Planet History

Author Archive for Dr. Mirjam Brusius

Buchankündigung: Museum Storage and Meaning. Tales from the Crypt

Edited by Mirjam Brusius, Kavita Singh

Museen bestehen zum Großteil aus Sammlungen, die sich im Depot befinden. Was hat es mit diesen Objekten auf sich? Weshalb fühlen sich Museen verpflichtet, sie zu bewahren, selbst wenn viele der Objekte vielleicht niemals ins Licht der Öffentlichkeit geraten werden? In ‘Museum Storage and Meaning: Tales from the Crypt’ (hrsg. von Mirjam Brusius und Kavita Singh, Routledge 2017) bieten Kuratoren, Wissenschaftler und Kritiker Einblick in die verborgenen Bereiche von Museen und ergründen damit auch moralische und politische Aspekte des Bewahrens.

Heritage, Islam and Values of Preservation:

An Open Discussion organised by Dr Mirjam Brusius, University of Oxford/BGSMCS Visiting Fellow

Current crises involving the destruction of archaeological sites in the Middle East raise questions about the very concepts of preservation and ‘heritage’ and how it developed across the 19th and 20th century. To many archaeologists and heritage professionals, preserving these legacies seems an obvious and unproblematic goal, from artefacts in museums and storage magazines, to archaeological sites and monuments. But what counts as ‚preservation‘, which objects or sites are preserved (or not), and who decides? So far only few challenge the idea that the preservation of heritage depends on the widely accepted ‘UNESCO approach’. At the level of the field site or monument, European preferences in heritage have held sway: Biblical sites such as Nimrud (Iraq) or Classical sites like Palmyra (Syria) are considered ‘shared heritage’, and their destruction receives far more public attention in Europe than the destruction of Islamic sites in the same region. In fact, Islamic material culture, critics have argued, is often considered at odds with dominant heritage preservation practices. Which role do conflicts of values play in these discussions? In this seminar, which will be opened through three brief statements by archaeologists and historians, we will discuss these questions against the backdrop of the variety of approaches, technologies and practices towards preservation by local institutions and people
 
Discussants:

Prof Reinhard Bernbeck, FU/ Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Prof Susan Pollock, FU/ Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Prof Wendy Shaw, FU/ Kunsthistorisches Institut and BGSMCS

 
Everyone interested is cordially invited.
 
For further information please contact Dr Mirjam Brusius: mirjam.brusius@humanities.ox.ac.uk
Time & Location
Feb 16, 2017, 12:00 PM – 02:00 PM
Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies Freie Universität Berlin Altensteinstr. 48 14195 Berlin
 
http://www.bgsmcs.fu-berlin.de/en/dates/discussion_2017_heritage_islam.html

Heritage, Islam and Values of Preservation:

An Open Discussion organised by Dr Mirjam Brusius, University of Oxford/BGSMCS Visiting Fellow

Current crises involving the destruction of archaeological sites in the Middle East raise questions about the very concepts of preservation and ‘heritage’ and how it developed across the 19th and 20th century. To many archaeologists and heritage professionals, preserving these legacies seems an obvious and unproblematic goal, from artefacts in museums and storage magazines, to archaeological sites and monuments. But what counts as ‚preservation‘, which objects or sites are preserved (or not), and who decides? So far only few challenge the idea that the preservation of heritage depends on the widely accepted ‘UNESCO approach’. At the level of the field site or monument, European preferences in heritage have held sway: Biblical sites such as Nimrud (Iraq) or Classical sites like Palmyra (Syria) are considered ‘shared heritage’, and their destruction receives far more public attention in Europe than the destruction of Islamic sites in the same region. In fact, Islamic material culture, critics have argued, is often considered at odds with dominant heritage preservation practices. Which role do conflicts of values play in these discussions? In this seminar, which will be opened through three brief statements by archaeologists and historians, we will discuss these questions against the backdrop of the variety of approaches, technologies and practices towards preservation by local institutions and people.
 
Discussants:

Prof Reinhard Bernbeck, FU/ Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Prof Susan Pollock, FU/ Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie
Prof Wendy Shaw, FU/ Kunsthistorisches Institut and BGSMCS

 
Everyone interested is cordially invited.
 
