Dwelling, Display and Vernacular Practice in the Personal Museum: Study and Play in Eisinga’s Planetarium, Hille van Dieren’s Wrakken Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum

By Donald Lawrence.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Places for amateurism,” together with “the self-made museum,” have been identified by the organizers of the 2008 Inclusive Museums conference as sub sects of The Virtual Museum. Rather than considering Virtual Museums however, my paper considers related modes of inquiry in the longer history of personal museums, with a particular emphasis on two museums in Holland that I have been visiting, researching and documenting during the past two years. Through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research/Creation grant (“Vernacular-based Artistic Practice and the Personal Museum”) I have been considering the realm of the personal museum in sites that range from such established and historical museums as London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum to David Wilson’s much newer Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. Two Dutch museums in particular have been a focus of my interest and study. Hille van Dieren’s Wrakken Museum, a museum of shipwrecks, on the island of Terschelling and Eise Eisinga’s eighteenth century Planetarium in Franeker bring to public attention a mixing of such practices as “high, folk, popular [and] techno-scientific” — and do so through the authentic voice of interests that are both personally and pedagogically motivated. Individually and collectively these museums have an affinity to the form of the landscape folly and to its particular history of interweaving the pursuits of amateurs and professionals. Museums such as van Dieren’s effectively break down culturally inscribed boundaries between contemplation, study, play and the museum as a place of social gathering. In such respects, these personal museums present models of practice that probe at questions surrounding how museums may “become more inclusive.”

Keywords: Personal Museums, Vernacular Based Practice, Eisinga Planetarium, Wrakken Museum, Museum of Jurassic Technology, Soane Museum, Teylers Museum

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.163-174. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.147MB).

Donald Lawrence

Chair, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Donald Lawrence teaches in Visual Arts at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. He has a BFA from the University of Victoria and an MFA from Toronto’s York University. Lawrence’s teaching and research interests bring his own artistic practice together with numerous interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives. In works that range in scale from small models to large and complex diorama-like installation projects Lawrence’s artistic works explore the dual landscapes of urban culture and Canada’s wilderness. His Underwater Pinhole Photography Project has been exhibited across Canada and has been the subject of two exhibition catalogues and, most recently, a film documentary. Donald Lawrence is a first recipient of a SSHRC Research/Creation grant surrounding “Vernacular-based Artistic Practice and the Personal Museum.” This has, in part, had him researching museums in Franeker, Haarlem, Leiden, and Terschelling during the past two years.


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