Conference and seminar archive

Below you'll find a comprehensive archive of all previous conferences and seminars at the Institute for Cultural Practices.

Conferences in the archive include Nature Behind Glass: Historical and theoretical perspectives on natural science collections, Museums and Restitution International Conference and Art, City, Spectacle: The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition Revisited.

3 images of conference pictures

The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France

The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France: Representations of the 'Summer Palace' in the West

A two–day workshop at The University of Manchester

8 - 9 July 2013

In October 1860, at the culmination of the Second Opium War, British and French troops looted, and then burnt, the imperial buildings in the Yuanmingyuan (or 'Summer Palace') in the north of Beijing. Over a million imperial objects are estimated to have been taken from the site: many of these are now scattered around the world, in private collections and public museums.

This two-day workshop will explore the ways in which objects from the Yuanmingyuan have been represented in the West.

It will be the first event of its type to combine approaches from specialists in the history of collecting with the views of curators of Yuanmingyuan objects.

Confirmed speakers include James Hevia (Chicago), Greg Thomas (Hong Kong), Nick Pearce (Glasgow), Vincent Droguet (Château of Fontainebleau).

Further information about The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France:

Museums and Restitution International Conference

Museums and Restitution International Conference

University of Manchester

8-9 July 2010

Museums and Restitution is a two-day international conference organised by the Centre for Museology and The Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester. The conference examines the issue of restitution in relation to the changing role and authority of the museum, focussing on new ways in which these institutions are addressing the subject.

Restitution is one of the most emotive and complex issues facing the museum world in the twenty first century. Its current high profile reflects changing global power relations and the increasingly vocal criticisms of the historical concentration of the world's heritage in the museums of the West. The 2002 Declaration of the Importance and Value of Universal Museums, which was signed by the directors of eighteen of the world's most prominent museums, pushed the subject to the forefront of debate as never before.

Over recent years, the issue of restitution has taken on a new complexion with different processes emerging. We have seen an increasing emphasis on museums working with source communities, and with new forms of restitution other than object restitution - such as visual and knowledge restitution. The language of discussion too has changed, with the term 'reunification', for example, rather than 'repatriation' now often being used in relation to the Parthenon Marbles. The opening of New Acropolis Museum in Athens in June 2009 has added a further dimension to the debates. We are also seeing new countries gaining increasing prominence in restitution debates: for example, the official response from the government of the People's Republic of China to the Yves Saint Laurent auction of Chinese looted bronzes at Christie's in Paris in March 2009. This is a trend clearly set to continue.

This conference will bring together museum professionals and academics from a wide range of fields (including museology, archaeology, anthropology, art history and cultural policy) to share ideas on contemporary approaches to restitution from the viewpoint of museums.

Panel Topics

  • Power, Politics Authority
  • Reflections on returns
  • Digital, visual and knowledge repatriation
  • Local and national power relations
  • Second World War spoliation
  • The Parthenon Marbles
  • Africa and India
  • North America

Lunch-Time Discussion on Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, Prague's Terezin Declaration and latest legislation. Q+A Session on restitution legislation (Friday 9th July, Lunch time, Manchester).

Keynote Speakers

  • Tristram Besterman (Former Director, The Manchester Museum. Writer, adviser and mediator on museums and cultural issues) - Title of Keynote: 'Cultural equity: an ethical paradigm for the sustainable museum'
  • Prof. Piotr Bienkowski (Former Deputy Director, The Manchester Museum. Cultural, heritage and museums consultant, writer and researcher and Honorary Professor at the University of Manchester) - Title of Keynote: 'Authority and the Power of Place: Exploring the Legitimacy of Authorised and Alternative Voices in the Restitution Discourse'
  • Maurice Davies (Head of Policy and Communication, Museums Association) - Maurice will lead the conference closing session and discussion on Friday 9 July

Programme Panel

  • Dr Sam Alberti, The Manchester Museum / Centre for Museology
  • Dr Kostas Arvanitis, Centre for Museology
  • Malcolm Chapman, The Manchester Museum
  • Dr Zachary Kingdon, National Museums Liverpool
  • Dr Helen Rees Leahy, Centre for Museology
  • Prof. Sharon Macdonald, Social Anthropology
  • Louise Tythacott, Centre for Museology

Further information:

You didn't manage to attend the conference, but you are interested in its proceedings? Then, please have a look at the Institute for Cultural Practices Blog, where we have blogged the conference. The conference and its outcomes were also reported in the feature article of the Museums Journal, the leading publication for UK museum professionals (Maurice Davies, 2010. 'Opening up the debate. Museums are being urged to adopt a more open attitude to restitution', Museums Journal, Vol. 110, No. 9, 22-27).

Integrating ICT

Integrating ICT

Conference Room of the Manchester Museum

6 October 2008

On 6 October 2008, a round table was held at the Conference Room of the Manchester Museum in Oxford Road under the title 'Integrating ICT in museums'. The event brought together academics, museum professionals and ICT specialists with the aim of debating current and emerging ways to integrate interactive technology in museums and galleries.