For further information please contact Dr Mirjam Brusius: mirjam.brusius@humanities.ox.ac.uk
Time & Location
Feb 16, 2017, 12:00 PM – 02:00 PM
Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies Freie Universität Berlin Altensteinstr. 48 14195 Berlin
 
http://www.bgsmcs.fu-berlin.de/en/dates/discussion_2017_heritage_islam.html

The Disciplined Past: Critical Reflections on the Study of the Middle East

The symposium aims to reassess the study and the representation of the Middle East in scholarship and museums today. Studying the Middle East in the current Western academic and museological discourse entails encountering a history of dichotomies and contradictions. A manifest example, both physically and metaphorically, is provided by a visit to some art museums in the Western world: while, for example, art from ancient Mesopotamia – which occupied the same space as much of modern day Iraq, Syria and Iran – is often presented in direct proximity to objects deeply embedded in the Western canon, such as Classical Greek sculpture, objects from the very same region that derive from after the coming of Islam are often separated from their more ancient geographical counterparts, for instance in Islamic Art departments.

The Disciplined Past: Critical Reflections on the Study of the Middle East

The symposium aims to reassess the study and the representation of the Middle East in scholarship and museums today. Studying the Middle East in the current Western academic and museological discourse entails encountering a history of dichotomies and contradictions. A manifest example, both physically and metaphorically, is provided by a visit to some art museums in the Western world: while, for example, art from ancient Mesopotamia – which occupied the same space as much of modern day Iraq, Syria and Iran – is often presented in direct proximity to objects deeply embedded in the Western canon, such as Classical Greek sculpture, objects from the very same region that derive from after the coming of Islam are often separated from their more ancient geographical counterparts, for instance in Islamic Art departments.

Conference proceedings published „William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography“

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) was a British pioneer in photography, yet he also embraced the wider preoccupations of the Victorian Age—a time that saw many political, social, intellectual, technical, and industrial changes. His manuscripts, now in the archive of the British Library, reveal the connections and contrasts between his photographic innovations and his investigations into optics, mathematics, botany, archaeology, and classical studies.
 

Drawing on Talbot’s fascinating letters, diaries, research notebooks, botanical specimens, and photographic prints, distinguished scholars from a range of disciplines, including historians of science, art, and photography, broaden our understanding of Talbot as a Victorian intellectual and a man of science.
 
For more information, see: http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300179347

Conference proceedings published „William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography“

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) was a British pioneer in photography, yet he also embraced the wider preoccupations of the Victorian Age—a time that saw many political, social, intellectual, technical, and industrial changes. His manuscripts, now in the archive of the British Library, reveal the connections and contrasts between his photographic innovations and his investigations into optics, mathematics, botany, archaeology, and classical studies.
 

Drawing on Talbot’s fascinating letters, diaries, research notebooks, botanical specimens, and photographic prints, distinguished scholars from a range of disciplines, including historians of science, art, and photography, broaden our understanding of Talbot as a Victorian intellectual and a man of science.
 
For more information, see: http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300179347

Preserving the Forgotten – William Henry Fox Talbot, Photography and the Antique …

Projektvorstellung

Der englische Gelehrte William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) ist vor allem als einer der Erfinder der Photographie bekannt. Talbots weitere Interessens- und Forschungsgebiete wurden bislang von seinen photographischen Errungenschaften in den Schatten gestellt. Ziel des Dissertationsvorhabens ist es, Talbots Forschungsfelder außerhalb des Bereichs der Photographie insbesondere auf der Basis der von der British Library kürzlich erstandenen Notizbücher und der jüngst veröffentlichten Korrespondenz eingehend zu untersuchen. Auf dieser Basis sollen gegenseitige Einflüsse von Talbots Interessen ausfindig gemacht werden. Durch diese Kontextualisierung werden die Erfindung und die weitere Entwicklung der Photographie in ein neues Licht gerückt.
 
Der Schwerpunkt der Arbeit soll auf Talbots lebenslangem Interesse am Altertum liegen, welches sich u.a. in seinen Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Assyriologie und der Entzifferung bis dato unentzifferter Schriften darlegt. Dabei sollen die praktischen und epistemologischen Verschränkungen zwischen diesen Bereichen und der Photographie untersucht werden. Zum einen setzte Talbot die Photographie als Werkzeug für die Altertumsforschung z.B. für die Entzifferung von Keilschriften ein; zum anderen können sowohl die Altertumswissenschaft als auch die Photographie dazu dienen, Vergangenes zu bewahren.
 
