Friday, 23 April 2010

PhD studentship

'Seeing the sacred in the museum: exploring the significance of religious
and secular subjectivities for visitor engagment with religious objects'

Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society, Birkbeck College, University
of London, in collaboration with the British Museum

The aim of this doctoral project will be to explore the ways in which
visitors engage with religious objects at the British Museum, focusing
particularly on whether it is possible to identify ways of seeing or
engaging with objects that relate more generally to religious and secular
subjectivities. Drawing together current research in material religion and
museum visitor research, the award-holder will undertake original empirical
work that will both add to our understanding of the performance of religious
and secular subjectivities in public cultural spaces as well how museum
evaluation work might engage in new ways with religious dimensions of
visitor experience.

The studentship is available from 1 October 2010, and the award-holder will
benefit from the wide range of postgraduate support available at Birkbeck as
well as from the experience of working closely with colleagues at a
world-leading museum. The studentship covers full fees and a maintenance
allowance at standard AHRC rates for central London institutions. Potential
applicants should check their eligibility for the award before submitting
their application

The deadline for completed applications is 1 June 2010, with interviews
planned to take place before the end of June. Further details about the
studentship (including how to apply).

Gordon Lynch

Professor of Sociology of Religion and Director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society

Birkbeck College
University of London
26 Russell Square

+44(0)20 7631 6658

This is a very timely project, and it would be very interesting to see the results. I hope that they will be published.

I contend that museums are sacred spaces - inspired by the Enlightenment love of knowledge, and named after ancient shrines of the Muses, they are clearly quasi-sacred. We approach these shrines of knowledge with hushed voices and reverent steps.

The only problem with museums is that objects are frequently presented out of context (although the British Museum generally gets this right) or labelled in an inaccessible way by curators who try to be arty.

To contemporary Pagans, everywhere is sacred because the divine/deities is/are immanent in the world; but to some Pagans, some places are more sacred than others. Perhaps because museums are not generally regarded as sacred, it has not occurred to Pagans to view them as sacred; but to me, they are, along with libraries, because knowledge and reason are vitally important, and they confer freedom of thought.

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