Museum Objects and Their Materiality


MILLI FOLKLOR, vol.135, no.135, pp.190-200, 2022 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 135 Issue: 135
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.190-200
  • Keywords: Exhibition, museum object, materiality, museum experience, object oriented museum
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: No


With the diminishing of the trust in the power of the objects in terms of communicating information and meaning, the museum objects have started to be seen as concrete expressions of abstract concepts, illustrations of stories or parts of a scene. The information that their materiality conveys has started to be ignored. In many museums, the objects were overlooked by the visitors as a result of the overwhelming texts, images or stages that surround them. In this article, after explaining the "thing " and "museum object, " we shall focus on the theoretical discussions that emphasize the symmetrical relations between human beings and things. By discussing the Mexican movie called Museo and the fiction of Museum of Innocence, the social lives and powers of the things/objects will be considered. While showing how different contexts shape how we see the objects, we shall also determine how the material qualities of the objects, which do not change much, effect the human actors in return. The power of objects that come from their materiality was central to the museums since their first foundations. This phenomenon, which was later forgotten by some museums, is now being revisited in the literature on museum studies. The article will tackle with the changing approach of the publications to the museum objects chronologically and the emphasis given on the benefits of curatorial practices that place the materiality of the objects in the centre. In some museums that were given as examples in the article, the exhibition preferences evolved from glass cases to wall encyclopedias and then to stage designs. With the discussions on remembering the materiality of the objects, there has been a return to the glass cases again. The glass case is by all means symbolic. In fact, what is emphasized is the recognition of the importance of giving the visitor opportunity to examine the object in detail. With this awareness about the objects, the responsibilities of curators, the amount of the content of the text, images and scenes that accompany the objects and the decisions about when and how to present this content have been questioned. In the process between, much has been learned regarding communication, education, interactive practices, participation, a holistic approach by incorporating intangible heritage that would enhance the museum experience but the first personal encounter that is shaped solely by the materiality of the object has been forgotten. It is clear that, to save the museum from being a wall encyclopedia, a deeper sensory and emotional interaction with the objects should be allowed. Many museums in Turkey undergo revisions and they try to keep up to date in many ways in order to interact with the visitor, improve the education in the museum, associate the collection with the intangible cultural heritage, and catch up with new technologies. In Turkish publications, the use of the term "object oriented ", to describe traditional, static and detached exhibition, can be misleading as it presents "society/human centred museum " as a counter definition of "object oriented museum. " In these museums with amazingly rich collections, avoiding seeing objects only as accessories of the story and encouraging visitors to look at them in detail will significantly improve the museum experience.