Talbots Interesse bewegt sich in einem Dreieck von Bild, Schrift und Zahl. Der Hang zum Bildlichen findet in der Erfindung der Photographie seinen unübertrefflichen Beweis. Sein Interesse an Zahl, Zeichen und Symbol findet sich in seinen erfolgreichen Versuchen wieder, unbekannte Schriften zu entziffern und vergessene Hochkulturen in das 19. Jahrhundert zu transferieren.
 
Talbots Bezeichnung der Photographie als „Pencil of Nature“, durch den sich in Form von Licht das abgebildete Objekt in die photographische Oberfläche einschreibe, evoziert weitere Verbindungen zwischen der ,Aufschreibetechnik‘ Photographie und Talbots Interesse an Schrift im allgemeinen. Bei Talbot heben sich Schrift und Bild nicht gegenseitig auf, sondern ergänzen einander auf theoretischer Ebene und auf praktischer Ebene.
 
Links:
 
Katalogisierungsprojekt „Science and the Antique in the work of Wiliam Henry Fox Talbot“ (The British Library)
 
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/manuscripts/williamhenryfoxtalbot/williamtalbot.html
 
 
Konferenz „William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography“ (University of Cambridge)
 
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1113/

Preserving the Forgotten – William Henry Fox Talbot, Photography and the Antique …

Projektvorstellung

Der englische Gelehrte William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) ist vor allem als einer der Erfinder der Photographie bekannt. Talbots weitere Interessens- und Forschungsgebiete wurden bislang von seinen photographischen Errungenschaften in den Schatten gestellt. Ziel des Dissertationsvorhabens ist es, Talbots Forschungsfelder außerhalb des Bereichs der Photographie insbesondere auf der Basis der von der British Library kürzlich erstandenen Notizbücher und der jüngst veröffentlichten Korrespondenz eingehend zu untersuchen. Auf dieser Basis sollen gegenseitige Einflüsse von Talbots Interessen ausfindig gemacht werden. Durch diese Kontextualisierung werden die Erfindung und die weitere Entwicklung der Photographie in ein neues Licht gerückt.
 
Der Schwerpunkt der Arbeit soll auf Talbots lebenslangem Interesse am Altertum liegen, welches sich u.a. in seinen Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Assyriologie und der Entzifferung bis dato unentzifferter Schriften darlegt. Dabei sollen die praktischen und epistemologischen Verschränkungen zwischen diesen Bereichen und der Photographie untersucht werden. Zum einen setzte Talbot die Photographie als Werkzeug für die Altertumsforschung z.B. für die Entzifferung von Keilschriften ein; zum anderen können sowohl die Altertumswissenschaft als auch die Photographie dazu dienen, Vergangenes zu bewahren.
 
Talbots Interesse bewegt sich in einem Dreieck von Bild, Schrift und Zahl. Der Hang zum Bildlichen findet in der Erfindung der Photographie seinen unübertrefflichen Beweis. Sein Interesse an Zahl, Zeichen und Symbol findet sich in seinen erfolgreichen Versuchen wieder, unbekannte Schriften zu entziffern und vergessene Hochkulturen in das 19. Jahrhundert zu transferieren.
 
Talbots Bezeichnung der Photographie als „Pencil of Nature“, durch den sich in Form von Licht das abgebildete Objekt in die photographische Oberfläche einschreibe, evoziert weitere Verbindungen zwischen der ,Aufschreibetechnik‘ Photographie und Talbots Interesse an Schrift im allgemeinen. Bei Talbot heben sich Schrift und Bild nicht gegenseitig auf, sondern ergänzen einander auf theoretischer Ebene und auf praktischer Ebene.
 
Links:
 
Katalogisierungsprojekt „Science and the Antique in the work of Wiliam Henry Fox Talbot“ (The British Library)
 
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/manuscripts/williamhenryfoxtalbot/williamtalbot.html
 
 
Konferenz „William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography“ (University of Cambridge)
 
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1113/

William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography Thursday, 24 June 2010 to Saturday, 26 June …

Most people know William Henry Fox Talbot as a pioneer of early photography – but few realise the impact he had on Victorian culture generally.  Beyond Photography: William Henry Fox Talbot, a three-day conference held at the University of Cambridge in June and co-funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, attempted to set the record straight.  Previously unknown archive material was presented, and attracted more than 70 delegates from the UK and overseas. They included art, photography and science historians, together with other specialists. Organised jointly by the British Library and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the conference drew on the Talbot archive at the British Library.
 
