Conventionally, museums are most often considered as a series of objects displayed, but I argue that the museum itself should be seen, first and foremost, as the object on display. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, built at the high tide of British Imperialism, is a very interesting case study. Interested in its engagement with its own past, I do not seek to investigate the actions it takes as an institution, for instance, as regards to the politics of repatriation. Instead, I want to explore the whole experience it facilitates as an object in its own right.
This experience begins with the architecture of the facade, with its plural references to both classical and eastern features. Proceeding inside, I analyze the phenomenological experience shaped by the interior architecture. From there, I will look at the objects, and how they fit into the museum’s larger message. All the while, I will consider the bigger contexts, such as colonialism, in which this experience is immersed.
My investigation will show how museums, such as the Ashmolean, can provide a holistic and multi-sensory experience, one that can hold within it tensions and transcend contradictions.
Chen, Jack Z.
"The Museum as Object of Display: Experiencing the Ashmolean,"
Armstrong Undergraduate Journal of History: Vol. 12:
3, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/aujh/vol12/iss3/7