Curating History


Workshop Abstract

Museums display objects constructed in historical complexity which cannot be explained by one single narrative. This complexity constitutes an obstacle for museum actors, who are assigned the task of providing an interpretation that can never embrace the entirety of the narratives contained in one object. Additionally, this difficulty expands when objects have to be placed in the narrative of permanent exhibitions, which present certain specific constraints.

Permanent exhibitions are at the core of the work of most museums. Even if ‘permanent’ does not mean eternal, these exhibitions are the public expression of the museum’s collections and mission. Thus, considering the limitations in both presenting the historical complexity of objects and taking into account the constraint of choosing a narrative for permanent exhibitions, we wish to look out for ways in which the museum can be turned into a place of convergence where curators, researchers and audiences can think historically about objects.

Are there new and old ways of curating history in permanent exhibitions? How is it possible to bring together museums, academia, and the public? In organising this workshop, we would like to offer a place for discussion where curators and scholars from a broad variety of institutions (museums, universities, research institutes etc.) elaborate a joint reflection in both theoretical and practical terms, structured around four sessions: History, Responsibility, Mediation and Communication (between Curators & Scholars).


Sources: Image “Kunstkammer im Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart”, by Dr. Bernd Gross
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CHW’17: Call for Abstracts

The Call for Abstracts is now closed. Please come back later for information regarding the programme of the Workshop.


The European University Institute (EUI), in Florence, the Global History & Culture Centre at the University of Warwick, the CHAM – Research Centre, in Lisbon, in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art, in London, welcome papers for the workshop Curating History, which will take place at the EUI in Florence from the 10th to the 13th of October 2017.

You are invited to send proposals (max. 250 words, in PDF) for a 4000-word paper of a case study or a theoretical discussion that fits one of the four sessions: History, Responsibility, Mediation and Communication (between Curators & Scholars). The paper will be the basis for a 15-minute presentation at the workshop.

Please ensure that you indicate your name, academic/professional affiliation and which session you are writing your paper for. However, depending on the number of papers received, the organising committee may have to decide to allocate papers to a different session.

Deadline for submitting abstracts has been extended to the 1th February 2017. We welcome papers related to pre-20th century history or history of science, and particularly papers in line with the ‘History’ and ‘Responsibility’ sessions. Selection of abstracts will take place during the following two weeks. Once selected, participants will be invited to write their papers and submit them to the organising committee by the 1st September 2017. Papers will be made available so that participants can prepare for the discussion.

The organising committee is applying for funding to help covering travel expenses or accommodation in Florence. However, at this stage, grants for participants cannot be guaranteed.

Email for abstract submission:

Lisbon meeting 2016.02.26

On the 26th of February 2016, the Organising Committee met for the first time in Lisbon to discuss expectations, objectives and potential outcomes for the Curating History Workshop. Eventually, it turned out to be a day-long meeting in which all members of the committee participated in a thorough and exciting discussion about the role of museums, curators and scholars in our society.

Outcomes of the meeting

All participants agreed that the meeting was very effective in setting very clear scientific objectives for the workshop, which made it possible to build an abstract with which everyone agreed. The retained idea was the following: “Curating History; what happens when curators and researchers are brought together in museums”.

In brief, the workshop is intended to raise the question of the multiplicity of historical discourses in museums and how it is handled by both scholars and curators. With the workshop, scholars and curators are invited to actively think about the nature and terms of their relations with one another, about how they can improve the quality of their research, and also about the way history can be mediated in museums. Special attention is to be put also on the responsibility that curators and researchers have in the elaboration of historical knowledge with regards to the various audiences.

During the meeting, the participants defined the main ideas that will constitute the four sessions of the workshop. These ideas can be summarised by four key words: History; Responsibility; Mediation; and Communication (between scholars and curators).


All participants would like to thank the CHAM for hosting this meeting in their facilities!


Sources: Image by Matt Perich

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