n. – Equivalent in French: muséalisation; Spanish: musealisación; German: Musealisierung; Italian: musealizazione; Portuguese: musealisaçāo.
In the accepted understanding of the term, musealisation means the placing in the museum, or more generally, transforming a centre of life, which may be a centre of human activity or a natural site, into a sort of museum. The expression ‘heritagisation’ is undoubtedly a better description of this principle, which rests essentially on the idea of preservation of an object or a place, but does not cover the entire museal process. The neologism ‘museumification’ translates the pejorative idea of the ‘petrification’ (or mummification) of a living area, which may result from such a process and which may be found in numerous critical reviews about the ‘musealisation of the world’. From a strictly museological point of view, musealisation is the operation of trying to extract, physically or conceptually, something from its natural or cultural environment and giving it a museal status, transforming it into a musealium or ‘museum object’, that is to say, bringing it into the museal field.
The process of musealisation does not consist of taking an object to place it within the physical confines of the museum, as Zbyneˇk Stránský explains. Through the change of context and the process of selection and display, the status of the object changes. Whether it is a religious object, a useful object or one for enjoyment, animal or vegetable, even something that may not be clearly conceived as an object, once inside the museum it becomes the material and intangible evidence of man and his environment and a source of study and exhibition, thus acquiring a specific cultural reality.
The recognition of this change in nature caused Stránský, in 1970, to propose the term musealia to identify objects which had undergone the process of musealisation and could thus claim the status of museum objects. The term was translated into French as muséalie (see article about Museum and Objects).
Musealisation begins with a phase of separation (Malraux, 1951) or of suspension (Déotte, 1986): objects or things (real things) are separated from their original context to be studied as documents representing the reality to which they formerly belonged. A museum object is no longer an object to be used or exchanged, but now delivers authentic evidence of reality. This removal (Desvallées, 1998) from reality is already an initial form of substitution. An object separated from the context from where it was taken is already no more than a substitute for the reality of which it is supposed to be evidence. This transfer, by the separation that has been made from the original environment, inevitably causes a loss of information, which can be seen most clearly from illegal archaeological digs where the context of the objects has been completely lost as they were unearthed. It is for this reason that musealisation, as a scientific process, necessarily includes the essential museum activities: preservation (selection, acquisition, collection management, conservation), research (including cataloguing) and communication (via exhibition, publications, etc.) or, from another point of view, the activities around the selection, collection and display of what has become musealia. At most, the work of musealisation gives an image which is only a substitute for the reality from which these objects were chosen. This complex substitute, or model of reality (built within the museum) comprises museality, that is to say a specific value which documents reality, but is in no way reality itself.
Musealisation goes beyond the logic of collections alone and is part of the tradition founded on rational processes developed with the invention of modern sciences. The object carrying the information or the document-object, once musealised, is incorporated into the core of the museum’s scientific activity just as this has developed since the Renaissance. The purpose of this activity is to explore reality by means of sensory perception, experiment, and study of its constituent parts. This scientific perspective conditions the objective and repeated study of the thing which has been conceptualized into an object, beyond the aura which obscures its meaning. Not contemplating, but seeing: the scientific museum not only displays beautiful objects, it invites the visitor to think about their meaning. The act of musealisation leads the museum away from being a temple to make it part of a process which brings it closer to the laboratory.
Main image and for social networks:Shanghai Natural History Museum
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