Displaying fashion history: the linear, open, virtual, and absent museum
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date27/11/2020
Bucci, Alessandro Gennaro
This doctoral project engages with historical and critical debates surrounding the presence of fashion exhibitions in the museum. In particular, it problematises the issue of the temporal distance between artefacts and audiences, presenting the idea that different ways of presenting fashion to audiences underlie different ways of constructing its history. It develops considerations on historiography and museology, supplementing the limiting distinction between historical, new historical and thematic exhibitions with a set of concepts that enable the discussion and the evaluation of the qualities of historical representations. It does so by taking as its case studies selected exhibition formats developed by the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Museu Do Design e da Moda (Lisbon), Mode Museum (Antwerp), and Pitti Immagine & Fondazione Pitti Discovery (Florence). By observing the material features of their strategies of display, this research considers their ability to trigger interaction between visitors and content. In particular, it evaluates the ability of these strategies of display to shape visitors’ experiences by activating a gaze that has formed outside the museum, through the encounter with a broader culture of presentation. It sees the task of presenting the past through museum displays as grounded in practices of vision and modes of cognition in which experiences of temporality, narrative and modes of historical exploration surface as preformed and pre-individual. This project considers potential interchanges between critical museology, fundamental epistemological shifts in fashion theory, and curatorial discourse. At the same time, it opens interdisciplinary avenues for the study of the historiography of fashion, its relation to exhibition-making and to the visual and material culture in which museums are immersed. In doing so, its considerations account for aspects of existence that modern historiography has neglected: our bodily and spatial relationship with the world and with objects. In turn, the analysis develops considerations of the museum itself, utilising the chapters of the thesis also to build on the literature that has portrayed it as an institution invested in addressing conditions of cultural and temporal distance between artefacts and visitors. And thus, while on the one hand, the museum emerges as a strategic site for rethinking the history of fashion and its representations, on the other, presentations of fashion in the museum are seen as privileged contexts for the realisation of a contemporary form of museology: a practice which enacts processes of knowledge production through complex historical layering, negotiation with the world outside its premises, and the constant redefinition of canons.