Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

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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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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

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Challenging Memories: Silence and Empathy in Heritage Interpretation Conference

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the network ‘Silence, Memory and Empathy in Museums and at Historic Sites’ has been working for two years to explore the diversity of approaches to silence and empathy, to share practice and develop ways of working between academics and practitioners. The concluding conference will be held at the conference centre at Buckfast Abbey in Devon from 17-19 July 2013 with keynote speakers Professor Jay Winter (Yale University) and Dr. Elizabeth Bonshek (University of Canberra).

The conference will run for two days with practitioner-led workshops, and tours of historic sites in this unique setting of the Benedictine monastery at Buckfast Abbey.

To register, please fill in the booking form and send to by 30thApril 2013. For more information visit

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2013 Eastern International Regional Meeting on Material Religion

The Eastern International Region of the AAR’s 2013 Regional Meeting will include a series of special sessions on the theme of Material Religion.

The conference will take place on May 10–11 2013 at University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Key note speakers will include Dr. Simon Coleman (University of Toronto) and Dr. Rosalind Hackett (University of Tennessee), with a special information session entitled, “How to Publish in Journals: The Case of Material Religion” presented by Dr. S. Brent Plate, Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the journal, Material Religion.

For more information visit

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Encountering the sacred in museums – Study Day at the British Museum

Reliquary Cross

Reliquary Cross

The British Museum is holding a study day on Friday 15 March entitled  ‘Encountering the sacred in museums’.

Event description:

What role do museums play in visitors’ religious and spiritual lives? Join us for a unique day of discussions on the varied ways visitors practise their faith and experience the sacred in museums. Featuring speakers from a mix of museum and academic backgrounds, this event will explore the visitor experience at venues including the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the Creation Museum in Kentucky and the recent ‘spiritual journeys’ exhibitions at the British Museum.

This day will be of particular interest to students of museum and/or religious studies, those working within the Museum and Gallery sector as well as members of the public.

Programme details:

  • ‘What is sacred?’
    Karen Armstrong, Historian of Religion
  • ‘Presenting Islam’
    Qaisra Khan, Project Curator- Faith & Islam, ZNM Project, The British Museum
  • ‘Beyond belief – the role of museums in interpreting religion’
    Rickie Burman, Development Manager, The National Gallery and Emeritus Director, Jewish Museum London
  • ‘Humans riding on the backs of Dinosaurs: A walk through the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky USA’
    Dr. John Troyer, Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society Department of Social and Policy Sciences University of Bath
  • ‘Keeping magic live’
    Dr Fiona Candlin, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies, Birkbeck
  • ‘Visitor responses to the British Museum’s Treasures of Heaven exhibition’
    Stuart Frost, Head of Interpretation, The British Museum and David Francis, Interpretation Officer, The British Museum
  • ‘God in the museum’
    Steph Berns, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Researcher at the University of Kent and The British Museum

Event details:

  • £35, Members/concessions £28
  • 10.30am – 5.00pm
  • At the British Museum’s Stevenson Lecture Theatre (map)
  • Morning and afternoon refreshments will be provided
  • The Museum will remain open until 20.30

Book online at:

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Socrel Conference on Material Religion

SocRel (The British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group) will be hosting their Annual Conference in Durham University this year on the physical, material dimension of religious life and practice, one of the major themes of religious research over the last decade. The event will encourage interdisciplinary discussion of the significance of material culture in contemporary religion, including the images and architecture of sacred places and the objects and practices of everyday life.

Venue: Durham University, UK
Date: 9 – 11 April 2013

Topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Material religion in everyday life
  • Sacred objects in museums and galleries
  • Religion and the arts
  • The materiality of gender, class, age and ethnicity
  • Sacred objects: statues, icons, relics, holy books, architecture
  • Religion, landscape and the environment
  • Marketing and consuming religion
  • Religion and the body: ritual, experience and emotion
  • Health, sickness, disability, death and bereavement
  • The materiality of religious media and technologies
  • Research methods for the study of material religion

For more information please contact Tim Hutchings and Joanne McKenzie at