The question is not only what we choose to reconstruct, but also how we do it, for whom, and to which end. The basic means in mounting an exhibition are objects or themes, words, pictures and all the relevant constructions that are used in order to support the exhibition story as already discussed. But, there is something more. It is the way in which all the above elements are combined and enhanced by the use of space, colour and light that creates a context for the display Swain The impact of space on the construction of meaning, and the way not only objects, but whole cultures are perceived is a well-studied topic whose discussion exceeds the scope of this paper see, among others, Fleming ; McLeod ; Psarra ; Moser ; and Tzortzi Questions to consider include: How are objects distributed in space?
What kind of circulation patterns is created? How is design employed? Or, do they generate confusing messages? A basic factor is the size of exhibition spaces. Space may also be used in order to demarcate and distinguish between different cultural groups Sandell This is particularly common in many large universal museums where space allocation may invoke cultural difference.
For example, linear, sequential placement of objects may convey a sense of progression from simple to complex societies, whereas centralised placement may be employed to give objects significance. Certainly, this sketchy reference does not do justice to a vast topic. The point I wish to make is that space and design matters have an ethical dimension which is critical to the representational meanings produced in museum exhibitions, and that attention to these issues should be a concern shared not only by designers and architects, but by all those involved in exhibition making.
For the larger part of the visiting public, museums are places of truth. The ethical responsibilities facing exhibition organizers are obvious, and yet often overlooked. In other words, what we exhibit and what we say authorizes, authenticates, and soothes, or, in contrast, offends, disturbs, and irritates.
It is important to remember that exhibitions communicate values, and that these values are often competing or contested. Overall, it is only through the process of systematically reflecting on, and assessing our ethical commitment to our diverse audiences, that we may eliminate some practices as unjustifiable, offensive, or wrong Wylie It has further been suggested that a key ethical principle guiding all exhibition work should be openness and honesty.
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For the museum this may mean increased social responsiveness, delegating curatorial power through collaboration with interested parties, interrogating customary routines, and instigating dialogue cf. Merrimann For the visiting public this may entail empowerment, increased sensitivity towards delicate issues, exploring new ideas, and the breaking of stereotypes. Moreover, as Wood and Cotton 38 pointed out, evidence presented honestly and open-endedly invites visitors into the interpretive process and allows them opportunities to challenge both the views of the curator and their own preconceptions.
The ethics of museum exhibitions is not only about sensitive or disputed content, It is also about our beliefs, our assumptions, and our image of the world. So far as we, museum professionals, are ready to recognise the ethical dimension underlying most museum activities and to question taken-for-granted or unintentional practices, museums may become a ground for reflexivity and respectful thinking. This includes osteological material whole or part skeletons, individual bones or fragments of bone and teeth , soft tissue including organs and skin, embryos and slide preparations of human tissue.
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The definition does not include hair and nails. Due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area highly acidic water, low temperature, lack of oxygen , bog bodies have retained internal organs and their skin, although severely tanned, but not their bones. The controversy surrounding Body Worlds concerns issues of human dignity and respect for the dead as well as the value of the exhibition as education or entertainment, art or anatomy, science or sensationalism Eklund and de Trafford Walter , where rich bibliography takes the argument a step further by examining whether plastination could be accepted as a means of disposing of the body.
Yet, as these nuances are difficult to discern in practice, the report stresses the need for consultation and close collaboration with the groups involved. Faced with the issue that fresh sage could cause conservation problems, museum conservators placed freeze-dried sage with these objects, thereby meeting both conservation and cultural beliefs AAMD 2.
Should we Display the Dead?.
Museum and society 7 3 : — Code of Ethics for Museums. Washington D. Bersterman, T A Companion to Museum Studies. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. Ethics Guidelines. Chelius Stark, J The Art of Ethics. London and New York: Routledge, pp. Classen, C and Howes, D Sensible Objects.
Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture. Oxford and New York: Berg, pp.
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Cuno, J ed. Whose Culture? The Promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities. Princeton: Princeton University Press. A Code of Ethics for Curators. Dean, D Museum Ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums. Edson, G ed. London and New York: Routledge. Edson, G Practical Ethics and the Contemporary Museum. Museology Quarterly 23 1 : 5— Eklund, J and de Trafford, A Exhibition review.
Sydney: Australian Museum. Fleming, D Gerstenblith, P Museums, the Market and Antiquities. Property Rights and Museum Practice. University of Chicago Cultural Policy Workshop. Goldstein, L and Kintigh, K Ethics and the Reburial Controversy. American Antiquity 55 3 : — Hallman, R Code of Ethics.click here
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James, S Making Early Histories in Museums. Jenkins, T Karp, I and Kratz, C Cultural Encounters. Kilmister, H Kreps, C Lidchi, H London: Sage, pp. Lohman, J and Goodnow, K eds. Human Remains and Museum Practice. Marstine, J McCarthy, C Oxford and New York: Berg. McClusky, P McLeod, S ed. Reshaping Museum Space.
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Architecture, Design, Exhibitions. McManamon, F Merriman, N Heritage Conservation in Modern Society. Moser, S The Devil is in the Detail. Museum of London. Museums Association MA. London: Museums Association.
Peers, L and Brown, A eds. Phillips, R Psarra, S Ravelli, L Museum Texts: Communication Frameworks. Rees Leahy, H Under the Skin.
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