Engaging Objects: The Talking Objects Programme at the British Museum

By Emma Poulter.

Published by The Arts Collection

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

On a hot summer’s day in August 2008 a group of eight young people joined the throng of visitors crowding around the Rosetta Stone, one of the British Museum’s most visited objects. Like many of the tourists milling around, none of the young people had been to the British Museum before, and only one person in the group, a young man called Moser, had heard about the stone – during his schooling in Guinea.

This was day one of the Talking Objects pilot project – the first in a three year programme of projects drawing on a range of art practices to discuss and debate the meanings of museum objects with diverse audiences across London.

This paper provides a critical reflection on the process of bringing art practices into the museum to facilitate new conversations around objects. It will examine the experimental ideas which underpin the Talking Objects programme and the ways in which object histories and the personal responses of the project participants come together and are mediated within the British Museum – ‘a world collection for the world’.

Keywords: The British Museum, Talking Objects, Participatory Art Practices, Audience Development, Dialogue, Museum as Forum

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.341-350. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.137MB).

Dr. Emma Poulter

Talking Objects Programme Manager, Learning and Audiences Department, The British Museum, London, UK

As part of the Community Partnerships Team at the British Museum, Emma works to open up the Museum collections to new audiences and interpretations. She has recently completed a PhD in Museology at the University of Manchester, researching the biographies of objects in the West African collections at the Manchester Museum. Emma trained as an archaeologist at the University of Southampton (1997-2000) where she developed an interest in representation, identity and object biographies. This developed during her Masters in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester (2002-2004) where she became particularly interested in the representation of non-western objects in the museum environment. Emma has worked at several institutions including the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston and Manchester Art Gallery. She also works as a freelance researcher and curator.


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