Ástráður Eysteinsson: Collection and Exhibitionary Spaces: On museums, canons, and institutions of memory
This article constitutes an interdisciplinary attempt to probe certain issues in museum studies by focusing on canon formation in the face of the chaos of collection, and on literary representations of places and museum experiences. The journey takes us via the guided tour of the cathedral in Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, through the Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, Iceland (an exhibition without original objects, except for the place itself), to the collection of Iceland’s medieval manuscripts. After an interim discussion about the dynamics and arbitrariness of collection, selection and canon-formation, the attention shifts to the ways in which museums have opened their doors to exhibitions by artists inquiring into the institutional role of the museum. Transforming the museum space itself in the process, some artists broaden the focus of their works in an effort to embrace – as some novelists have also sought to do – a whole city, a grand but chaotic place of collective and personal memories. In Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence, the city, the novel, and the idea of the museum all interact, revealing meaningful facets of one another, and of the protagonist, who starts putting together his personal museum, as has the author himself; and perhaps this is what we all do, in one way or another.
Keywords: museum experience, canon, literary places, exhibitionary spaces, institutions of memory.