Thank you for your paper – it was absolutely fascinating. I was really interested in how you brought to the fore the varying agendas and roles of each of the players in the exhibition making process, and encouraged us to take them all seriously in your analysis. Wonderful! Interesting that Tom Hume was director at this time – he came from Liverpool, of course, where had some very specific ideas about display (critiqued by Susan Pearce, in my paper) so I wondered what his role was in all this? Do you have a sense of that?
I have to say that I was quite shocked to see such an overt celebration of empire in a museum at this time – I shouldn’t be, of course, but Sorenson seems so different from the ethnography curators that I am researching from this period who have largely turned to quiet (if inconsistent) critiques of empire by the 1970s. So, given this, I wondered whether there was any push back against Sorrenson’s perspectives, either internally or externally, in relation to the ‘Imperial London’ display? Thanks again,
Thank you Claire for the kind comments, this is a newish field for me (the design part), so I feel very encouraged. Yes he is an interesting figure, and in the second chapter of my PhD (which I think is open access, but I can email through too) deals with his vision for the museum. Very much trying to uncover working histories of the 'ordinary Londoner', but I didn't have much chance to engage with his time in Liverpool and see what ideas were brought over. So I must check out your paper for sure. He definitely drew on the ideas of Harcourt and the London Museum trying to capture a sense of London as a whole and to instil a sense of pride which is really important when thinking about London as an imperial city and as a positive time.
I too was shocked and it seems an odd presentation when read against the literature of post Suez embarrassment and non overt celebration of empire. Largely accidental I think, except for the idea of creating a sense of pride and Sorenson's views. I would love to get hold of some of the original text panels, but so far no luck. I couldn't find any push back except the pre modern curators didn't want to hand over their floor space, and I couldn't find any critiques in newspapers etc. Sadly the archive is being packed up for the new money but for the book I will try and have another look.
@samaylett Sam, really enjoyed your presentation, thank you! (In my PhD I examined one of the Museum of London's temporary exhibitions, and presentations like yours always make me regret that the focus of my study didn't really leave space and time to consider the institutional histories on which current exhibitions certainly build in more or less explicit ways).
Listening to your talk reminded me again of Mieke Bal's discussion of spatial sequencing and its impact on how audiences interpret exhibition narratives (which I guess you probably know, on the off-chance that not, it's worth checking out: 'Telling, Showing, Showing Off', about a set of exhibition halls at the American Museum of Natural History), how the sequential experience alone establishes a sense of progression/progress, and if this is then coupled with a chronological sequence on top… I think this is the danger also when looking at exhibitions on their own rather than in the architectural context, as one might miss inadvertent sequences established through the succession of spaces and themes, however independently they might have initially been planned and designed. J
Thank you for your comments. I will definitely have to check out your PhD. I guess this is always the frustration with a PhD, our scope doesn't always allow to pick up on all the threads we want too. But we all contribute our unique view and I am eager to see what I'll learn from yours 🙂.
I know of Bal's work, but I've not incorporated it into my analysis, something I will endeavour to fix when I write up the book manuscript 😁. This is what I love about academic exchange, so thank you.
You're absolutely right and I feel like you've summarised my main thesis in this section of my PhD better than I could haha. And I was fortunate to have a great architectural historian as a supervisor who provoked me to think about the role of architecture in this way. I'm glad it has resonated.
@samaylett absolutely (re scope of PhD…)! And then one adds further threads in developing it to a book and while unfortunately that still doesn't quite feel enough one then, hopefully, eventually, turns the threads into a new project…
Looking forward to continue this discussion in a Berlin-post-conference-meet-up!
Absolutely, I always save all these additional ideas/parts that didn't make the cut in the hope of working them up for future projects (time permitting 😊 ).
Me too 😁
I very much enjoyed your talk. Thank you! I wonder if you could expand a little on the arrangement of the thematic galleries in relation to the chronological order.
Sam, I love your term "Civic Trophy Rooms." Absolutely still apt for a lot of museum projects today, especially newer national museums in the East with major money to employ high-end designers from the West. Barbara Fahs Charles