Contemporary Collecting: Theory and Practice

This 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 to some of the many challenging questions raised: 
  1. What should we collect? 
  2. Who should decide? 
  3. How can we adequately record how we live our lives today? 
  4. What about the storage implications? 
  5. What limits should we place on ourselves?
  6. What processes and directives can ensure best practice? 

Also available: Collecting the Contemporary - A Handbook for Social History Museums

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 and Cultural History, Contemporary Collecting Plan, 2009-2014

7. References

Owain Rhys is Head of Engagement and Volunteering at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum 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. Upcoming 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.

The book is a treasure trove... a welcome resource. 
History News, American Association for State & Local History

Owain Rhys is probably one of the relatively few curators to deal exclusively with contemporary collecting, so it is generous of him to share his knowledge, experience and vision on this complicated sector of collecting with us in this excellent and accessible publication. It is quite an achievement that Rhys presents the issues related to contemporary collecting in an accessible and comprehensible way.
ICOM Committee on Collecting, Comcol Newsletter

When collecting from contemporary society, the values and methodologies of curators are laid bare. The history of contemporary collecting at an institution like St Fagans is, then, also a history of changing curatorial values and assumptions, about the future as well as the present. 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

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 

Title: Contemporary Collecting: Theory and Practice
Author: Owain Rhys 
Pages: 160
Colour illustrations: 12
Size: 203 x 127 mm 
Date: 2014 (2nd edition)
Editions: £25 [paperback] | £20 [eBook]
ISBN: 978-1-910144-31-2 [paperback]

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