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Exploring Museum Expertise

Rob Evans has just returned from the Univeristy of Tromso, where he was an invited keynote speaker at the Exploring Museum Expertise Conference.

The conference was organised by the University Museum of Tromso and also included a workshop on expertise and museolgy for PhD students. There were presentations for PhD students and researchers, with many focussing on the different kinds of expertises that curators need to possess and manage. These include the expertise of those who assist in developing exhibitions, be they scientists or other kinds of experienced-based experts, the expertise of visitors who, in the case of the MS Polstjerna include many ex-sailors and seal hunters as well as the more traditional school visits and tourists. In such a setting, the role of curator as a facilitor but also interactional expert in the topics being curated is obviously crucial.

The other theme of the workshop, discussed in more detail by the Jennifer Barratt, was the role of the museum as a public space. Here the emphasis was on the tension between the socially purposeful museum that informs visitors about important scientific, historical and cultural events and the way in which museums can also provide a ‘safe place’ in which publics can be constituted and citizens engage with the knowledge and history of others. These tensions are particularly apparent when cultural diversity is at stake (e.g. in the representation of indigenous knowledge and people) but also raises interesting questions when more scientific topics (e.g. climate change) are involved.

Thanks to the excellent work of the organisers (Anita Maurstad, Marit Anne Hauan, Rossella Ragazzi and Inger Kaisa Bækø) the workshop was a very enjoyable experience. It was also very educational. The range of activities that go on within museums, and the range of forms that museums can take, mean they are excellent places for thinking about the relationships between different kinds of expertise.

Exploring Museum Expertise Conference programme

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