We invite international submissions of proposals for a forthcoming volume of essays titled The Museum As Experience.
Context for volume:
In 1932, as the first William James Lecturer at Harvard University, John Dewey shared his reflections on the experiential engagement between art and viewer. In 1934, these reflections were published as Art As Experience, considered by many to be Dewey’s most influential writing on aesthetics.
In his discussion of the “live creature” subject to such experiences, Dewey writes that "works [of art] are products that exist externally and physically. In common conception, the work of art is often identified with the building, book, painting, or statue in its existence apart from human experience. Since the actual work of art is what the product does with and in experience, the result is not favorable to understanding. … When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. A primary task is thus imposed upon one who undertakes to write upon the philosophy of the fine arts. This task is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience.” (204-5)
This description of the generic work of art extracted from “operation in experience” could just as well take as its subject the museum venue. Isolated from the ways in which “live creatures” live museum spaces and experiences, a wall is built around museums too. They have been viewed historically as elite, exclusive and excluding, and impersonal – as antiseptic to intimacy.
And yet it is precisely the intrusion of humanized experiences into museum spaces that has revised this historical vision in the past decades. Museum experiences – cultivated by curators, educators and marketers alike – have come into sharp focus as the reason for being of these communal spaces. Professional organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums have called upon their members to reconceive museums as community cornerstones and promoters of physical and emotional well-being. The once silent, hallowed spaces have come alive with the boisterous sounds of school children, the laughter and chatter of groups of elders, the sounds of music, community art-making, and communal assembly, all representative of new experiential interactions between Dewey’s “live creatures” and museums no longer walled off.
In this volume, we will examine the kinds of human experiences and interactions that have converted the once-sterile museum to a space of enlivenment and enrichment; experiences, furthermore, that take place most constructively in museum contexts.
Subjects of essays might include (but are by no means limited to) the following:
- Museums as venues for K-12 experiences
- Museums as venues for enhancing clinical observation
- Museums as venues and vehicles for accessibility and inclusiveness
- Museums as venues for intergenerational experiences and exchanges
- Museums as vehicles for integrative immigrant experiences
- Museums as catalysts for empathy-building
- Museums as venues for the development of peer-to-peer relationships
- Museums as vehicles for memory-making and communal storytelling
- Museums as venues for quality of life enhancements
Submitting a proposal:
Please submit essay proposal (500 words maximum) along with c.v. by April 30, 2017. Essays (5000-7000 words in length) should not have been published previously and must be submitted in English. Publication is anticipated in Fall 2019. The volume has a prospective publisher, pending additional review.
Please address all requests for further information and proposals to the volume editor Susan Shifrin at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Susan Shifrin, PhD
Contact Email: email@example.com