CFP: Sessions at RSA, A Matter of Access (Toronto, 17-19 Mar 19)

Deadline: Jun 15, 2018

Organisers: Susan Bracken, Andrea M. Gáldy, Adriana Turpin (International Forum Collecting & Display)

Since its foundation in 2004, the international forum Collecting & Display has investigated numerous aspects of both collections and collectors. This type of activity has taken place at our own conferences, which resulted in a number of publications. We have also participated in meetings organised by other societies.

For the 2019 annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America we are proposing three inter-related panels, which would examine the question of access to the collection from different perspectives. This session proposes to extend the discussion of the nature and pertinence of collections by focusing on the spaces in which they were displayed and how access to those spaces was controlled. By examining how collections were displayed, used and presented and who had access to these spaces, we hope to develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of the collection to its owner and its significance to contemporaries.

The first strand we envisage to be about places and locations: how the site of a collection might have both enabled or hampered access; how the location itself could have been used to characterise the collection or enhance the reputation of the collector. Possible topics might include the diverse locales used to house and display collections, such as gardens, galleries, churches etc. This strand could also address the issue of early museums, which often institutionalised private collections in early modern Europe and necessitated a new etiquette to control the interested audience wishing to see the treasures amassed.

The second topic is envisaged as studying the related issue of “advertising” collections, for example, by means of publications, such as that of the Giustiniani Collection. Such compilations were frequently used to increase the fame attached to a particular collection. In disseminating information about it, they provided another kind of imaginative access. Another type of such “marketing” happened in the guise of less formal, but no less intentional, spreading of information e.g. through reports sent as letters between renaissance courts. Access to a particular collection and contact with a particular collector may thus have been vicarious – and not always entirely based on facts – but without some kind of advertisement, a collection might have been excluded from public awareness. In that case, the number of those wishing to see it, but being denied access, would have been very limited.

Finally, our third topic is ‘Intimate geographies’. Examining the spaces in which women displayed their collection, provides an opportunity to investigate the meaning of their collections and to challenge preconceived notions of privacy and the personal. We invite discussion as to the role of women in the household and whether they had their own spaces or shared the spaces of their consorts. In discussing the collecting and patronage of women, it may be important to also investigate ephemeral collections. Through the breadth of discussion we hope to demonstrate the multi-faceted roles of women as collectors from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

We encourage proposals that consider the many different types of collections, including collections of natural objects, flora or fauna as well as collections of drawings, miniatures and works of art.

Please send your proposals on any of the three topics with abstracts of no more than 250 words by 15 June, 2018 to

Please be aware that to be part of the panel in March 2019 you will have to be a member of RSA and be enrolled for the annual meeting at the time of the deadlines set by the society.

Reference: CFP: Sessions at RSA (Toronto, 17-19 Mar 19). In:, May 27, 2018. <>.