FRIDAY MAY 21, 2021
1:00 PM (EDT) 

Raymond Montpetit

Professor emeritus, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

Exhibiting the Elsewhere and Being There: Topo-analogical Museum Apparatuses and their Occupants (in French)

Thomas Rowlandson, Mr. Bullock’s Exhibition of Laplanders (1822)
Credit: Rosenwald Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington

This intervention proposes to see how history and ethnology museums have evolved to exhibit not only a series of conserved artefacts, but also sets of objects displayed in such a way as to create an image and spatially configure a place that reproduces an inhabited place of the outdoor world. I will take up the question of the presence or absence of human figures in topo-analogical museum designs, such as period rooms and dioramas. These apparatuses, which were first used in popular entertainment venues (wax museums and world’s fairs), became standard in various types of museums in the first decades of the 20th century and effectively act as a call for personification aimed at peopling the sites, making the absent present and making history come alive (“life group,” “living history”). My presentation examines this museographical turn and the visual culture factors that inspired this development and identifies several modes of human (re)presentation in history exhibitions.

Museologist, art and culture historian, professor emeritus (2014) in the Art History department at UQAM, Raymond Montpetit was, from 1986 to 1987, the founding director of the Museology MA program at UQAM, which he directed from 1993 to 1999. For over forty years, he has worked on carrying out museum projects (Centre d’histoire de Montréal, Pointe-à-Callière, Pulperie de Chicoutimi) and exhibitions (among which Mémoires, presented for more than 15 years from 1988 at Musée de la civilisation, and Je me souviens. Quand l’art imagine l’histoire, also presented for more than 15 years, from 2002 at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec). He has carried out several museum-related studies and evaluations and collaborated in the defining of heritage policies. His publications focus on the history and theory of museums and exhibitions. In 2009, he received the prestigious “Prix carrière” from the Société des musées du Québec (SMQ) and in 2016, ICOM Canada’s International Achievement Award in 2016 for his “outstanding role in promoting and putting Canadian museums on the world stage.”

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