Exhibition styles and genres are often associated with different subject matters: art exhibits, history exhibits, science exhibits, ethnographic exhibits. Yet while such canonical notions of genre persist, we also know and confidently assert that exhibition genres have blurred. Ethnographic museums today are not the ethnographic museums of a century ago, although they certainly bear the legacies from which they have grown. How do they communicate both their histories and their contemporary orientations to visitors through their exhibitions? What does an “ethnographic exhibition” look like now, when the very categories of ethnography, history, and art exhibits have been blurring for decades? What elements signal the ethnographic in blurred genres, and what values, identities, and differences do they convey through their design and thematic content? This presentation and the one to be presented in the Peabody Museum lecture series are both part of a series of articles concerning exhibition design and communication that I have been developing in the past five years.
Corinne Kratz is Professor of Anthropology and African Studies Emerita at Emory University and Emory Director for the African Critical Inquiry Program. She writes on culture and communication; the histories and politics of visual and verbal representation, particularly in museums, exhibitions, and photography; and performance and ritual. Kratz’s books include Affecting Performance: Meaning, Movement and Experience in Okiek Women’s Initiation, The Ones That Are Wanted: Communication and the Politics of Representation in a Photographic Exhibition (which received both the Collier Prize and honorable mention for the Rubin Outstanding Publication Award), and the co-edited volume Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. She has also published numerous articles and curated museum exhibitions. Kratz has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fulbright, Social Science Research Council, National Science Foundation, Wenner Gren Foundation, and others. She is currently on the Council for Museum Anthropology Board and research associate at the Museum of International Folk Art.