Religious Objects in Museums: Private Lives and Public Duties

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Aug 29, 2013 - Art - 192 pages
In the past, museums often changed the meaning of icons or statues of deities from sacred to aesthetic, or used them to declare the superiority of Western society, or simply as cultural and historical evidence. The last generation has seen faith groups demanding to control 'their' objects, and curators recognising that objects can only be understood within their original religious context. In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the role religion plays in museums, with major exhibitions highlighting the religious as well as the historical nature of objects.

Using examples from all over the world, Religious Objects in Museums is the first book to examine how religious objects are transformed when they enter the museum, and how they affect curators and visitors. It examines the full range of meanings that religious objects may bear - as scientific specimen, sacred icon, work of art, or historical record. Showing how objects may be used to argue a point, tell a story or promote a cause, may be worshipped, ignored, or seen as dangerous or unlucky, this highly accessible book is an essential introduction to the subject.

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1 Objects curated How curators ascribe a new significance to their objects but still offer them respect even when keeping them under tight control
2 Objects visited How religious objects relate to their visitors
3 Objects worshipped and worshipping How objects in museums can be worshipped or even worshipping
4 Objects claimed How religious objects are demanded back from museums
5 Objects respected What respecting a religious object means and how respect is shown
6 Objects demanding and dangerous How religious objects are put into museums to render them harmless and how relics can turn the museum into a ...
7 Objects elevating How objects in museums can be purely secular yet as works of art or works of nature have spiritual power and the ability to eleva...
8 Objects militant How religious objects are converted and fight for their new masters
9 Objects promotional How religious objects promote the faith of their masters
10 Objects explanatory and evidential How religious objects explain their faith and their culture
11 Conclusion What have we learnt and how can we help religious objects in museums fulfil their public duties?

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About the author (2013)

Crispin Paine is Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, UK.

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