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Establishing the manifesto: art histories in the nineteenth-century museum

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher Whitehead


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This essay examines three proposals for the reconfiguration of the national museums in London dating from the 1850s and considers some of the issues they raise in relation to the study of the history and theory of museums and disciplinarity. The purpose of this is to focus on the importance of the museum as a forum for the development of the disciplinary practices of art history in mid-nineteenth-century Britain. I argue that the curatorial act of representing art history in museum display – situating collected objects three dimensionally, in relation to the transit and forms of engagement of imagined visitors – was actually constitutive of certain intellectual approaches and practices of art history as a discipline. The essay argues that the project of art museum display brought with it certain unique ways of thinking about, and configuring, art history, and these have been important for the intellectual and professional legacies of disciplinarity of which art historians are possessed, which guide and delimit practices and which govern where we site, and how we view, objects and history in or through objects.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead C

Editor(s): Knell, SJ; Macleod, S; Watson, S

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Museum Revolutions: How museums change and are changed

Year: 2007

Pages: 48-60

Edition: 1st

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London and New York

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780415444675