The reproducible museum : collection, describing, and representing antiquity, 1753-1837

Arnott-Davies, Rees (2018) The reproducible museum : collection, describing, and representing antiquity, 1753-1837. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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This thesis examines the relationship between reproductive media and antiquarian museum culture between 1753-1837. It demonstrates how the emergence of a ‘constellation of reproductions’ was central to the conceptual, institutional, and practical development of public museums. It also argues that accounts of museum writing can be enriched by an appreciation of its participation in a wider ‘constellation of reproductions’. The thesis is divided into five chapters investigating the relationship between particular museums, texts and reproductive media. The first chapter concentrates on the manner in which three texts attempted to elaborate different modes of description in accounting for the experience of the British Museum in the first decade after its opening in 1759. The second chapter examines the attempt by the artist Jan van Rymsdyk to develop a positive visual epistemology of museum objects in his published account of the British Museum. If the first two chapters describe a centrifugal dissemination of reproductions from the museum, the next two chapters chart the countervailing centripetal concentration of reproductions within museums. The third chapter therefore describes the production and display of antiquarian models for popular and professional audiences in London and Paris at the end of the eighteenth century. The fourth chapter reinterprets the Soane Museum as the site of an ‘archaeology of the future’ predicated on the transformative potential of the plaster cast for the architectural profession, challenging the prevalent critical image of the Museum as the site of nostalgia or melancholy. The fifth chapter offers a reading of three Newdigate Prize-winning poems on antiquarian themes. It proposes that the literary interpretation of ekphrastic poetry can be enriched by its incorporation into the ‘constellation of reproductions’ that circulated around museums in this period, demonstrating how the very fabric of the text negotiates a relationship with multiple reproductions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > English & Humanities
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 13:51
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2018 13:51

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