Over the course of the last decade, many museums have embraced new ways of storytelling. In dialogue with their communities and audiences, and often under pressure by museum activists, museum staff and curators have grappled with systemic racism and their institutions’ implications in histories of colonialism, nationalism, and exclusion.
In response, curators of history, art, archeological and anthropological museums have enlisted contemporary artists as well as new and traditional narrative and visual media to face these entangled memories and histories, to embrace practices of redress and repair, and to tackle other pressing contemporary issues, among them global warming, migration, genocide, and systems of inequality. Critical museum practices have consciously sought to break with linear narratives of progress and began to experiment with new forms of „recognition and identification to unsettle received narratives about the past and/or to produce new forms of subjectivity“ (Andrea Witcomb). Other museums, however, have held on to and reimagined narratives of scientific progress, nostalgia, and national celebration. We are interested in the simultaneity of divergent narrative modalities found in contemporary museums: in multivocality and -lingualism as well as in mono-perspectival exhibition concepts.
The proposed volume focuses on narratives and narration in museums and heritage institutions today as well as visions and dreams for future museum practices on a local, regional, national, transnational, and global scale. Where and how are established narratives rewritten, questioned, and deconstructed? Where and how are new narratives created and told? How do these new museum practices involve storytelling and knowledge based in the communities the museums are out to serve? Whose voices are heard, amplified, or muted? How do museums enlist new and old media? How do they mobilize affect, empathy and recognition in their storytelling efforts? The volume addresses cognitive, emotional, ethical, aesthetic, experiential, and political questions raised by contemporary museum narratives and curatorial practices. Contributors are asked to reflect whether they approach the concept of narrative on the level of the „story“ (What is narrated? What narratives are created?) or on the level of ‘discourse’ (How do the museum and its various agents create narratives?). Case studies are asked to explore current and new (including experimental) trends in museum and exhibition narratives and narration.
Among key questions and thematic strands about narratives and narration in museums and heritage institutions today and in the future, this volume aims to tackle:
- the objectives, possibilities, challenges, limitations and effects of story-telling
- the creation of individual and collective perspectives
- agency and museum narratives
- non-narrative techniques to deconstruct established narratives
- the narration of difficult knowledge / heritage (such as genocide, dictatorship, war, terrorism, trauma, colonialism, and slavery)
- the relation between stories and artifacts
- the relation between memory, history, and museum narratives
- forms of entangled, multidirectional, or agonistic memory
- the narration of positive or ‘happy’ story-telling
- the function of narrative in representing, performing, creating, and deconstructing discourses
- the relation between cognitive and affective functions of narrative
- the question how ethical objectives or concerns influence museum narratives
- discourses of power and museum narratives
- storytelling and reshaping narrative regarding decolonizing the museum
- indigenous story-telling in the museum
- the role/function of fiction and art for the creation of narratives in history museums
- the use of narratological categories such as focalization, voice, distance, multi-perspectival narration, etc. for the analysis of museum exhibitions
- the relation of forms of empathy and experience to narratives/stories in museums
- the relation of space/spatiality and museum narratives
- any experimental forms of narrative in museums
- the involvement of museum visitors as co-curators/-writers in museum practices, such as in museum laboratories
- the performativity of museum narratives
- the openness, closures, and ambiguities that museum narrative can create
- the roles and functions of narrative in educational activities and practices of museums
- multimedia and digital representational techniques to create or supplement museum narratives
- the creation and forms of virtual museum narratives
We invite academic researchers from literary studies, cultural studies, museum and heritage studies, public history, historiography, memory and media studies, architecture, cultural anthropology, sociology, political studies, archeology, and art history, as well as museum practitioners, curators and educators, and exhibition designers to contribute to the volume.
Please send abstracts of up to 500 words including a maximum of 8 keywords, alongside a 200-word biographical note to both volume editors Kerstin Barndt and Stephan Jaeger @ email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for abstract submissions is 15 November 2021.
The book will entertain two formats. Contributors can either propose a full chapter proposal (expected length 7000–8000 words), including case studies, or a „short“ reflection of about 2500 to 4000 words. Short reflections can be on theoretical aspects relating to „museums and narratives“ or on concrete case studies on new museums narratives. The preliminary date for first full manuscripts is July 31, 2022.
The edited volume will be published with De Gruyter as volume 1 of the new series Museums and Narrative, series editors Kerstin Barndt (University of Michigan) and Stephan Jaeger (University of Manitoba), to appear in 2023. For further information on the book series including information regarding submitting a proposal for a full book manuscript (authored book or edited collection), please see https://blog.degruyter.com/call-for-manuscripts-museums-and-narrative/ or email acquisition editor Myrto Aspioti at email@example.com.
The members of the international advisory board of Museums and Narrative are Silke Arnold-de Simine (University of London), Jennifer J. Carter (Université du Québec à Montréal), Steven Cooke (Deakin University), Eric Gable (University of Mary Washington), Jenny Kidd (Cardiff University), Stefan Krankenhagen (Universität Hildesheim), Erica Lehrer (Concordia University), Amy Lonetree (University of California, Santa Cruz), Suzanne MacLeod (University of Leicester), Jesmael Malaga (Sol Plaatje University), Peter Mc Isaac (University of Michigan), Thomas Thiemeyer (Universität Tübingen).