Conference report
 
(a)  Summary Abstract
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) is remembered primarily as a photographic pioneer and influential early voice on photographic aesthetics, but his activities as a Victorian intellectual and ‚gentleman of science‘ ranged widely across the natural sciences, classical scholarship and Assyriology. This interdisciplinary conference approached Talbot’s work with this wider perspective in mind, bringing together art historians, curators, historians of science and practitioners of the many scholarly fields to which Talbot contributed. The papers and commentaries situated Talbot against the networks and institutions of Victorian intellectual enterprise, while raising basic questions about the relation between photography and these other fields.
 
b)  Conference Review
The aim of this event was to reinvigorate scholarly work on Talbot – a central figure in the history of photography – by experimenting with a new multi-disciplinary approach to his work.  The conference brought together two communities of scholars: on the one hand, historians of nineteenth-century science and culture, many of whom conducted new research into the British Library’s large archive of Talbot’s notebooks and diaries but who often had only passing familiarity with Talbot’s photographic oeuvre; and on the other hand, art historians and historians of photography for whom Talbot’s images form a foundational element of their disciplinary canon, but who had little knowledge of his other intellectual activities. A set of important themes emerged and recurred throughout the two days of the conference and in the commentaries and discussions at the end of each day:
The “social geography” of Victorian intellectual life. Talbot’s social position and his wide range of interests seem to make him a particularly useful subject for illuminating the socially heterogeneous landscape of nineteenth-century knowledge in terms of issues of class, skill, expertise, training, and discipline – terms central to the social history of the period. The meaning of Lacock Abbey (Talbot’s country estate) as a social, political, intellectual, technological, and archival site has not yet been fully explored.  Was Talbot a “centrifugal” figure with subjects and information moving outwards, or flowing inwards towards him? The telling absence of the “oriental” (especially India) as one of Talbot’s interests was also raised, as was the question of his religious orthodoxy, especially with respect to his various projects dealing with the past and with ancient religions.
What do we mean by “beyond” photography? Values having to do with the proper or enjoyable exercise of vision/visual judgment (such as visual acuity, discrimination, pleasure, and connoisseurship) arose in a few of the papers, and suggested ways of examining connections or productive tensions between Talbot’s photographic work and his other activities. A question which frequently arose between the lines but which was never answered was the relationship between classic iconographic readings of Talbot’s photographs, and the scientific and intellectual context of photography’s invention.
Talbot and nineteenth-century knowledge.  Talbot’s abiding interest in origins, as well as a persistent fascination with languages, script and inscription, decipherment, and legibility, are themes that seem to have cut across several of his intellectual activities (antiquarianism, archaeology, etymology, Assyriology, as well as photography). It would also be useful to explore the political and theological valence of Talbot’s various projects dealing with the past.   Many papers also called attention to the materiality of record-keeping and research practices for nineteenth-century intellectuals like Talbot, and to the materiality of the Talbot archive itself. Moreover, like the scientist and celebrated polymath William Whewell, Talbot seems to be a useful lens through which to examine the tendency of Victorian intellectuals (particularly reforming Whigs) to value the cultivation of omniscience, and to seek to understand and control many different aspects of knowledge and society at once.  Finally, certain key terms with highly unstable meaning in the period under study (and which currently have a highly ossified meaning in early twenty-first-century scholarly discourse)  repeatedly arose in our discussions: „discovery“, „invention“, „discipline“, „professional“, „aesthetics“.  Because Talbot’s wide range of activities and interests took place during a crucial period in the intellectual development and social formation of Victorian knowledge systems, when even such seemingly basic terms as „art“ and „science“ were in flux, it is precisely these terms that we need to be careful not to deploy uncritically in our analysis.
Historiography/meta-narrative.  Towards the end of the conference the question was raised of what exactly was the nature of the historiographical intervention we were attempting to make with this conference (and with any proposed publication arising out of it). Is the aim to bring biographical coherence to Talbot studies, or to disperse him as a subject across different fields?  The question of whether to think of Talbot as a “typical” or an “exceptional” Victorian intellectual recurred throughout the discussions.
 
For the conference programme, please see the CRASSH website:
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1113/programme/
 

William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography Thursday, 24 June 2010 to Saturday, 26 June …

Most people know William Henry Fox Talbot as a pioneer of early photography – but few realise the impact he had on Victorian culture generally.  Beyond Photography: William Henry Fox Talbot, a three-day conference held at the University of Cambridge in June and co-funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, attempted to set the record straight.  Previously unknown archive material was presented, and attracted more than 70 delegates from the UK and overseas. They included art, photography and science historians, together with other specialists. Organised jointly by the British Library and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the conference drew on the Talbot archive at the British Library.
 
