Within the Eurocentric context museums have long been the default repositories for material culture focusing on display, documentary, education and storage. What Bennett refers to as the exhibitory power of the museum continues to dominate and has been widely embraced in China, demonstrated by a rapid growth in museum construction. As the same time there is increasing interest in intangible cultural heritage exemplified by forms of craft knowledge and techniques, artistic practice, ritual and folk traditions and oral narratives. While sometimes depicted as divorced from material culture, intangible heritage is usually intimately linked to the production, utilisation and consumption of artefacts. Indeed, understanding the intangible can produce new contexts for and fresh insights into the world of tangible heritage. However, by definition, intangible heritage does not easily sit within the traditional institutional museum model.
As opposed to the expert-led, top-down functioning of the museum sector, the sources and guardians of intangible cultural heritage are located in the practices and oral narratives of local communities. Apart from the issues of presenting/representing the intangible within a museum context, relations with communities become paramount. This project seeks to understand the emerging relationships between museums, intangible cultural heritage and the communities responsible for practicing and transmitting this heritage. It focuses upon different models of co-production, the utilisation of new digital technologies and emerging modes of interpretation able to embrace the intangible dimension. There is scope to examine these relationships and how they are being negotiated from both the community perspective and from the institution of the museum.
While drawing upon cases from the UK and Europe, this project focuses upon Chinese museums and particularly the newly announced 20 national level museums and local level museums that are being developed within the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) to showcase intangible cultural heritage. These can be juxtaposed with a number of well-established museums in Hangzhou that already link to intangible cultural heritage practices – the Silk Museum, Tea Museum and Traditional Medicine Museum. Understanding this initiative and examining it within a wider context of established museums and their interpretation of the intangible will shed new light on museum and community relations and the extent to which intangible heritage can be better absorbed in the museum sector.
Dr Katharina Massing
Prof Mike Robinson
Dr Yi Fu
For the eligibility criteria, please visit our how to apply page.
Fees and Funding
This project is fully-funded by the Cultural Heritage Research Peak Studentship Scheme.
How to apply
The application deadline is Friday 18 February 2022.
We are looking for motivated, engaged individuals to join our doctoral community. If you are interested in applying for one of the proposed Studentship projects, follow the apply button to access our application portal: please note, you will need to use the ‘NTU Doctoral Application 21/22’ form.
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