Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

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Vacancy: The Bishop Otter Scholarship

The trustees of the Bishop Otter Trust seek to appoint a person of proven academic ability to a scholarship for exploration of theology and the arts, based in Chichester, working in partnership with the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s (ASK), London. The scholarship will be for two years. The successful candidate will be ready to undertake some original, post-graduate work of research that will generate theological debate (seminar, lecture, blog, etc.), provide a research resource for the bishop of Chichester, and achieve publication that will constitute serious scholarship. Residential accommodation (including utilities, etc.) is provided.

The scholarship is for £7,000 per annum. The time commitment to the scholarship is three days a week residence in Chichester, the equivalent of a .5 part-time post of 20 hours. Holiday is pro rata for a .5 part-time post.

Applications close at 12.00 noon on Friday 17 March, 2017. Interviews will be held at The Palace, Chichester, on Wednesday, 5 April, 2017. Details are available from: Mrs Margaret Gibson, The Palace, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1PY


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ICOM appoints Director of Dommuseum as its new Director General


‘Museums Heritage Advisor’ reports that Peter Keller has been appointed Director General of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) today.

Keller, who is currently serving his second mandate as ICOM Treasurer, has been Director of the Salzburg Cathedral Museum (Dommuseum), Austria, since 2002. In 2014, he initiated a merger with three other museums to form the DomQuartier Salzburg, a progressive institution whose visitor numbers soared to five times those of the Dommuseum.

Peter Keller studied art history in Vienna, Bonn and Cologne as well as museology in Paris. For three years, he worked at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin before joining the Dommuseum. In addition to his role of Treasurer at ICOM, Keller has also served as Chair and Secretary of the organisation’s International Committee for Historic House Museums (DEMHIST) and as a board member of the Austrian National Committee. In Austria he was also a member of the jury for museum accreditation and of the national advisory council for museums.

Good to see a ‘religion in museums’ man reach the top!



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Religion on Display at the National Museum of African American History

This week the Sacred Matters web magazine published an article by Judith Weisenfeld (Professor of Religion at Princeton University) on religion at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Read it here.


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Calls closing soon

Here are a few calls for papers / applications closing this month.

Call for Papers for the Special Issue on Installing Islamic Art: Interior Space and Temporal Imagination (thematic volume planned for Summer 2018)
Proposal deadline: 31 January 2017

This special issue of the International Journal of Islamic Architecture invites papers that explore the history, culture and politics of the interior space in the field of Islamic art and architecture from the eighteenth century to the present, as well as to those that extend discussion into the future. Preference is given to topics dealing with global trends, covering a wide area of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, but new approaches to the installation of Islamic art in well-established Euro-American museums would be welcome as well. Read more about the call.

On a related note, in February Manchester University will hold a conference on exhibiting Islamic Art, entitled “From Malacca to Manchester: Curating Islamic Collections Worldwide” (Call now passed)

Call for Papers: Material and Sensory Cultures of Religion (conference),
March 3-4, 2017, Ball State University, Muncie, IN
 10 January 2017

The Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion invites paper and panel proposals that engage material and sensory cultures of religion from any historical, geographical, or theoretical specialization. This section of the MAAR welcomes submissions that investigate religious art and iconography, embodiment, commonplace artifacts, music and aural cultures, sensoria, architecture, media and technology, food studies, and museums, among other relevant topics, as primary modes of inquiry and analysis from scholars in the Midwest and beyond who will contribute to this growing conversation. This year we are especially interested in proposals that engage the conference theme of “Religion in Higher Education” … Proposals may approach material, visual, and/or sensory cultures of religion from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including, but not limited to, religious studies, history, anthropology, fine art, theology, museum studies, and American Studies. Papers and panels organized around books, films, museum exhibits, archival collections, teaching projects, and digital humanities projects are also encouraged. Read more here

Call for Applications for Spring School, University of Helsinki: From the sanctuary to the museum: Displaying the sacred (20–24 March 2017)
Deadline:  15 January 2017.

