Period rooms als Knotenpunkte kulturellen Transfers

"Und gewiss wird man museologische Selbstverständlichkeiten und Tabus infrage stellen müssen [...]."1

The period room is an international phenomenon that originated in 19th century European museums and came to the USA at the beginning of the 20th century. The installation and furnishing of these "theaters of memory" [2] is only possible through networks of museum directors, curators, collectors, art dealers and monument conservators. After a long time of neglect, the period room has recently regained its popularity among curators and artists due to its immersive and narrative potential.

As furnished interiors that combine the most diverse object types creating seemingly inhabited living rooms, period rooms provide an illusion of the lifestyle, the taste and thus the culture of an epoch or region. The demand to visually reconnect the exhibit to its history and origin - especially in terms of displaced cultural artifacts - entails a critical debate on established forms of museum presentation. Concerning the period room, the challenge of reconstructing the circumstances of the displacement of objects and the question how these objects are displayed arises in a special way. The object’s biography is neglected in favor of a homogenous image. How can this immersive display strategy meet the recently increasing demand to reveal the provenance of the single object?

The one day workshop in Bochum is dedicated to these networks and the various forms of cultural exchange and transfers, particularly regarding the period room. The workshop will explore the structures and actors within the museum networks and the connections to the art market as well as the displaced objects, their provenance and their display. Workshop papers can deal with the following aspects, but do not have to be limited to them:

  • Under which conditions does the displacement of objects (both national and international) take place?
  • How can the museum networks and their connections to the art market be described? How are the networks organized and who has authority?
  • Which arguments (e.g. by monument conservators) are put forward against the displacement of objects?
  • What challenges do museums with period room collections face today with regard to uncertain provenance?
  • To what extent is the presentation of period rooms used to stage "the familiar" and "the foreign"? Which concepts of "the familiar" and "the foreign" are transported by period rooms?
  • What concept of culture or cultural identity is pursued with the installation of period rooms?
  • What are the conditions of acquiring and installing modern period rooms today?

The workshop is part of the research project "Period rooms. Between exhibition space and living room negotiating past and present" funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and it is organized in cooperation with Dr. Andrea Meyer (Technische Universität Berlin).

Participants are asked to give a paper of about 30 minutes which will serve as the basis for the discussion in Bochum on 23 May.

Please send an abstract (300 words) and a short CV by 25 November 2018 to Stefan Krämer (stefan.kraemer-b1c@rub.de), subject: Workshop Period Room.

  • 1. Bénédicte Savoy: Die Provenienz der Kultur. Von der Trauer des Verlusts zum universalen Menschheitserbe, Berlin 2018, S. 58.