‘Notions of Universality in Universal Museums’

‘Notions of Universality in Universal Museums’
Symposium at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris

This conference will explore contemporary definitions of ‘universal’ histories and ‘universal’ museums, and comparisons between them. It draws on the research of the AHRC ‘Care for the Future’ and Labex – ‘Past in the Present’ project ‘Universal Histories and Universal Museums’, which has developed a comparative critique of approaches to universal histories in museums and of the role of museums in building knowledge about the future. The conference will also build on preliminary historical research on collections, museum taxonomies, public reception, and ideas of universalities presented in the project workshops:

– ‘The Evolution of the Museum’: at the Science Museum, 13th and 14th July 2017,
– ‘Comparative Museologies: The Example of Asian Arts’: at the Musée de l’Homme, September 28th 2017,
– ‘Museum universalities in Western cultural capitals in the nineteenth and early twentieth century’: at the Université de Paris-Nanterre, 17th November 2017.

Transdisciplinary and transnational research on museums, their public roles, and their relation to subject specialisms, will underpin a discussion on the definition and constitution of universalities in museums. The conference will seek to unpack the notions of  ‘global’, ‘universal’, and ‘encyclopaedic’ museums and the implications of using these definitions in light of current approaches to universalities in historical research.