University of Brighton staff and PGRs are invited to join us for the final session of the Exhibition Histories Reading Group:
Session 4: Monday 26th April 2021 1-2.30pm
Theme: Exhibitions and Spectatorship
Discussion chaired by: Harriet Atkinson
See further details below. Readings can be accessed and downloaded via the Microsoft Teams group. If you would like to join, please email, who will add you to the Microsoft Teams group.


(Convenors: Andrea Potts, Harriet Atkinson & Kate Guy)

This year’s Exhibition Histories Reading Group (convened by members of Centre for Design History) will continue to focus on methods and approaches to researching historical and contemporary exhibitions. Any researchers at University of Brighton and the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove who are interested in these issues are welcome to join us. Meetings will be held via MS Teams and are free but please confirm your attendance in advance by email

Over five meetings we will discuss: approaches to using interviews with exhibition makers; how to interrogate exhibitions whose context and/or content is fraught; how far exhibitions allow us to understand a historical moment; and how far exhibitions can shape, mediate or control the experience of spectators past and present.


Session 1: Monday 23 November 2020, 1-2.30pm
Theme: Methods
Discussion chaired by: Kate Guy 

In our first session, we will explore how exhibition researchers have used methods and approaches to unveil ‘behind the scenes’ histories of museums. The interview and readings for this session use archival, semi-structured interviews and oral history methods to reveal the multiple actors and institutions involved in the creation of exhibitions and museum making.

  1. Desforges, L., and Maddern, J., 2006. Front doors to freedom, portal to the past: history at the Ellis Island immigration museum, New York, Social & Cultural Geography, 5 (3), 437-457.
  2. Ritchie, A.G., 2013. The Museum as a Work of Art: Interviewing Museum Architects, Engineers, and Builders’. In: Partington, M., and Sandino, L., 2013. (eds). Oral History in the Visual Arts. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 95–103.
  3. Interviews with exhibition makers- Nima Poovya Smith interviewed by Hajra Williams from Museum Exhibition Design: Histories and Futures conference


Session 2: Monday 18th January 2021 1-2.30pm
Theme: Fraught Exhibitions
Discussion chaired by: Andrea Potts 

The texts for this session speak to the fraught nature of exhibitions, both historical and contemporary. They highlight the tensions that emerge when uncomfortable encounters take place, from Nazi ideology and modernist design practices, to a critique of the colonial past within a neo-colonial museum institution. How can researchers interrogate these encounters? Can these tensions be productive or are they simply problematic? How can an historical understanding of this inform future practice?

  1. Tymkiw, M., 2018. Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Excerpt from Chapter 3 ‘Photomurals after Pressa’, 134-167.
  2. Minott, R. 2019. The Past is Now. Confronting Museums’ Complicity in Imperial Celebration. Third Text. 33 (4-5), 559-574.
  3. Untitled (2019): A Poem by Yomi Sode 


Session 3: Monday 8th March 2021 1-2.30pm
Theme: Exhibition/Histories
Discussion chaired by: Kate Guy 

In this session, we will consider how contemporary context affects how exhibitions present histories and representations. Readings examine how race and violence have previously been exhibited, and how this has fed into broader narratives and notions of identity.

  1. Wilson, M.O., 2012. Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums. Berkeley: University of California Press, Chapter 5: ‘To Make a Black Museum’, p242-296.
  2. Andermann, J. 2012. Showcasing Dictatorship: Memory and the Museum in Argentina and Chile, Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, 4 (2), 69–93.


Session 4: Monday 26th April 2021 1-2.30pm
Theme: Exhibitions and Spectatorship
Discussion chaired by: Harriet Atkinson

This session considers the way in which exhibitions are designed and curated to shape and mediate viewers’ engagement with their subject matter. Taking both historical and contemporary examples, readings consider the way designer Herbert Bayer shaped the experience of visitors to his exhibitions in the 1930s and the way contemporary exhibitions use affect in their interpretation strategies in order to elicit particular feelings.

  1. Lugon, O., 2010. Dynamic Paths of Thought – Exhibition Design, Photography and Circulation in the Work of Herbert Bayer. In: Albéra, F., and Tortajada, M., (eds). Cinema Beyond Film: Media Epistemology in the Modern Era. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 117-144.
  2. Witcomb, A., 2013. Understanding the role of affect in producing a critical pedagogy for history museums, Museum Management and Curatorship, 28 (3), 255-271.
  3. Project website: Regarding Spectatorship


Workshop: Monday 14th June 2021
Details to be confirmed.