Society of Architectural Historians 2021 Annual International Conference April 14–18 in Montréal, Canada
The paradox of the architectural exhibition, in which conceptually complex and physically large works of architecture threaten to exceed the space in which they are presented, can be extended to the collection of architecture by museums and other cultural institutions. In that context, objects and spaces never intended to be apprehended in the museum are nevertheless acquired, displayed, and reinterpreted according to its biases, which include a foregrounding of aesthetic distance and an emphasis on origin and authenticity. Scholarship on architectural exhibitions largely focuses on contexts with contemporaneous disciplinary significance: specialized architecture museums that primarily collect drawings and models, large influential exhibitions staged by major art museums, and the recent profusion of architectural bi- and triennials. The scholarship of architectural museology has the potential to address other prevalent ways in which architecture is collected and musealized, such as period rooms or other exhibitionary scenography, archeological fragments presented individually or as a refashioned whole, environments that stage both the building and its urban context, or instances when the museum’s own building serves as a central feature of its exhibition. These forms are generally not self-reflexive, but rather present extra-architectural narratives about history, culture, or heritage.
This session invites papers that address the problematics of architecture’s musealization and collection through case studies of institutions, collections, or individual objects in underexamined forms and contexts. Papers on any location or time period may address such questions as: What regulatory regimes or policy developments have emerged to account for the collection of architecture? What new interpretive lenses or display strategies structure interaction with musealized architecture? How do curators reconcile the conflicting demands for architecture to serve as both a primary object of concern and a scaffold for other collections or narratives? How does the collection of architecture pose alternatives to modern art-historical notions of authenticity?
Session chair: Elizabeth Keslacy, Miami University