5 December 12.30-13.30

‘But the Ashmolean is Too Big…’; Overwhelming Museums and why they are Useful in Spite of Everything

How can a huge, encyclopaedic museum like the Ashmolean can be made manageable, enjoyable and, most importantly, useful? The sight of visitors wandering, slightly dazed, around huge, encyclopaedic museums is familiar to anyone who has ever been in one. The sheer volume of material on display, the quantity of information and the scale and variety of issues addressed makes for an experience that is aesthetically, intellectually and physically exhausting.

Dr Jim Harris will discuss ways of breaking down the overwhelming experience of the large-scale museum in order to make it not only manageable, but enjoyable and useful. We will consider the different ways an object or a collection can be interrogated, and how a vast and unwieldy gathering of stuff can be made to operate as a tool for imaginative approaches to academic inquiry. This is not a talk about gimmicks or hilarious museum-hacks (though it may be mildly amusing and fairly gimmicky) but about thoughtful looking and how big museums can be made to work on the small scale: how a single object might be capable of unpacking a whole world.

Registration will open at 12.00pm with lunch served from 12.15pm, the talk beginning promptly at 12.30pm and conclude by 1.15pm.
Registration is essential so please use the Register button above to confirm your attendance.

About the speaker Dr Jim Harris trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and spent over a decade in music, theatre and television before applying the handbrake and returning to study. He took his BA, MA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he held postdoctoral and research fellowships before coming to Oxford in 2012. Although a specialist in late-medieval and Renaissance sculpture, he spent eight years as a director of a contemporary art gallery, is chair of trustees for an architectural education charity and writes and teaches internationally about teaching with objects. He is Founding Partner of the first-ever spinout business from the Ashmolean with Oxford University Innovation and a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 2. He is a season ticket holder at Dulwich Hamlet FC.

 

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