Preliminary Research and Interviews

For the past few weeks, I have started gathering the sources on my reading lists, requesting more ILLs than I ever thought possible, and preparing to start observations in the coming weeks. Lots of materials have been written on the display of religion in the secular (or non secular world), so I have a lot of reading to get through. I wanted to have a pretty strong foundation going into my first interview with a curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). I found a fantastic book called Religious Objects in Museums by Crispin Paine, which is both philosophically interesting as well as a great anthology of sorts of a lot of different examples of exhibitions of religious objects in museums. I hope to incorporate and compare a couple of the better examples into my paper.

My conversation with the curator of ancient art at the VMFA was very enlightening. He specializes in the intersection of religion and art in the ancient world, which allowed him to have some great insights on tangible techniques he uses to better illuminate religious context in objects. He gave me some more sources to look into and then we walked around the collections and he showed me some of the displays he set up and asked me (and then explained himself) why the design was important or what it said about the objects. It was pretty amazing to be standing with a curator in the exhibit that he personally curated and then talking about exactly what I want to think about more.

In my initial readings, I have found a few sources that discuss accessibility of museums to a wide variety of communities, especially in terms of level of education and how you process information. I brought it up with him and we compared the wall texts written my different curators and what sort of impressions they would give to different kinds of people. It was fascinating and I am really excited to look more into how religion can be better represented in this way.

Next week, I start contacted religious sites to observe ritual!