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Re-Mystifying the Exhibition of Medieval Sacred Objects (2012)

Directed by Dr. Patrick Lee Lucas 84 pp.


Through this study, I identify and ascertain contexts found within the medieval church, specifically focusing on the architectural experience of the Abbey of St.-Denis, and the design characteristics and features of three medieval objects, in order to see how museums can translate the messages of sacred medieval objects. In this work, I use theories of material culture and visual culture studies, museum practices, design observation and analysis to reveal a broader, conceptual way of applying curatorial and exhibition design practices. In addition, I rely heavily on a textual analysis of Abbot Suger's diary about St.-Denis to both provide a context for the artifacts under scrutiny and then to inspire contemporary curatorial and design practices. As objects shift from their place of origin to a museum setting, and then from one institution to another through museum loans and purchases, I posit that exhibit designers and curators must take great care in placement and display of these relics. Reverent and sacred presentation of inspirational and transcendent artifacts requires great sensitivity and scrutiny to translate both authentic context and material meaning for visitors. Of particular import, I show the connections between the medieval and contemporary worlds and the value inherent in the original contexts of objects as a catalyst for exhibition design. In doing so, I shed light to "re-mystify" the rich promise of artifacts to tell important stories in the museum, helping visitors to understand other worlds - and maybe more of their own - through meaningful exchange.

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