Hacking the Museum? Practices and Power Geometries at Collections Makerspaces in London
Journal of Peer Production, Issue 12: Makerspaces and Institutions, 2018
20 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2018
Date Written: July 1, 2018
This paper examines the recent phenomenon of ‘collections makerspaces’, which are defined for the first time as dedicated public sites in cultural institutions with suites of creative tools aimed at inspiring new engagements with a collection through hands-on making and learning practices. Working from the notion of space as a form of power geometry (Massey 1993), its component parts woven together through an ever-evolving constellation of the overlapping histories, imaginaries and cosmopolitics of myriad actors, the paper begins with a genealogy of shared machine shops in the U.K. as viewed through four cumulative waves of innovation, with collections makerspaces located in a fourth wave that is defined by institutional affiliations. The circumstances of collections makerspace sites situated at three museums in London (Tate, the British Museum and the Wellcome Collection) are then explored through an examination of ethnographic observations of practices that are either canonical or distinctive, and the corresponding geometries of power they reveal. In conclusion, it is argued that the collections makerspace is emerging as a key site of critical institutional inquiry which carries the potential to reframe museum hegemonies through peer production practices.
Keywords: makerspaces, institutions, hacking, museums, hegemony, power, ethnography
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