Ritual objects, spiritual heritage and the museum space between: Examining the curatorial formation of intangible heritage narratives for faith-based exhibits in Israel’s museums.
This thesis outlines research undertaken in Israel on the formation of curatorial narratives for spiritual heritage exhibitions. The emotive and esoteric features of objects of faith and ritual in a country where religious practice remains widespread, enables the thesis to explore the dichotomy between the inanimate physicality of ritual objects and the rich spiritual and political symbolism associated with their use. By concentrating specifically on curatorial narratives as expressed both through interviews and through the museum exhibitions themselves, the thesis explores the dynamic and complex relations between human and non-human participants in the museum space. The analysis of the formative antecedents of professional narratives in this thesis contributes to inter-disciplinary research between Material Culture Studies and Museum Studies by exploring the layer of curatorial priming that the narrative brings to the visitor engagement with ritual objects.
Through case study analysis, a scale and matrix were developed along with other analytical tools for discerning between a range of material and immaterial approaches to spiritual heritage. This analysis assists in the categorisation of curatorial narratives for exhibition displays and in the matching of modes of mediation and communication associated with these approaches. The development of the ‘intangibility scale’ for spiritual heritage narratives led to an appreciation of a volatile, unpredictable and fluid interaction between human sensations and material and therefore to the value in applying multimodal experiential learning to a range of curatorial approaches for spiritual and faith-based content. The trans-disciplinary nature of this finding, contributes to resolving conceptual and practical challenges in combining tangible and intangible features of material culture within curatorial practice. The conclusions of this thesis demonstrate a measured curatorial trade-off in narratives for intangible spiritual heritage and recommend a curatorial ‘Holistic Triad’ to balance between displays of ritual objects or practice and between particular modes of mediation depending on the epistemological and ideological classifications of curatorial goals.
Supervisor(s)Janet Marstine; Lisanne Gibson; David Unwin
Date of award2022-05-03
Author affiliationSchool of Museum Studies
Awarding institutionUniversity of Leicester