Meetings, Current

The meeting this year, originally scheduled to be in Munich, will be virtual, split between 17 and 18 October 2021. It will be held during the afternoons (European time) to enable so far as possible real time engagement from as many time zones as possible.

The topic is the response of our museums to the crisis created by the Covid-19 virus.

We invite speakers to contribute papers. Possibilities include individual talks of 20 minutes; lightning talks (5-8 minutes) or roundtables, as well as joint/collaborative presentations.

These are exceptional times, so the Artefacts conference will be exceptional, taking as its theme museums’ responses to the global Covid emergency. Science, technology and medicine have been central to national and international narratives and have highlighted their integration with social and cultural life at local and global scales.

You are invited to reflect both on recent past experience and on considerations shaping future policy. Papers might therefore deal with institutional responses to the Covid experience and to its anticipated sequels, or to crises more generally.

In the last few months, many organisations around the world have sought to collect and preserve material expressions of the pandemic. Museums are all having to wrestle with inter-related questions of reshaped audiences, collections development to reflect and document the experience of crises, and the future balance between physical and virtual approaches to public engagement.

It may be too early to report detailed policies, but Artefacts is an opportunity to share thinking among institutions from around the world. We can also bring our historians’ eyes to the global and to individual institutional experiences. In this juxtaposition of scales, the pandemic highlights the deep ethical issues at stake in documenting and narrating this crisis and museums’ role therein. It also brings into relief both the loss of physical encounters with artefacts and the opportunities of virtual engagement.

Questions may be addressed to Barney Finn at finnb@si.edu.