Conference report
 
(a)  Summary Abstract
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) is remembered primarily as a photographic pioneer and influential early voice on photographic aesthetics, but his activities as a Victorian intellectual and ‚gentleman of science‘ ranged widely across the natural sciences, classical scholarship and Assyriology. This interdisciplinary conference approached Talbot’s work with this wider perspective in mind, bringing together art historians, curators, historians of science and practitioners of the many scholarly fields to which Talbot contributed. The papers and commentaries situated Talbot against the networks and institutions of Victorian intellectual enterprise, while raising basic questions about the relation between photography and these other fields.
 
b)  Conference Review
The aim of this event was to reinvigorate scholarly work on Talbot – a central figure in the history of photography – by experimenting with a new multi-disciplinary approach to his work.  The conference brought together two communities of scholars: on the one hand, historians of nineteenth-century science and culture, many of whom conducted new research into the British Library’s large archive of Talbot’s notebooks and diaries but who often had only passing familiarity with Talbot’s photographic oeuvre; and on the other hand, art historians and historians of photography for whom Talbot’s images form a foundational element of their disciplinary canon, but who had little knowledge of his other intellectual activities. A set of important themes emerged and recurred throughout the two days of the conference and in the commentaries and discussions at the end of each day:
The “social geography” of Victorian intellectual life. Talbot’s social position and his wide range of interests seem to make him a particularly useful subject for illuminating the socially heterogeneous landscape of nineteenth-century knowledge in terms of issues of class, skill, expertise, training, and discipline – terms central to the social history of the period. The meaning of Lacock Abbey (Talbot’s country estate) as a social, political, intellectual, technological, and archival site has not yet been fully explored.  Was Talbot a “centrifugal” figure with subjects and information moving outwards, or flowing inwards towards him? The telling absence of the “oriental” (especially India) as one of Talbot’s interests was also raised, as was the question of his religious orthodoxy, especially with respect to his various projects dealing with the past and with ancient religions.
What do we mean by “beyond” photography? Values having to do with the proper or enjoyable exercise of vision/visual judgment (such as visual acuity, discrimination, pleasure, and connoisseurship) arose in a few of the papers, and suggested ways of examining connections or productive tensions between Talbot’s photographic work and his other activities. A question which frequently arose between the lines but which was never answered was the relationship between classic iconographic readings of Talbot’s photographs, and the scientific and intellectual context of photography’s invention.
Talbot and nineteenth-century knowledge.  Talbot’s abiding interest in origins, as well as a persistent fascination with languages, script and inscription, decipherment, and legibility, are themes that seem to have cut across several of his intellectual activities (antiquarianism, archaeology, etymology, Assyriology, as well as photography). It would also be useful to explore the political and theological valence of Talbot’s various projects dealing with the past.   Many papers also called attention to the materiality of record-keeping and research practices for nineteenth-century intellectuals like Talbot, and to the materiality of the Talbot archive itself. Moreover, like the scientist and celebrated polymath William Whewell, Talbot seems to be a useful lens through which to examine the tendency of Victorian intellectuals (particularly reforming Whigs) to value the cultivation of omniscience, and to seek to understand and control many different aspects of knowledge and society at once.  Finally, certain key terms with highly unstable meaning in the period under study (and which currently have a highly ossified meaning in early twenty-first-century scholarly discourse)  repeatedly arose in our discussions: „discovery“, „invention“, „discipline“, „professional“, „aesthetics“.  Because Talbot’s wide range of activities and interests took place during a crucial period in the intellectual development and social formation of Victorian knowledge systems, when even such seemingly basic terms as „art“ and „science“ were in flux, it is precisely these terms that we need to be careful not to deploy uncritically in our analysis.
Historiography/meta-narrative.  Towards the end of the conference the question was raised of what exactly was the nature of the historiographical intervention we were attempting to make with this conference (and with any proposed publication arising out of it). Is the aim to bring biographical coherence to Talbot studies, or to disperse him as a subject across different fields?  The question of whether to think of Talbot as a “typical” or an “exceptional” Victorian intellectual recurred throughout the discussions.
 
For the conference programme, please see the CRASSH website:
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1113/programme/