Friday, 10 February 2017

Religion and Heritage on Display

Last week I had the chance to attend the “Religion and Heritage on Display” conference held at the Institute of Archaeology at the UCL in London. How do people practice religion? The term “religion” covers a wide range of thoughts and beliefs, and museums are places where religious artefacts become lifeless objects. That was the main subject behind this conference which gathered a wide range of speakers and professionals from the Heritage and Religion sector.

Marion Browman -
Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham
After the usual coffee and biscuits session, the conference opened up with a magisterial introduction from  Marion Bowman - Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham. She spoke about the importance of religious objects and how these can engage with audiences and faith groups. Marion is also one of the investigators on the “Pilgrimage and England's cathedrals”, a project which studies the interaction between the cathedrals in England and the people who visit them.

Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum
Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum spoke about the challenges to display religious objects in a very small exhibition space. She had to confront this problem in “Europe 1600 – 1815”, an exhibition which comprises works from 17th to 18th centuries of European art and design.

Another real challenge was to show the diversity of faiths across Europe during those years, for example, how can you mention the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople if the V&A lacks objects from that period?

How a museum should approach religion when museums are not places of worship and veneration. In her new project, she is working with the Welcome Collection and the Science Museum for an exhibition that is going to compare the similarities between how people display faith in religion and science.

I think all the speakers made a good understanding of how we should use religious objects in museums and how we can find new ways to engage with new audiences and religious groups.

I am looking forward to learning more about displaying religious objects in future projects!

Francisco Castanon, 
Transforming Archives trainee

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