Contemporary Collecting: Theory and Practice

This important book deals succinctly and thoughtfully with the problems of collecting contemporary objects in museums. It aims to provide a working model for the future of contemporary collecting based on relevant debates and theories, and on past and current practices, and proposes answers some of the many challenging questions raised: 
  • What should we collect? 
  • Who should decide? 
  • How can we adequately record how we live our lives today? 
  • What about the storage implications? 
  • What limits should we place on ourselves? 
  • What processes and directives can ensure best practice? 
Praise for Contemporary Collecting
"The book is a treasure trove... a welcome resource. History News (American Association for State & Local History, Spring 2012)
"Owain Rhys shares his knowledge, experience and vision with us in this excellent and accessible publication. It is quite an achievement that the issues are presented in an accessible and comprehensible way." ICOM Committee on Collecting, Comcol Newsletter.

"The contemporary moment is the moment in which to collect, effectively. But overwhelmed by diverse recording media, unsure of an appropriate collecting philosophy or fieldwork practice, and facing up to globalisation and mass production, most museums have recorded that moment as a silence. Owain Rhys gives timely reflection on the development of contemporary collecting practice, and considers how museums might face up to the challenge." Professor Simon Knell, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.
"Owain Rhys reminds us that contemporary collecting is the first and most significant act of interpretation and a primary responsibility of almost every museum." David Anderson, Director General, National Museum Wales. 
About the Author
Owain Rhys is Curator of Contemporary Life at St Fagans: National History Museum, in Cardiff, Wales. He was previously an Education Interpreter at the same institution. Among his recent projects are an exhibition about Welsh pop music, displays about graffiti artists and LGBT life in Wales, and a survey and recording of Italian immigrants in Wales. Up-coming projects include an exhibition on the animation industry in Wales, and the Refugee House, a gallery installation populated with refugees and asylum seekers who will interact with visitors. Owain is a member of Contemporary Collecting Wales, a group of curators interested in developing and administering a post-1950 distributed National Collection for Wales.

Publication contents
1. Introduction
2. Themes and Narratives
    Whether to collect objects or alternative forms of representation
    Working with communities
    Collecting popular culture
    The influence of private collectors on museum practice
3. The History of Contemporary Collecting
    Contemporary collecting in Europe
    Contemporary collecting in North America
    Survey of curators of contemporary life 
4. Collecting the 21st Century
    The current situation and plans for expansion at St Fagans: National History Museum 
5. Appendix 1
    A Contemporary Collecting Strategy for History, 2009-2014
6. Appendix 2
    Social & Cultural History, Contemporary Collecting Plan, 2009-2014
7. References

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Publication details

Title: Contemporary Collecting: Theory and Practice
Author: Owain Rhys 

ISBN: 978-1-907697-34-0 [hardback]

Pages: 168
Price: £19.95  
Publisher: MuseumsEtc
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