Cfp: Objects in Motion: Material Culture in Transition

Objects in Motion: Material Culture in Transition

8 June 2015 – 20 June 2015

CRASSH, University of Cambridge, Alison Richard Bldg, 7 West Rd, CB3 9DT  

Proposals for papers and for visual and performing art are welcome for the three-day interdisciplinary conference ‘Objects in Motion: Material Culture in Transition’. The conference is supported by and will be held at the Centre for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge on 18-20 June 2015. The deadline for all proposals is 15 March 2015, and registration is expected to open in April 2015 (

‘Objects in Motion’ will bring together diverse scholars, curators, writers, and artists to discuss material culture in transition. Material objects are produced within specific contexts – geographical, cultural, and temporal. This is true for things as diverse as the Great Sphinx built in Egypt at least 4500 years ago, the Lindisfarne Gospels illuminated in 8th-century Northumbria, a wooden ceremonial mask carved in 19th-century Nigeria, or a mobile phone made in 21st-century China.

What happens when objects such as these transition into other contexts? How are differences in use and meaning negotiated? Sometimes later reinterpretations and reincarnations (including ‘fakes’ and reproductions) incorporate elements of the objects’ original use and meaning, and other times they diverge entirely. This can affect not only the objects themselves but also the knowledge and experiences embedded within or produced by them – as with books, musical recordings, and technologies.

Scholars, curators, writers, and artists from all disciplines are welcome to propose relevant talks. Visual artists (including photographers) are also welcome to propose artwork on the theme to be displayed in the Alison Richard Building. Proposals for performing arts may be made as well, within the constraints of space and time stated below. The papers and art, selected by both CFP and invitation, will be complemented by events at local museums.

These diverse contributions will help to shed light on material culture dynamics which remain highly relevant even today despite the growth of multinational corporations, global communication, and increasing standardisation. They will also foster productive dialogue on different disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to studying and responding to these dynamics.

Guidelines for proposing a paper 

Proposals for talks should be emailed to the convenor Dr. Alexi Baker ( by 15 March 2015. They should include a title, an abstract of up to 250 words, a brief biography, contact information, and any institutional affiliations. Scholars at all stages of their careers including independent scholars are encouraged to apply, as are artists and writers who would like offer talks reflecting on the conference theme.

Guidelines for proposing visual or performing arts 

Proposals for visual or performing arts which reflect upon the conference theme should be emailed to the convenor Dr. Alexi Baker ( by 15 March 2015. The visual artwork will hang in the ground floor seminar rooms of the Alison Richard Building from the time of the conference until at least October 2015, and must be fitted to the available space and hanging facilities.

The artist(s) must be able to transport their works to the Alison Richard Building themselves and to install them with limited assistance from staff. Each piece will need to come fitted with string or hooks on the back so that they can be attached to the hanging rails in the seminar rooms with nylon string. (The type of rails in use can be seen here: Small labels may also be affixed near the artworks using white-tack.

Proposals for performing arts will be considered as well as long as they can be staged within the limited space of a seminar room, and have a running time of less than one hour. Possibilities could include for example recitations, musical performances, or self-contained dramatic performances.  Proposals for visual or performing arts should consist of:

•    Contact information and any institutional affiliations

•    Title of the installation or performance

•    Description of up to 250 words

•    CV and (if available) website of the artist

•    Examples of the work of the artist

•    Detailed installation or staging requirements

Dr. Alexi Baker
Visit the website at

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Regional Museums Panel Discussion at the Courtauld, 18 March 2015

A panel discussion which covers some of the issues raised at In(ter)ventions will be taking place at the Courtauld next month, for those who might be interested. Entry is open to all and admission is free.

A Future for Regional Museums?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

18.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN

Today, many regional museums – especially those under the control of Local Authorities – are weathering a financial and managerial crisis: subjected to cuts in funding, drastically reduced staffing and shrinking opening times. The contents of these museums and galleries, accumulated through the generosity of donors over the last 150 years, may soon be denied to their local populations and the public at large.

This urgent discussion addresses the current situation faced by regional museums and examines a number of emerging responses, asking whether any of them offer the answers that these longstanding and vital public institutions really need.



Paul Greenhalgh (Director, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich)

Ellen McAdam (Director, Birmingham Museums Trust)

Sarah Philp (Head of Programmes, The Art Fund)

Sharon Heal (Director, Museums Association)

Piotr Bienkowski (Independent Museum Consultant)

Chair, Giles Waterfield (Curator and Author)
This event is organised to coincide with ‘Cotton to Gold: Extraordinary Collections of the Industrial Northwest’, an exhibition of objects from Lancashire collections showing at Two Temple Place, London, until 19 April:

Organised by Jack Hartnell and Martin Caiger-Smith (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

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In(ter)ventions Keynote and Twitter

Felicity and I are looking forward to welcoming everyone to In(ter)ventions at the British Museum tomorrow. There are just a couple of things left to announce ahead of this. Firstly, Arthur MacGregor (author of Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century (2007); Sir Hans Sloane: Founding Father of the British Museum (1994); and editor of the Journal of the History of Collections) will be giving a keynote entitled ‘New Meanings from New Contexts: Afterlife and Reinterpretation in the Museum Collection’. He will be discussing how objects acquire new layers of meaning as they move from collection to collection.

