Museums in the Material World


Simon Knell (ed.) Museums in the Material World (London: Routledge, Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, 2007).


This book brings together a collection of readings that consider the object – or material culture – in the museum. It examines the museum’s underlying empiricism, the doubts raised by postmodernism (which at this time destabilising thinking), the implications of a world of consumption and finally a consideration of the ephemeral aspects of objects – that they do not represent an unchanging epistemological bedrock. The introductory chapter, which you can access on this site, explains the thinking behind the book.


Free access to the accepted manuscript version of Chapter 1 via the link below.



Museums, reality and the material worldSimon J. Knell

Section 1: The objective world 

The value of natural history collections in Latin American Conservation,  Paisley S. Cato

Characterization of voucher specimensWelton L. Lee, Bruce M. Bell, and John F. Sutton

Home Thoughts From Abroad: An Evaluation of the SAMDOK Homes Pool, Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark

Ceramics as testaments of the past: field research and making objects speak, Barbara E. Frank

In praise of connoisseurship, David Carrier

Material culture, Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley

Section 2: The subjective world

On a new foundation: the American art museum reconceived, Stephen E. Weil 

The art of art history, Donald Preziosi

Our (museum) world turned upside down: re-presenting Native American Arts, Janet Catherine Berlo and Ruth B. Phillips 

History as deconstruction, Alan Munslow

Processual, postprocessual and interpretive archaeologies, Michael Shanks, and Ian Hodder

Artefacts and the meaning of things, Miller, Daniel

Section 3:  The consumed world

The aristocracy of culture, Pierre Bourdieu

Stakeholder relationships in the market for contemporary art, Derrick Chong

Organising art: constructing aesthetic value, Jonathan Vickery

How Hello Kitty commodifies the cute, cool and camp, Brian McVeigh

The sociology of consumption, Colin Campbell

Inalienable wealth, Annette B. Weiner

Tournaments of value, Arjun Appadurai

Consuming fossils and museums in the nineteenth-century, Simon J. Knell

Dustup in the bone pile: academics v. collectors, Virginia Morell

Section 4: The transient world

Bones of contention: The repatriation of native American human remains, Andrew Gulliford

Contesting the West, Alan Trachtenberg

Abraham Lincoln as authentic reproduction: a critique of postmodernism, Edward M. Bruner

After Authenticity at an American Heritage Site, Eric Gable and Richard Handler

Diversity, identity and modernity in exile: ‘traditional’ Karenni clothing, Sandra Dudley

Mementoes as transitional objects in human displacement, David Parkin

Tangible reminders of September 11th, Glen Collins

On the rocks, Philip S. Doughty

Endangered species and the law, Valerius Geist

Museums, collections and biodiversity inventories, Pere Alberch