Auto-Musealization: Churches and the Invention of the Museum

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Twenty-five years ago Carol Duncan published an influential analysis of the agency of public art museum performed through what she termed “civilizing rituals” enacted in temple-like spaces: Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (1995). This paper turns Duncan’s argument on its head, exploring how church spaces, both in form and practice, have “auto-musealized”. Through a series of select case studies of architecture, art, and practice from late antiquity, the Middle Ages, into the modern era, the paper will examine not only how material and textual evidence of strategies of display, control and distance have shaped Christian spaces and practices, but how the church has been active in the authentication, collection, preservation, spatial ordering, display and explication, of its own spaces and treasures since late antiquity. Far from the received narrative of the birth of the museum prompted by definitive break prompted by the rising power of princes’ and their collections, or revolution and secularization, this paper proposes that the cultural techniques of the modern museum were preceded by, born in, and facilitated by the religious spaces and practices of ancient, medieval, and modern Christianity
EvenementstitelNGG Conference
: Religion and Heritage: Futures for Religious Pasts
LocatieAmsterdam, Netherlands
Mate van erkenningNational