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20:00 – 21:30


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What to Keep?

Sharon Macdonald & Jennie Morgan

Your smartphone, the painting that you inherited, the empty can of the soda you just drank... The things we own and use not only reflect our personalities, but also characterise the time we live in. Museums collect a broad variety of these fragments of time that are of significant cultural or scientific value. But how do these institutions decide what (not) to keep? There are so many possible things that might be held on to for the future, but what ends up being kept in museums and in people's own homes? Which values, motivations, emotions, and properties of things themselves shape what does – and what does not – make it into our future?

This lecture draws on research from the Heritage Futures research programme*. This research included studies of museums and also of individual homes, looking at topics such as collecting, storage and disposal. All of which are relevant for the archives that will be available in the future. 

*The book of the Heritage Futures research programme is available open access here.

Sharon Macdonald is Professor of Social Anthropology in the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where she directs the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage. She has wide-ranging interests that include the cultural politics of museums and heritage, and questions of remembering and forgetting. Her current projects include Making Differences: Transforming Museums and Heritage (Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, 2015-2022), Curating Digital Images (DFG, 2019-2023), and Matters of Activity. Image, Space, Material (DFG 2019-2025). She led the Profusion-theme of the Heritage Futures project (Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2015–2019).

Jennie Morgan is Lecturer Heritage in the History, Heritage and Politics Division at the University of Stirling, and Programme Director of the University's MSc Heritage. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the theory and practice of contemporary museums, often approached through the lens of organisational anthropology. She is especially interested in changing ideas of what museums are (or what they could be in the future), and has published on a range of topics from collecting and disposal, to exhibition-making, and museum redevelopment. She was a Research Associate on the Profusion-theme of the Heritage Futures project (Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2015-2019).

Moderator: Arjen Dijkstra, head of the University Museum of the University of Groningen.

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