Title: A Work of Art in a Museum is a Work of Art in a Museum
Speaker: Peter van Mensch, Professor of Cultural Heritage, Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam)
musealisation, signification, museum critique, context
The significance of any object (including works of art) in a museum cannot be isolated from the physical and conceptual context in which it is presented, neither from the process of musealisation. A work of art in a museum is a work of art in a museum, nothing more, nothing less. Its significance (including its appearance) is manipulated by successive generations of curators, restorers, exhibition designers, educators and marketers. The paper starts from the assumption that museums but foremost their visitors may benefit from a ‘museum critique’. Knowledge of the complexity of the decision making process as to collecting, exhibiting and restoration will not only contribute to a broad(er) public support but will in the end also contribute to the ultimate purpose of museums: to help people determine their place in the world and enhance their self-respect and their respect for others.
Peter van Mensch is professor of cultural history at the Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam). Until recently he was senior lecturer of theoretical museology and professional ethics as well as course-director of the International Master Degree Programme in Museology at the same institution. He earned his PhD degree at the University of Zagreb on the basis of a thesis on the theory of museology. As researcher he is interested in developing an integral and integrated approach to heritage.