The event was part of a postdoctoral research project funded by the British Academy and developed at the Centre for Museology that explores the specific usefulness of ICT for museums and galleries. The project includes a qualitative investigation of the incorporation of ICT in the exhibition design, with particular reference to museums and galleries in Manchester.

The discussion addressed five main questions:

  • we need ICT? What is the motivation (learning, communication, social and political pressures) behind their integration in museums and galleries?
  • What...does integration mean and which resources have been and should be involved?
  • When...have ICT been or should be integrated (in which stage of exhibition development)?
  • How...have ICT been or should be integrated? Is there any difference depending on the knowledge domain, the presence of objects, the target audience or the expected outcomes?
  • Who...should be involved in the process (museum staff, external companies)?

Further information:


Art, City, Spectacle

Art, City, Spectacle: The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition Revisited

Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

9-10 November 2007

2007 is the 150th anniversary of the Manchester Art-Treasures Exhibition: the largest temporary art exhibition ever held in Britain.

The Exhibition comprised c.16,000 exhibits and attracted over 1,300,000 visitors in just over five months.

However, the significance of the Art Treasures Exhibition exceeds its extraordinary dimensions and scale alone.

As well as revisiting the Exhibition itself, this conference will highlight the effect of the Exhibition has on:

  • the disciplinary formation and organisation of art history in Britain;
  • the development of museum display in Britain and abroad;
  • the production of the canon of art history, shifting patterns of taste, and the recuperation of neglected artists' reputations;
  • changes in art market supply and demand, including the expansion of the transatlantic art trade;
  • the self-image and cultural identity of nineteenth-century Manchester;
  • the designation of new public spaces for art and the production of new audiences for art; and
  • contemporary debates regarding the respective roles of the state, municipal authorities, voluntary associations and private individuals in the pubic provision and promotion of the visual arts.

Further information:

Junior Conference

On Thursday 8 November, there will be a Junior Conference on the 1857 Manchester Art-Treasures Exhibition and its significance.

This is designed for students in Y12 &13 and is an opportunity to experience the research environment and debate of an international conference at an appropriate level.

The Centre for Museology is pleased to be working in partnership with the Widening Participation team in the Faculty of Humanities on this exciting initiative.

There will be an article by Helen Rees Leahy on the significance of the Manchester Art-Treasures Exhibition today in the October 2007 issue of the Museums Journal.


Nature Behind Glass

Nature Behind Glass: Historical and theoretical perspectives on natural science collections

Manchester Museum

6 - 8 September 2007

The conference aimed to promote and communicate inter-disciplinary research on historical, theoretical and museological aspects of natural history museums.

For whereas other museum sectors (such as ethnography museums) have been the subject of thriving body of reflexive literature, the collecting and display of natural objects has yet to be so thoroughly theorised.

Bringing together a critical mass of scholarship engaged in research in this area, the conference began to develop a theoretical community concerned with 'natural museology'.

Papers provided innovative methodological or reflexive insights and were based on original research.

A group of papers has been published as a special issue of Museum and Society.

Panel topics

Papers and posters engaged with historical and/or current aspects of the following areas:

  • taxidermy
  • botany
  • empire
  • multi-media
  • dioramas
  • collecting
  • international contexts
  • re-assessing in the 20th century
  • re-inventing in the 21st century

Key Papers

  • Professor Tony Bennett (Open University): Nature sometimes makes no jumps, and sometimes it does: Museums of natural history and ethnology, governance, and evolutionary temporalities
  • Professor Peter Davis (University of Newcastle): On the borders of natural history: geographical isolation and collection building in the nineteenth century
  • Dr Sophie Forgan (Teesside University): Hero, muse or fossil? Reflections on the growth of the personality museum
  • Professor Simon Knell (University of Leicester): Fossil people: studying research communities through their engagement with objects
  • Dr Bernadette Lynch (University of Manchester): Amenable objects: cultural perspectives on natural history specimens
  • Professor John Pickstone (University of Manchester): What is a natural about objects? Perspectives from the history of science 
  • Dr Anne Secord (University of Cambridge): Private collections and the public good: skill and desire in natural history

Programme panel

  • Dr Sam Alberti (Manchester Museum / Centre for Museology)
  • Dr Nick Merriman (Manchester Museum)
  • Prof. Penny Harvey (Social Anthropology)
  • Prof. Piotr Bienkowski (Manchester Museum)
  • Dr Helen Rees Leahy (Centre for Museology)
  • Louise Tythacott (Centre for Museology)
  • Prof. Mick Worboys (CHSTM)
  • Dr Joe Cain (University College London)
  • Dr Chris Whitehead (University of Newcastle; Chair, MGHG)
  • Prof. Arthur Lucas (President, SHNH)
  • Gina Douglas (Linnean Society; Programme Secretary, SHNH)

Organised by

Selected posters