This week-long course will explore the contexts in which sacred objects have been put on display—or not—from the Middle Ages to the present. Although the primary focus will be on the visual and material culture of the Latin Church, a wider frame of reference will be provided by applying perspectives taken from archaeological and ethnographic discourses on the transfer of ritual objects from their original cultural settings to become part of museum collections. The Spring School welcomes applicants from across the fields of art history, cultural history, ethnography, museology, anthropology, religious studies, and archaeology.  Read more at:


Call for Papers: Restorying Canada – Reconsidering Religion and Public Memory A Conference and Public Event (University of Ottawa, 18–20 May 2017)
Deadline: 1 February 2017

The Conference will bring together people from multiple fields of expertise who are working on projects broadly related to the theme of religion and public memory in Canada that consider the multiple nations that brought this country into being. We welcome proposals in areas such as the study of religion, history, anthropology, Indigenous studies, law, museum studies, political theory, literature, art, media studies, environmental studies, and archaeology. Since we consider Restorying Canada to include diverse modes of storytelling, we encourage proposals for both traditional and innovative forms of presentation. Read more. 

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Trying to understand ‘Museum Multiplicities’

When we started this blog three years ago, it was Steph Berns who came up with the wonderful phrase ‘when religion and museums collide.’ It’s honoured by being quoted in a 2014 book I discovered not long ago online:

Peressut, Luca Basso, Colombo, Cristina F. and Postiglione, Gennaro. 2014. Museum Multiplicities: Field Actions and Research by Design. Mela Book 10. Milan: Politechnico di Milano.

It’s basically a report on a European project on ‘”migration” as a paradigm of the contemporary global and multicultural world,’ and the project’s main objective was ‘to define innovative museum practices that reflect the challenges of the contemporary processes of globalisation, mobility and migration.’

I concentrated on the (unnumbered) chapter on ‘Rethinking Religion Representation as Transcultural Experience in Museums: the On-Site Experimental Action at Museo Diocesano di Milano’ by Rita Capurro, Sara Chiesa, Eleonara Lupo, Davide Spallazzo and Raffaella Trocchianesi. It describes the development of a strategy to interpret a set of paintings in the museum concerned with the Eucharist, through a number of tablet-based apps.

It sounds hugely interesting and suggestive, but I confess to having found it all VERY difficult to understand. I would like to think that’s because of the non-native academic-report English in which it’s written, but I’m afraid it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s the effect of too much Christmas, or perhaps it’s just a weak brain.

Anyway, have a look and see what you think


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Just a few places left…

Free Workshop

Religion & Heritage on Display


Saturday 4th February 2017, 10.30am – 4.30pm

More and more exhibitions and displays are addressing religion and heritage. These projects are sometimes in museums and sometimes in places of worship, but they all seek to present religion (however defined) to a general public audience. This informal workshop will bring together reports on some of the more recent. The aim will be to enable people involved in new projects to exchange information and ideas.

Venue: Institute of Archaeology, Gordon Square, London, Room 612.

Nearest tubes: Euston / Euston Square.

Format: twenty-minute presentations, with an introduction and time for discussion.

Catering: teas/coffees will be provided, and participants invited to contribute to the cost. Packed lunches can be eaten in the Common Room or lunch obtained locally.

 Chairs: Crispin Paine IoA UCL and John Reeve IoE UCL.

Speakers: the following are confirmed:

  • Keynote: Marion Bowman OU
  • Marius Felderhof: Museum of World Religions project in Birmingham
  • Lucy Trench: Religion in the V&A and the Science Museum
  • Christopher Ferguson: ‘5000 Years of Faith’ at Auckland Castle
  • Sarah Turner: Canterbury Cathedral
  • Rebecca Bridgman: Birmingham Museums Trust ‘Faith in Birmingham’ gallery
  • Gemma Papineau: Panacea Museum, Bedford
  • Antonia Lovelace: ‘Faith in Focus’ Leeds City Museum

Booking and Enquiries: to avoid overcrowding, please let Crispin know if you would like to come. First come, first served!

Sponsored by the Heritage Section of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL