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On the Properties of Things: Collective Knowledge and the Objects of the Museum – Call for Papers

Submitted on Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Ryerson University / October 25-26, 2018

On the Properties of Things: Collective Knowledge and the Objects of the Museum brings together academic researchers of museums, museum professionals, and museum-based cultural workers, who are interested in developing new, connective ways of engaging with the museum as both an institutional structure and an idea. We look to consider the deeper roles of museums in the production of knowledge (past, present, and future) and to do so from a range of disciplinary and cultural perspectives. We are particularly interested in forging alliances between the arts and the sciences in museum research and practice, and in bringing different communities of cultural knowledge into dialogue, including Indigenous, Canadian settler, and European communities.

Our title recognizes that objects in and of the museum have various “properties” that derive from their materiality, their cultural history, and their knowledge-building capacity. This event proposes an approach to questions surrounding the properties of objects through the framework of “collective knowledge.” We aim to challenge the historical, disciplinary boundaries of museum cultures
(scholarly, curatorial, administrative, pedagogical, scientific, artistic, and literary) and to facilitate connections between realms usually held apart, such as the arts and sciences, research and education, Eurocentric and Indigenous knowledges and practices, and between the academic and the public spheres.

Through a day of playfully-themed panels and roundtables this event will facilitate cultural and disciplinary exchanges aimed at fruitfully informing how we understand museums and their objects. We welcome proposals connecting to any of the thematic groupings below, as well as on other subjects that emphasize collaborative, cross-disciplinary research on and practice in museums.

  • relics, totems and remains
  • collection and re-collection
  • palimpsest and pentimento
  • the poetics of the museum
  • instrumentality and hands-on knowledge
  • Indigenous objects, collections, and knowledge creating practices
  • the nature of knowledge in museums

Keynote speakers:
Ruth Phillips, Professor of Art History, Carleton University
Paul Smith, Director, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Please send 250-word proposals for short conference papers (15 minutes) or roundtable contributions (10 minutes) as an email attachment to:

Deadline for submissions: 31 July, 2018

For enquiries, please contact Janine Rogers ( or Sophie Thomas (

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