Key Books and Essays

Simon Knell, ‘Border violence, democracy, and the museum‘, Museum Worlds 9 (2021). An open access, updated version of the first chapter in The Museum’s Borders.

Simon Knell, The Museum’s Borders: On the Challenge of Knowing and Remembering Well (London: Routledge, 2021 [2020]). An examination of the changing understanding of ethical knowledge and an argument for ‘contemporary museology’ as a form of enlightened practice, the book looks at museum attempts to communicate scientific, artistic and historical truths, arguing that museums are critical institutions for democracies. By arguing that ‘border thinking’ can help museums negotiate issues of race, identity, ideology, truth and memory, it attempts to move perceptions of change beyond the notion of turns and post-this and that thinking. Follow the link for detailed information on the content of this book and access to chapter 1.

Simon Knell (ed.), The Contemporary Museum: Shaping Museums for the Global Now, (London: Routledge, 2019 [2018]). Includes two chapters by me. The first, the introduction (pp.1-10) introduces the ‘global contemporary’ as a Zeitgeist and ‘the contemporary museum’ as an orientation to it. The second, chapter 1 (pp.13-36) discusses the implications of the global contemporary for the interpretation of the history of modern art in general, in museums and in countries at the margin. Follow the above link for detailed information on the content of this book and access to the accepted manuscript version of chapter 1.

Simon J. Knell. 2016. National Galleries: The Art of Making Nations, Routledge, London. A global study of national galleries (or national museums of fine art) and of the role of these institutions in the construction of national art and nations. Follow the link for detailed information on the content of this book and access to the accepted manuscript version of chapter 1.

Peter Aronsson and Simon Knell (eds) (for the Eunamus partnership). 2012. National Museums Making Histories in a Diverse Europe, Linkoping University Press, Linkoping. The concluding dissemination report of the Eunamus investigation. Available free online via the above link.

Simon Knell (ed.). 2012. Crossing Borders: Connecting European Identities in Museums and Online, Linkoping University Press, Linkoping. Eunamus dissemination report looking at art as an international language, regionalism in England, Sweden, Norway and Italy and online museum-like spaces, most notably in Greece. Available free online via the above link.

Simon J. Knell. 2010. ‘National museums and the national imagination‘, in Knell et al. (eds) National Museums: New Studies from around the World, Routledge, London. A probing of how the national imagination is curated in national museums and its relationship to the exterior world. Follow the link for information on the book’s content and access to the accepted manuscript version of chapter 1.

Simon J. Knell. 2007. ‘Museums, fossils and the cultural revolution of science: mapping change in the politics of knowledge in early nineteenth-century Britain’ in Simon Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Sheila Watson (eds), Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed, Routledge, London. An exploration of how institutions and disciplinary cultures change, and how that change can be revealed through studies of material culture. Follow the link for information on the book’s content and access to the accepted manuscript version of this chapter.

Simon J. Knell (ed.). 2007. Museums in the Material World, Leicester Readers in Museum Studies, Routledge, London, including the essay, ‘Museums, reality and the material world’. This book has an overall narrative which starts by demonstrating the empirical value of museums shared by all disciplines which have laid their foundations in the study of objects. It then goes on to problemitise this museum engagement by looking at the cultural politics of objects, objects in social worlds  and the many ways the object is transformed and lost. Follow the link for information on the book’s content and access to the introductory essay.

Simon J. Knell (ed.) 2004. Museums and the Future of Collecting, Ashgate, Aldershot, Second Edition, 266pp including new introductory chapter ‘Altered values: searching for a new collecting’. Reflections on why museums collect, what they collect and what they might collect instead. This is an expanded second edition with a new introduction. Follow the link for book contents and access to chapter 1.

Simon J. Knell. 2003. ‘The shape of things to come: museums in the technological landscape‘, Museum and Society, 1(3), 132-46. Versions also published as ‘Future museums: a European perspective’ in Huang, K. (ed.) Crisis and Opportunity: Museums in the New Century, National Museum of History, Taipei, 24-51, and in a shortened version for M Museos de México y del Mundo, 1(2), 18-27. A reflection on the technocrat’s imaginings of museum futures. You have free access to the Museum & Society article via the link above or you can access a digital version on this site via this link which will adapt to your device.

Simon J. Knell. 2000. The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851: A Science Revealed Through its Collecting, Ashgate, 377pp. This book discusses the establishment of museum culture in Britain by the literary and philosophical societies. It shows how the fashion for the emergent science of geology and for fossils, as time markers that reveal the history of the earth, drove this development forward in many parts of Britain. It views geology as a cultural enterprise in a period of social instability rather than as a science purely driven by ideas. Full access to this book on this site via the above link.

