Object Lessons for the Digital Age

lecture of Prof. Dr. Haidy Geismar, June 5, 11:30 – 12 am

It has long been acknowledged that museum technologies of exhibition and display have been instrumental in defining and disseminating cultural knowledge for hundreds of years. Techniques of looking, honed within exhibition halls and galleries, have formed the bedrock of Western knowledge systems. We live within “the age of the world picture”, in a society based on spectacle, organized by an “exhibitionary complex”. These theories of knowledge production emphasise how important ways of seeing to our understanding of the world. Curated processes of looking constitute powerful ideologies of authenticity and evidence,as well as establishing complex subjectivities bringing individuals and publics as viewers and consumers of culture.Here, I briefly explore how new digital processes of visualization are both extending the power of museums to define the world, as well as constituting new perceptual experiences of cultural artefacts.



Haidy Geismar is Professor of Anthropology at University College London, co-director of the Digital Anthropology Program and Vice-Dean of Strategic Projects for Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities at UCL. She is also Curator of the UCL Ethnography Collections and Chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute Photographic Committee. Dr Geismar holds a PhD in Anthropology and Material Culture from UCL (2003). With long term fieldwork experience in the South Pacific and within museums in the Pacific, North America and Europe her research interests span intellectual and cultural property rights, questions of digital materiality, the exchange and circulation of collections, indigenous museologies and contemporary art. Recent books include Museum Object Lessons for the Digital Age (UCL Press, 2018), The Routledge Cultural Property REader (with Jane Anderson, 2017), Treasured Possession: Indigenous Interventions into Intellectual and Cultural Property (Duke UP, 2013).  Currently she is working on the research project ”Finding Photography. Exploring the material and social networks underpinning contemporary art photography” with Prof. Pip Laurenson, Tate Gallery and Maastricht University.