EACS Summer School 2017 ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Materiality, Meaning and Accessibility of Chinese Objects in Local Collections’

Lampeter, UK
4-8th Sep 2017
Deadline: 14th Apr 2017

The EACS Summer School ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Materiality, Meaning and Accessibility of Chinese Objects in Local Collections’ will be held at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter Campus on 4–8 September 2017 (Arrival 3rd September, departure 9th September).

Registration for the Summer School will start on 6th February 2017 and will be announced on the EACS website. The deadline for registrations will be 14th April 2017.


  • Dr Louise Tythacott,Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art, SOAS
  • Prof. Anne Gerritsen (Leiden), Professor of Asia-Europe Intercultural Dynamics
  • Dr Stacey Pierson (SOAS), Senior Lecturer in Chinese Ceramics
  • Dr Katharina Zinn, UWTSD, Senior Lecturer for Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage
  • Dr Thomas Jansen, Associate Professor in Chinese Studies, Director of the Confucius Institute for Heritage, UWTSD (organiser)
  • Staff of museums involved in the Summer School

Chinese objects often lead seemingly dormant lives in private collections and museums across Europe, especially in small institutions without specialist curators. This workshop aims to introduce participants to the issues, both theoretical and practical, involved in researching, curating and exhibiting Chinese objects from small museums or private collections. These include questions of preservation and presentation, as well as interpretation.

Objects can have contested meanings and simultaneous identities, depending on, for example, their life-cycle stage, where and how they are kept, and who has access to them. Objects are able to convey ambivalence as well as multiple potential narratives. Using various interdisciplinary theories and
methodologies to examine, appreciate and interpret artefacts, drawing upon Chinese studies, History, Heritage Studies, Material Culture Studies and Anthropology, will enable us/ allow us to explore Chinese objects within the various cultural contexts in which they occur, and to reconstruct an object’s entire life-cycle and biography (Kopytoff 1986; Hoskins 2006). Understanding Chinese objects may even require a “re-theorization of heritage” (Waterton and Smith 2009: 15), especially if the aim is to introduce Chinese objects to a wider, non-specialist audience.

Chinese objects face specific curatorial, presentational and interpretive challenges, especially in small (regional) museums and collections; a particular challenge is the frequently unprovenanced object. Orhan Pamuk addressed these challenges in his novel The Museum of Innocence and in his museum in Istanbul with the same name. The catalogue to his museum includes Pamuk’s Modest Manifesto For Museums, making a case for small museums and their collections as a chance to “reveal the humanity of individuals” (Pamuk 2012, [56]).

Taking inspiration from Pamuk, participants in the workshop will be introduced to the most recent scholarship on Heritage Studies, Material Culture Studies, as well as the curation of Chinese objects in museums and collections. These theoretical sessions will be complemented by field trips to local museums with (sometimes small) Chinese collections, where local experts will discuss practical issues of working with Chinese objects.

The workshop will incorporate the following three themes:

  • Hidden away? Chinese objects in small collections
  • Materiality of global interactions and local identities
  • Life-cycles: The narrative and writing of object biographies

Field trip destinations include:

  • National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
  • Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Merthyr Tydfil
  • Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Swansea

Further information is available on the Summer School’s website: