Miriam Mallalieu

What does a museum think it is? Research and practice at the intersection of knowledge, interpretation and organisation.

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A museum is a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited. An encyclopaedic museum, particularly, has a collection of objects, according to Wikipedia, that are “universal” and “representative of the world”. My research explores the museum as a structure of knowledge through its collection of objects. I am interested in how the world is represented through objects and how collections are used to form narratives on contemporary and historical understanding. I am interested in how objects are changed through their context within a collection, implications of active and passive objects, questions of significance, value and narrative, subjectivity and politics of collection, and how all of these contribute to form a structure that claims to be a ‘universal representation of the world’.  

There are questions about the significance of object-based knowledge in contemporary culture due to increasing digitisation and the demand and expectation of virtual and interactive learning and object engagement. Exploring how physical objects are translated and understood in digital contexts is becoming increasingly important as museums join interactive communities and artificial intelligence is developed to have a role in cultural heritage. It is important to understand the implications of the formation of collections, how objects are understood as a part of that context, and how the structures that are formed affect the way in which these objects are understood, and by implication, the world they are meant to represent. 

Names of Supervisors: Prof. Mary Modeen, Dr Dominic Smith, Paul Harrison