Secondly, the event hashtag for twitter will be #objectinterventions. Please join @naomilebens in tweeting your thoughts about the themes and papers of the day!

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Registration now open

In(ter)ventions: Object Histories Outside and Inside the Museum
A British Museum student-led workshop
Raymond and Beverly Sackler Rooms, British Museum, Thursday 12th February, 9am-5.30pm

Reliquary of gold, richly enamelled and set with rubies, pearls and sapphires. © The Trustees of the British Museum, BM WB.67

Reliquary of gold, richly enamelled and set with rubies, pearls and sapphires. © The Trustees of the British Museum, BM WB.67

Naomi and Felicity are excited to announce that registration has now opened for the In(ter)ventions workshop, which will explore how objects have been used, changed and repurposed over the course of their existence.  Speakers include Journal of the History of Collections editor Dr Arthur MacGregor, as well as researchers and curators discussing a wide variety of objects from the British Museum (and a couple more which aren’t in the museum…).  You can view the full programme here.  Registration closes at 5pm on 5 February 2015.

To book your place at the workshop, please visit the registration page or go directly to the In(ter)ventions Eventbrite page.  Tickets cost £11.25, which includes lunch and refreshments.  On the day, registration will start at 9am and attendees should bring their ticket with them to the registration desk inside the Sackler Rooms of the British Museum.  Attendees with any special dietary or mobility requirements can list these in advance through Eventbrite, and the organisers will do their best to accommodate them.  For any further information, please contact

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In(ter)ventions programme, keynote, and registration details

BM Logo

In(ter)ventions: Object Histories Outside and Inside the Museum

A British Museum CDA Student-Led WorkshopPOT
Thursday 12th February 2015, 9am – 5.30pm

Naomi and Felicity are pleased to say that the full programme for In(ter)ventions has now been published!

And we are very excited to announce that the keynote speaker for the workshop is Arthur MacGregor, former curator at the Ashmolean Museum, author of Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections From the Sixteenth- to the Nineteenth-Century (Yale, 2007) and editor of the Journal for the History of Collections (OUP).

We got an incredible response to our call for papers, so when selecting speakers we tried to go for a range of objects, including gems, reliquaries, bird skins, sculptures and casts, coins and tokens, manuscripts, a “scare-devil”, and a bookcase made out of book covers.  We also scheduled papers which seemed to have a lot in common together: such as medieval and early modern objects of wonder  (session 1), and museological approaches to reanimating objects (session 5).  Interested readers should take a look at the full programme, and details of registration, which will open on 12 January.  Tickets will cost £11.25 (including lunch and refreshments) and will be available through Eventbrite.

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Workshop: Art, Aesthetics, and Function

The In(ter)ventions organizers are pleased to be able to publicize another British Museum CDA student-led workshop taking place later this year, on the theme of Art, Aesthetics and Function: Collaborative Approaches to Everyday Objects.  It’s happening on 20 April 2015, again in the Sackler Rooms of the British Museum.

The workshop is being organized by Alex Magub (SOAS/British Museum), and Helen Chittock (University of Southampton/British Museum), and they have already set up a workshop website.  There is a call for papers, which ends on January 30th.  Details of the programme and how to register will be published on the website shortly afterwards, so keep checking back for further information.

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Conference: Hidden Histories of Things

From the Commodity Histories blog, a conference taking place at University College London on Hidden Histories of Things: Genealogies of the Non-Human.  It looks like registration may already have closed but we’re listing it here in case anybody wants to enquire with the organisers:

Venue: Institute of Making, University College London

Date: 26 January 2015

UCL’s Institute of Making is a creative space for those interested in materials and the made world, providing a location for investigation, research and play with an enormous variety of materials.  The Open University’s Commodity Histories project  focuses on the histories of a wide range of commodities that have become an indispensable aspect of people’s daily lives throughout the world, providing a forum for new research in the field.

They have come together to propose an interdisciplinary workshop on the hidden histories of the non-human, understood in its widest sense to include materials, objects, animals, plants and natural phenomena.

Overwhelmingly, research on the non-human, whether stressing collaborative relationships between things and humans or conversely the intractability and resistance of certain properties of the non-human to human will and control, tends to focus on the contemporary world. This one-day workshop takes a step back and aims to explore how the histories of materials and non-human phenomena might inform our understanding of their present workings and future potentialities. It views history as a creative process, capable of suggesting new possibilities by revealing hidden stories and episodes from the past. We invite papers that range across the entire spectrum of the non-human and that problematise the present by asking new questions of the connected past. Papers may, for instance, explore:

· biographies of materials, plants, or commodities, outlining their various connectivities and agencies

· the complex journeys of particular artefacts from past to present

· how natural phenomena such as weather and climate have been understood in different  historical periods

·  animal-human relationships in historical context

·  the environmental and cultural consequences of the production of particular materials or minerals over time

Papers that deal with materials and natural phenomena in ‘unfamiliar’ spatial settings, e.g. locations in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Latin America, are particularly welcome as are abstracts from early career researchers and PhD students.

Papers will be circulated in advance of the workshop. Registration requests and abstracts of 300 words should be sent to by Monday 6th October 2014.

Conference organisers: Sandip Hazareesingh (OU), Sarah Wilkes (UCL), Mat Paskins (OU).

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