Event details

Loading Events

« All Events

Publics of the First Public Museums (XVIII-XIX century) – International Workshop

May 23 @ 9:00 am - May 24 @ 1:00 pm

The workshop is an integral part of the research project Visibility Reclaimed: Experiencing Rome’s First Public Museums (1733-1870): An Analysis of Public Audiences in a Transnational Perspective. Marking the second of three encounters, this workshop delves into the examination of literary discourses vital to understanding the experiences of early museum-goers. Travel literature has long represented a privileged source for investigating the origins of the first public museums and the practices of access to public and private collections in Europe. However, in the light of recent studies aimed at deepening the material history of the museum and the encounter of the public with the institutions, these sources deserve a closer scrutiny in both methodological and critical terms. Following the inaugural Rome session centred on institutional sources, the Durham workshop turns its gaze towards the rich tapestry of literary narratives with the aim of analysing them also in a comparative perspective with the primary sources. As museums sought to define and engage their public, literature often became both a mirror and a mould, reflecting and shaping societal perceptions. With a spotlight on interdisciplinary and transnational approaches, the Durham workshop calls for a deeper probe into the visual and material realms of museums, emphasizing the interplay between literary discourses and artworks, collections, display, space, audiences “narrated” in the museum and the evolving institutional norms of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Contact Professor Stefano Cracolici for further information.

Thursday 23 May 2024

Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

9:00     Welcoming Remarks

9:15     I. Methodological Reflections (followed by a coffee break)
This session serves as an introduction to the workshop, providing a shared reflection on the current state of research and the future prospects. It will focus on the comparative, interdisciplinary, and intermedial analysis of literatures within the field of Museum Studies.

11.15   II. Museums at Hand
This session will analyse literary genres for museum visitors, like guidebooks, and the role of periodicals in broadening museum audience engagement. Discussions will cover the evolution of these texts and new reading approaches introduced by Digital Humanities.

12.30   Keynote Address

14.15   III. Museums on the Beaten Track
This session focuses on museum experiences in travel literature, including correspondence, diaries, and travel accounts. Discussions will specifically examine the unique perspectives of visitor-narrators and how published literary accounts of museum visits compare or contrast with unpublished sources.

Coffee Break

15.45   IV. Varieties of Sightseeing
This session explores the variety of visiting spaces, perspectives, and geographies in the 18th and 19th centuries, including museums, monuments, private palaces, and studios. Discussions will focus on what these diverse viewpoints reveal about sociocultural dynamics.

17.00  Keynote Address (and discussion)

 Friday 24 May 2024

9.00 V. Literary Landscapes
This session aims to reflect on how literature provides a multifaceted view of the museum experience, extending the analysis to landscape traversal. It will consider the poetic charm of narrative evocations that capture the emotions of a setting and the ekphrastic descriptions that articulate artworks in written words.

10.30 VI.  Museum Tales
This session is dedicated to literary texts that transform museum visits into narratives. It explores how notions of time and space during such visits compare with the temporal dynamics of literary narration and how the perception of the visited places differs from travel accounts.
Coffee Break

11.45   VII. Sensory Visits
This session explores how the concept of the museum as a space to “read” differs from its traditional perception as a space to “visit.” It will examine, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the implications of this distinction in literary and museological discourses, with a special focus on the sensory dimension of navigating through texts and the museum.

The full draft programme includes all speakers can be found here.

Curated by:
Stefano Cracolici (Durham University)
Carla Mazzarelli (Università della Svizzera italiana)

Main supporter:
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

With the participation of:
Istituto di storia e teoria dell’arte e dell’architettura, Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio, Università della Svizzera Italiana
Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Durham University

In collaboration with:
Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University


The Workshop is part of Research Project Visibility Reclaimed. Experiencing Rome’s First Public Museums (1733-1870). An Analysis of Public Audiences in a Transnational Perspective (SNSF 100016_212922).



May 23 @ 9:00 am
May 24 @ 1:00 pm


Institute of Advanced Study, Cosin’s Hall, Durham University, Palace Green, DH1 3RL


Professor Stefano Cracolici

You might also be interested in…