Other Work

Simon Knell, ‘Museos, territorio y representación/Museums, territory and representation‘, in Museología Crítica: Temas selectos. Reflexiones desde la Cátedra William Bullock/Critical Museology: Selected Themes. Reflections from the William Bullock Lecture Series (Bilingual), British Council/INBAL/MUAC, Mexico, (2019) 40-9 /228-36. A concise summary of a contribution to a lecture series I chaired at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City in the mid 2010s. I have explored the content of this paper more extensively elsewhere. Free access to the accepted manuscript via the link above.

Simon Knell, ‘Borders and bridges: museum and global cultural harmony’ (Mandarin), Journal of Natural Science Museum Research, 20(2) (2019), 66-72, trans. Yang Jin. (西蒙-奈尔著,杨瑾译:《桥梁与边界:博物馆与全球文化和谐》,《自然科学博物馆研究》,2019年第2期,第66-72页). An edited transcription of a public lecture given at Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an, in September 2018.

Simon Knell, ‘Situatedness’, presentation at the Nordic Museums Association Conference, ‘Where are the borders?’ in 2018. A YouTube recording of essentially the same paper given as ‘Borders and bridges’ above. This began the process of writing The Museum’s Borders.

Simon Knell, ‘Contemporary museology‘ (Mandarin), in Yang Jin (ed.) Opening and Sharing: New Research on Museology Theory and Practice, trans. Yang Jin, (Beijing: People’s Publishing House,  2018), 3-18.(西蒙—奈尔著,杨瑾译:《当代博物馆学》,载杨瑾主编:《开放与共享:博物馆学理论与实践新探索》,人民出版社2018年第3-18页). A paper considering the emergence of the Zeitgeist, ‘global contemporary’, and an argument for contemporary museology. Parts of this paper drew upon the introduction to The Contemporary Museum, while other parts laid the foundations for a chapter in The Museum’s Borders. The link above takes you to the accepted manuscript.

Simon J. Knell. 2016. ‘The gift of historical consciousness: museums, art and poverty’, in Viviane Gosselin and Phaedra Livingstone (eds) Museums and the Past: Constructing Historical Consciousness, University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver. A study of social boundaries in Vancouver and the transgressions of museums and artists.

Simon Knell. 2012. ‘The intangibility of things‘, in S. Dudley (ed.) Museum Objects, Routledge, London, 324-35. A constructivist reading of the museum object, it discusses the possibility of objects possessing an intangible twin. Access to accepted manuscript version of the chapter via this link. Please refer to the published version when citing.

Simon J. Knell (ed.) 1999. Museums and the Future of Collecting, Ashgate, Aldershot, First Edition, which includes the essay, ‘What future collecting?’. First edition of the 2004 version (please see second edition above).

Simon J. Knell. 1999. ‘From here to eternity? Creating a future for museum collecting’, in Ku, Ping-Hsing, (ed.) Proceedings of the International Academic Conference a Prospect to the Twenty-first Century Visual Art, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei.

Simon J. Knell. 1996. ‘What is important?’, in Charles W. Pettitt, & John R. Nudds (eds) The Value and Valuation of Natural Science Collections, Geological Society, London, 11-16.

Simon J. Knell. 1996. ‘The roller-coaster of museum geology’, in Pearce, S.M. (ed.) Exploring Science in Museums, New Research in Museum Studies, Athlone, 29-56. Explains that recent concern about the state of collections and public understanding represents a phase in the episodic support for museums and science. Access the accepted manuscript version via the above link.

Simon J. Knell (ed.). 1994. Care of Collections, Routledge, London, 250pp. A reader examining preventive conservation practice.

Simon J. Knell (ed.). 1994. A Bibliography of Museum Studies, Scolar Press, Aldershot, 240pp. Captures resources used in the Department of Museum Studies at that time. Since its early years, the Department had developed a comprehensive categorised bibliography of museum studies.

Simon Knell & Chris Collins. 1992. ‘The Local Geologist 7: Extinct again!’, Geology Today, 8, 62-65. On the conservation of geological specimens.

Simon Knell & Michael Taylor. 1991. ‘Museums on the rocks’. Museums Journal, 91(1), 23-25. On the state and status of museum geological collections.

Simon J. Knell & Michael A. Taylor. 1989. Geology and the Local Museum, HMSO, 150pp. Pioneering self-help guide for museum staff.

M.A.V. Gill & Simon J. Knell. 1988. ‘Tunbridge Wells Museum: Geology and George Abbott (1844-1925)’, The Geological Curator, 5, 3-16. A case study of the development, loss and recovery of a collection.

Simon J. Knell. 1987. ‘Geology Curators get on their Bikes’, Geology Today, 3, 136-138. About my peripatetic role as Travelling Geology Curator for the Area Museums Service for the South East of England.