Close encounters: enabling access to museum collections

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Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Narkiss, Irit; Tomlin, Helena;


Conservation and Access: Contributions to the 2008 IIC Congress, London, p.0-0 (2008)


The culture of touching in museums needs to be interrogated so that we can understand more fully how to use our collections to stimulate imaginative and creative responses with visitors. This paper will look at three main areas that concern our work within both the conservation and learning teams at The Manchester Museum. Firstly it looks at what we mean by access to collections, what we touch and how we make those assessments. It then asks two interrelated questions – why touch and how? It also considers the importance of working with objects in a variety of ways, where ‘taking hold’ is seen alongside other ways of creating intimate encounters with objects. The work of the philosophers Irigaray and Deleuze is discussed briefly, when the importance of providing a sensual space for questioning to take place is considered. Running through this paper are examples of our work in the development of the new primary programme at The Manchester Museum. These illustrate how to resolve successfully conflicts that might arise between preservation and access, through reflective negotiation.