Displaying lives: the narrative of objects in biographical exhibitions

Caterina Albano


Biographical exhibitions are a museum practice that asks for critical consideration. Grounding the argument in critical theory, social studies and museum theory, the article explores the narrative function of objects in biographical exhibitions by addressing the social significance of objects in relation to biography and their relevance when presented into an exhibition display. Central is the concept of objects as ‘biographical relics’ that are culturally fetishized in biographical narratives. This raises questions about biographical reliability and the cultural role that such objects plays in exhibition narratives as bearers of reality and as metonymical icons of the biographical subject. The article considers examples of biographical exhibitions of diverse figures such as Gregor Mendel, Madame de Pompadour and Roland Barthes, and the role that personal items, but also portraits and photographs, play in them.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Caterina Albano

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360