Richard MacKinnon, Editor in Chief
Cape Breton University
Material Culture and Mobility
"Precision," "Perfection," and the Reality of British Scientific
Instruments on the Move During the 18th Century
Abstract: Early modern British "scientific" instruments, including precision timekeepers, are often represented as static, pristine, and self-contained in 18th-century depictions and in many modern museum displays. In reality, they were almost constantly in physical flux. Movement and changing and challenging environmental conditions frequently impaired their usage and maintenance, especially at sea and on expeditions of "science" and exploration. As a result, individuals' experiences with mending and adapting instruments greatly defined the culture of technology and its use as well as later efforts at standardization.
Trade Cards in 18th-Century Consumer Culture: Movement,
Circulation, and Exchange in Commercial and Collecting Spaces
Abstract: This paper examines the movement of trade cards in 18th-century consumer and collecting cultures. These unique graphic advertisements supported socio-economic relationships for a limited period in
the history of consumption and became sought-after graphic commodities. I consider the ways in which trade cards traversed public commercial centres and private domestic spaces as mobile advertisements, personalized bills, and miniature artworks accruing new meanings and uses as they passed through space and time. The paper complicates the traditional categorization of trade cards as "ephemera." It suggests that trade cards, rather than functioning as throwaway fragments of promotional culture, circulated within commercial society and collecting circles as valued tokens of private economic exchanges and rarefied objects.
Moving toward the Museum in 18th-Century Germany
Abstract:In the 18th century, the museum experience in Germany was largely a theoretical enterprise. Despite efforts to initiate the museum as a civic institution, the majority of collections in Germanophone Europe remained in private ownership until much later in the century, secluded from public view and difficult to access in conventional terms. Visitation to collections was consequently limited to the initiated (and invited) few,
who often travelled great distances to view displayed objects and who then communicated their knowledge of exhibits to others in a series of aesthetic writings. This article examines the intense interaction of print culture and collecting practices in 18th-century Germany by focusing specifically on the vital interconnection existing between discursivity and the physical object. It explores the general nature of this relationship, while also illustrating the impact it had on the nascent public practice of collecting in Germany. It regards the promulgation of collecting within this context primarily as a textual strategy, rather than as a factual reality, and evaluates the role reading played in promoting the acquisition and collection of material culture to a post-Enlightenment general public.
A Different Way of Sitting: American Patent Folding Chairs of the
Abstract: The 19th-century American parlour was the focus for social and economic signifiers for the emerging middle class. The evolving use of the parlour within the domestic interior, industrialization, and its impact on the role of middle-class women, coupled with design reform, created the ideal conditions for the acceptance of the patent folding chair into the American home. Patent folding chairs were placed at the centre of the home, valued for their functional and innovative design. Companies such as the New Haven Folding Chair Company of New Haven, Connecticut, E. W. Vaill Chair Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the Luburg Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created an endless diversity of patent folding and rocking chairs for the middle-class consumer. Adaptable, mobile, and functional, these chairs allowed a variety of postures to suit the consumer. As the market for patent folding chairs weakened, manufacturers found innovative ways to create new products for the middle class.
Transported Art: 19th-Century Italian Sculptures Across Continents
Abstract: The international identity of 19th-century sculpture has been neglected for several years, and, as a result, artistic literature and research have almost completely ignored the fact that most 19th-century Italian sculpture is now spread all over the world. The purpose of this essay is to illustrate and document peculiar aspects of the diffusion of Italian sculpture in America between the mid-19th and early 20th century. Along with the flux of artwork, materials, and Italian sculptors to the Americas, over the decades straddling these two centuries there was an inverse movement of American artists (interested in Italian sculpture) to Rome, Florence, Genoa, Naples, and so on. Thanks to that double exchange, Italian sculpture became a strong, recognized influence worldwide. The aim of this paper is to establish an interdisciplinary context for sculpture, clarifying the connections with social, economic, and cultural factors.
