in
constant decline. Joining in the up-to-date
innovation economy (creative economy,
experience economy) becomes an underlying
expectation of many cultural policy makers and
GLAM authorities. How to link different ‘values’
presumed in technology, business, and arts
and culture, and to establish a sustainable
value chain becomes essentially important.
personalconcepts, subjective and objective,
associated with “belief, right, ethic, and desire”.
Nevertheless, in technology it relates to
“appreciation,merit, and perfection”; and in
business it signifies worth and can be
translated into “advantage, superiority, and
grace”. The correlation of value assessments
between technology and business is much
studied, as revealed by Choudary (2015) but
not much between these subjects and arts and
culture. To mend this gap, Ng and Smith
(2012) try to propose an integrated value
framework, and usage is held to measure the
value of arts and culture connecting to the
technology and business value chain.
However, a convincing mechanism is yet to be
Challenge and Opportunity for
Innovation Business of GLAM
A focal area with the best potential to generate
business opportunity for digital cultural heritage
is located in the interaction between GLAM
and visitor/end-user, online and on-site. Three
layers, as illustrated here, constitute the many
digital platforms of the museum industry: 1)
2) technology infrastructure,
application, network, market place, or
community. Apart from the information
architecture of these three layers, tasks also
remain in interoperability, user interface (front
end), and tech interface (back end) between
them. Innovation businesses should prosper if
allowed by relevant administration and
legislation, e.g. mobile guide app, in terms of
application, collection management system in
terms of infrastructure, and internet archive in
terms of data. To further develop these three
layers of digital business for GLAM, the main
concerns are:
• Technical: database standardization,
interoperability, location, functionality, user
interface, user experience;
• Social: digital divide, online visitor
communication on digital platforms;
• Financial: monetization of
exchange, business model, licensee,
Knowing that visitor/end-users enter the virtual
world of GLAM through various screens, the
value exchange networks are therefore
supposed to happen among units like cultural
institute, hardware, operation system provider,
app store, digital advertisement agency, etc.
This picture demonstrates a possible roadmap
for arts and culture to join the current
Hardware here indicates desktop, laptop,
tablet, and wearable options; operating
systems can be Windows, Android, iOS, etc.;
and the museum as content provider fabricates
the online collection, virtual exhibition, epublication, and education activities online and
mobile. It is indeed promising, according to this
value chain analysis, to build a sustainable
ecosystem of museum industry between the
visitor/end-user, material and immaterial
cultural content, and digital technology to boost
innovation business in arts and culture.
Perhaps it may not take long to reach the ideal
museum without walls, fairly and substantially.
Benjamin, W. (2009 [1936]).The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.CBA publishing.
Choudary, S. (2015).The Platform Stack: a unifying framework for digital business models. Platform Thinking.
Ng, I.,& Smith L. (2012).An Integrative Framework of Value.Towards a Better Understanding of the Role of
Value in Market and Marketing Review of Marketing Research. Volume 9, 207-243, Emerald Group
Publishing Limited.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945).Phenomenology of Perception. Gallimard: Paris.
Robertson, I. (Ed). (2005).Understanding International Art Markets and Managements. Routledge: London.
van Dijk, J. (2008).The Digital Divide in Europe.The Handbook of Internet Politics. Routledge: London.
Varto, J. (2013).Otherwise than Knowing. Helsinki: Publisher Aalto.
*Thanks are due to the Finnish Cultural Foundation for supporting this research project, of which the third part
relating to the innovation technology economy with digital cultural heritage is summarized here. Besides, those
lengthy discussions with Timo Itälä and Mika Nyman are earnestly appreciated.
ICOFOM Study Series, 44, 2016

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