Storing, Transporting, Cataloguing – Objects and Their Organisation in the Early Modern Era. 3rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Material Culture and Consumption Studies
Dr. Mona Garloff (Stuttgart)/ Dr. Natalie Krentz (Erlangen-Nürnberg)/ Elke Valentin M.A. (Stuttgart)/ Society for Material Culture and Consumption Studies
Stuttgart, 8-10 November 2018
With a focus on storing, transporting and cataloguing of material objects, the third annual conference of the Society for Material Culture and Consumption Studies aims to explore the relationship between objects and their organisation in the early modern world. We usually encounter objects in a certain system of classification. Only within this context, objects acquire meaning and become material assets of culture. Based on this general assumption from Cultural Studies, we will divide our conference into three sections: These will examine the storage, transport and the importance of inventories and lists as sources for Studies in Material Culture.
Topic 1: Storage – Objects in Their Context
Material assets of culture are already tied into a certain cultural order. This is true for their everyday use in the household or if they are offered for sale. It also applies, however, for specific systems used in museums, libraries, archives, cabinets of curiosities or natural history collections. Descriptions or images make these systems of classification tangible, and enable us to draw conclusions about the practical use of these objects, but also about practical demands on them and their intended use, as well as on social criteria of categorisation in general. First, we will have a closer look at the categorisation of objects: What do they tell us about the cultural and social value of these objects? What is their use, what is the value ascribed to them? At the same time, systems of classification also label objects with meanings of their own: How do these systems link one object to another? How do they structure objects and place them in a specific hierarchy? Finally, how do they intentionally form the imagination of the observer and user? With these questions, we intend to explore how systems of classification influence the structure of knowledge itself.
Topic 2: Transport – Objects on the Move
With transport, objects are removed from their original context. They cross geographic distances and are integrated into new contexts of categorisation. Drawing on numerous examples, studies in cultural transfer have shown that these shifts in space are always connected with a change in meaning of a particular object: Travelling across continents, cultures and social contexts, objects acquire new connotations of meaning. These, in turn, change the material nature of the object itself. In this section, we will examine the nature of transport: Which obstacles did objects have to overcome on their way, and under which conditions did they reach their destination? To what extent did conditions of transport have an effect on objects, and generate systems which were adopted at the place of arrival? These questions will help us understand the relationship between system and object: Is the value of an object derived exclusively from its context, or do objects speak, in a certain way, „for themselves“?
Topic 3: Making Inventories – Lists and Inventories as Sources for Studies in Material Culture
Our third section focusses on lists and inventories as key primary sources for Studies in Material Culture. Michel Foucault identified them as „the Panopticon’s instruments of rule“. Lists and inventories were highly influential for their contemporary users. These lists helped to open up conquered territories for exploration, they made possessions countable and collections accessible across different regions. These sources are closely connected to the relationship between object and system: Lists and inventories depict existing categories of classification or create them themselves. Before transport, objects are listed in catalogues, and then newly registered once they have reached their destination. This enables us to draw conclusions about their integration into new systems of classification. In the context of research into consumer products and material cultural assets, inventories of bequests, account books, and order lists offer indications of the existence and whereabouts of individual objects. They also provide valuable information on commerce, demand, distribution or exclusiveness of an object.
The Society for Material Culture and Consumption Studies founded in Wolfenbüttel in 2016, developed from the DFG-funded network “Material Culture and Consumption in the Early Modern Era. Objects – Circulations – Appropriations”. It is an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of current questions on research into material cultural assets and consumer goods.
The annual conference 2018 will be hosted in cooperation with the International Centre for Research on Culture and Technology (IZKT) at the University of Stuttgart, the Landesarchiv (State Archive) of Baden-Württemberg and the Landesmuseum (State Museum) of Württemberg. The conference will take place on 8th and 9th November at the Hauptstaatsarchiv in Stuttgart. On 10th November, the conference will continue in the Landesmuseum, including a guided tour by the curator and presentations on the art collection of the Dukes of Württemberg (Kunstkammer).
We look forward to papers on all disciplines in the Humanities engaged in historical research which are relevant to the above topics. In addition, there is a general section in which, inde-pendent from the conference topic, current projects from Studies in Material Culture of the Early Modern Era may be presented. We especially encourage papers relating to museum work and current PhD projects.
Conference languages will be German and English. A limited number of travel grants will be available on request.