Holding on to Objects in Motion: Two Māori Musical Instruments in
the Peabody Essex Museum
Abstract: Two Māori flutes in the Peabody Essex Museum provide a multi-faceted view of objects in motion. The flutes, carved in New Zealand, were collected by a Salem captain during a trading voyage and donated to the museum in 1807. This paper follows the movements of the flutes across space and time, tracing the circuits of Māori cosmogony, Western trade, cross-cultural exchange, and breath and sound embodied in the flutes. The paper suggests that these small, carefully crafted instruments, requiring close engagement and focus in order to "play," have their own logic of circulation and organizing power and move across temporal and spatial boundaries, categories and musical planes, refusing to become static, lifeless museum objects.
Heralds of Doom
Abstract: From the early Cold War until the mid-1960s, government and military agencies moved to purchase and install air raid sirens across the country, as part of a program to prepare Canada for nuclear war. The sirens
transformed everyday public sites into often unwelcome reminders of the ever-present threat of nuclear war. The siren network was dismantled at the end of the Cold War, yet, in the past five years, "rediscovery" of sirens has generated debate over whether to restore and repurpose the alarms for commemorative display or to discard them as a legacy of the absurdity of nuclear survival plans. This study, using recently released archival sources, presents the material history and cultural impact of the Canadian air raid siren.
Consumption, Collection, Creativity: Micro-Local Practices within
Children's Bedroom Play in Urban Vancouver
Abstract:Following the growing emphasis in childhood studies on children as active consumers and agents, this paper examines creative play with Pokémon products in a micro-ethnography of children in their bedrooms. I argue that children's processes of collection, manipulation through drawing, play, and display evidence how a mass-consumed, global product can be used both as a form of (private) self-discovery and as part of the creation and reinforcement of public social knowledge.
Plaster Cast Collections from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition
in Context: Examining Culturally Determined Significance through
Environment and Time
Abstract: Through an exploration of the lives of two sets of classical plaster casts that began at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, I will track how space, context, and time established the function, specific cultural meanings, and authenticity of these casts. Regardless of the fact that these collections began in a similar environment, they were adapted for different cultural uses and agendas and accrued multiple levels of cultural significance in their movements through different environments and through time.
Mobile Stones: The Uses and Meanings of Earth Science Teaching
Abstract: The origins of university earth science teaching specimens are diverse; while some objects are collected specifically for teaching purposes and therefore travel directly from the field into a teaching collection, for others, the journey is less straightforward. Indeed, a considerable amount of the material that is used for teaching in the earth sciences has in fact been recycled from other (mostly research-related) activities, purchased from wholesalers, or borrowed from museum collections, and was therefore not originally intended to function in this context. But how are such objects made to work as teaching specimens? What happens to their previous meanings? Do they function any differently from those objects that have been collected specifically for teaching purposes? In addressing these questions, this paper reveals that, far from being fixed, static, and stable—far from being "set in stone"—these objects are polysemic, flexible, and mobile.
A Body in Motion: The Afterlives of the Tomb of Henry Howard, Earl
Abstract: The impressive monument erected to Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton in the church of St. Mary de Castro in Dover Castle ca. 1614-1616 epitomized his success in reviving the Howard family name and fortune. But neglect and accident not only reduced his proud statement to a lesser form, but also necessitated its move from its original site to Trinity Hospital in Greenwich. This essay examines the incidents that prompted the moving and later reworking of the monument, which provide an interesting case study of the effects of time and circumstance upon a seemingly stable object.
Des objets et des hommes : La seconde vie des objets « déchets » dans l'art
A Layered Place: Reuse of Materials in Recoding Public Space
Expositions itinérantes internationales et régie des oeuvres : Le cas du Victoria and Albert Museum
Diane Landry et l'objet vernaculaire : de la mouvance des objets au Musée de l'Amérique française
MacDonald, Herb. 2012. Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History. Sydney, NS: Cape Breton University Press.