Reading List

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Bridget Gayle Ground

Architecture and design histories in museum exhibitions

These readings were consulted for my master’s thesis, “Engaging Displays of Architecture and Design History: Approaches to Museum Exhibition Practice.”


  • Place and Displacement: Exhibiting Architecture.

    Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2014.

    This collection of essays is based on a 2013 symposium of the same name and provides a theoretical framework for considering the role of the exhibition in the field of architecture. It is organized by three themes: the exhibition as site for discourse; the role of institutions in developing exhibitions and the influence of their disciplinary practices; and the role of representation in the circulation of architectural information.

  • “Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects.”

    Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, 33–41.

    Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

    Baxandall considers how meaning is constructed within an exhibition by identifying three “cultural terms”—the object, exhibition organizers, and viewer—the respective cultural contexts of which constantly act upon one another. He argues that because interpretation occurs in the space between these terms (for example, viewers insert their own experiences into the space between the objects and the organizer-authored narrative), the selection of objects and text is critical to the messages that an exhibition will carry.

  • “Theses on the Philosophy of History.”

    Illuminations, 253–264. Translated by 
Harry Zohn.

    New York: Schocken Books, 1969.

    This work considers a tendency to treat history as a preconceived narrative of progress and conformity rather than a series of authentic and unique moments. He contrasts historicism—which describes a universal, homogenous, stagnant past—with “historical materialism”—which reveals crystalized “monads” of the past, “blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifetime,” and thereby preserves specificity. A possible application for exhibition practice is the challenge to present “monads” of history in a way that conveys the sense of their former present, rather than their context in a homogenized version of the past.

  • “The Exhibitionary Complex.”

    Culture, Power, History, edited by Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner, 123–154.

    Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

    Bennett’s account of the nineteenth-century development of the museum as a public institution (and its “exhibitionary complex”) reveals the emergence of a hegemonic system of organizing and viewing exhibitions. Bennett considers how and for whom exhibitions were displayed, and the resulting traditions for organizing information about the history of the world around us through display and disciplinary conventions.

  • Online

    “Out of Site in Plain View: A History of Exhibiting Architecture since 1750.”

    A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., April 7–May 12, 2013.

    These lectures provide a “genealogy” of the architectural exhibition, tracing its history since the nineteenth century and proposing new directions for its practice, such as an emphasis on process over product. While Bergdoll focuses on the capacity of the contemporary exhibition to instigate debate within the field of architecture and design, I will focus on its capacity to educate a general public.

  • “Beyond Collection Work: The Evolving Role for Curators.”

    Museum May/June 2017, 13–15.

    This article discusses AAM’s 2014 “Curator Core Competencies.” Emphasizes publishing given its longevity compared to temporality of exhibitions as well as a means to “extend the outreach and relevance of curatorial work” (14). It also points to the increasing collaborations with “community curators,” meaning that the curator is becoming a liaison or connector who facilitates interpretation of materials by others. (15)

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