Loughborough University
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A cross-cultural analysis of curatorial practices: Byzantine exhibitionary complexes in three European national museums

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posted on 2017-06-26, 11:25 authored by Sofia Mali
This thesis presents three main arguments. First, that curating in national museums is a process of meaning making and that the exhibitionary meaning is situated in and mediated by culture, thus, the products of curatorial work, i.e. the exhibitionary complexes are complex political and cultural constructions. Second, that the exhibitionary complexes final visual outcome, i.e. the exhibitionary complexes images and texts result in the presentation of mythological constructs of Byzantium as the only truth to their audiences. Third, that what is finally communicated through the presentation of mythological constructs of Byzantium is national identity and dominant cultural values. The latter is effected through the representation of the Byzantine Empire as part of the identity of the dominant cultural group of the country to which each national museum belongs. National identity is communicated through the exhibitionary complexes, either by suggesting historical continuity of the contemporary national identity of a country s dominant cultural group through Byzantium, as in the case of the Greek national museums, or by undermining the very idea that Byzantine history, European history and British history are so very different, as in the case of the British Museum. Both interpretations are culturally constructed realities . The above approaches are explained through the investigation of exhibitionary meaning around Byzantium, by identifying and analysing the nature and cultural functions of the presuppositions that are involved in each museum s curatorial practices. These presuppositions are the cultural ideas, values and beliefs of the involved dominant cultural groups on Byzantium and on their own identity. My identification and analysis of these presuppositions includes research on the historical, political and cultural context of each museum, the culturally accepted history and art history literature of each country on Byzantium, as well as research on museum archives. By explaining and using the curatorial concepts of democratisation and demystification , adopted and adapted to the practices of the museums under study, and by analysing the British and Greek interpretations of Byzantium, which make themselves apparent in the images and texts of the British and Greek exhibitionary complexes , I provide a cultural account of the making of exhibitionary meaning, explaining contemporary perceptions of Byzantium, its use in identity making and its relation to national politics. By doing this, I also explain the implications of those presuppositions to the making of exhibitionary meaning, and I provide an explanation of how and why the power system of the exhibitionary complex is still in play although we are shifting into the era of the Democratic museum (Fleming, 2008). The concluding remarks of the thesis include suggestions for the further development of the curatorial practices of democratisation and demystification .


Loughborough University, School of the Arts, English and Drama.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


© Sofia Mali

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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