Book Chapter

What not to collect: Post-connoisseurial dystopia and the profusion of things



Macdonald S & Morgan J (2018) What not to collect: Post-connoisseurial dystopia and the profusion of things. In: Schorch P & McCarthy C (eds.) Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

A key – some might even say the key – curatorial role is to decide what to collect. What, that is, should be preserved for the future? In this chapter, we present ethnographic research with curators of contemporary everyday life. As we show, these curators struggle with a profusion of things, stories and information that could potentially be collected. Moreover, they widely report the struggle to be intensifying. Exploring their perceptions and what these mean in practice in their work, we argue that while neo-liberal and especially austerity politics has an important role in intensifying their sense of anxiety, their experience cannot be reduced to this. On the contrary, their intimation of dystopia is as much a function of other – in some ways utopian – aspirations and politics, as well as of a relativisation of value. These all contribute to transforming the nature of curatorship more widely.

FundersArts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date online30/11/2018
PublisherManchester University Press
Place of publicationManchester

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Dr Jennie Morgan

Dr Jennie Morgan

Senior Lecturer, History


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