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Museums and the Construction of Disciplines: Art and Archaeology in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher Whitehead


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This book has two converging foci: how art history and archaeology emerged as discrete disciplines in the nineteenth century as a consequence of political, circumstantial and museological drivers; and what this might mean for the apprehension and study of material culture today. Part one examines the nineteenth-century debates and events which led to the conceptual differentiation and physical separation of archaeological and artistic material culture, and argues that this construction of difference was contingent upon practical circumstances (such as questions of space in museums) and cultural politics rather than on any considered intellectual rationale. Part two examines the legacy of this culture of differentiation today, looking both at the collection, display and interpretation of material culture which might fall either into the (contestable) category of archaeology, or into that (equally contestable) of art. This analysis serves as a basis for a re-evaluation of some of the intellectual paradigms in which we work today, and with which we classify practices and material culture either in curricula, in the museum or elsewhere. It is argued that by recognising the politics and circumstances through which the two disciplines were delimited and distinguished from one another we may be able to glimpse (retrospectively) the possibility of alternative art histories and alternative archaeologies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead C

Series Editor(s): Hodges, R.

Publication type: Authored Book

Publication status: Published

Series Title: Debates in Archaeology

Year: 2009

Number of Pages: 160

Publisher: Duckworth

Place Published: London

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780715635087