Call for Contributions: Care-ful museology: global perspectives on care work in the museum

Editors: Nuala Morse and Sandra Dudley, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

Deadline for Submissions: March 8th, 2024

Synopsis: Matters of care are a longstanding concern in museums, as institutions organised around the care and custodianship of collections, now and in perpetuity, for everyone and future generations. Care has become an important issue as the public work of the museum has developed in terms of care of communities (local and originating), audiences, and museum staff. Questions of care more broadly have become a central political concern (Chatzidakis et al., 2020) and a strong theme of interest to the wider heritage community in a world of ‘permacrisis’, in the wake of Covid, the climate emergency, threats to biodiversity, war, and deepening social and health inequalities.

This edited collection brings together global perspectives to explore care thinking in and for museums (and heritage) practice and theory today. Care thinking draws from care ethics to centre attention on relational practices in the museum, to foreground interdependencies, responsibilities, intentions and vulnerabilities across scales of personal and global contexts. Care thinking highlights the embodied and affective work that museum professionals do in their engagement with objects, participants, communities, and audiences. It is also attentive to the spaces of the museum where care is performed and received, and the power dynamics that shape different caring relations.

Questions of care, demands for care, and caring needs cannot be answered in the abstract and must be examined through specific contexts. This edited collection will feature scholars and practitioners from different global contexts and career stages to enable a lively conversation around caring for, caring about, and caring with museums in uncertain times. It will encourage a diversity of perspectives to explore how museum work is related to care: how care is enacted in practice, and  how care theory can be developed to respond to museological matters. Together, the chapters will form the first collective expression of a new subfield of ‘care-ful museology’.

Care-ful museology is presented as a direction of care thinking in Nuala Morse’s ‘The Museum as a Space of Social Care’ (2020), and an interest in care more broadly emerges through research and practice in the museums (gallery and heritage) field in the last ten years. It draws from feminist care theory and care ethics (Held, 2006; Mol, 2006), particularly the political approaches of Joan Tronto (1993, 2013). It finds a practice orientation in the recent health and wellbeing agenda (Falk, 2021; Latham and Cowan, 2023; Cowan, Laird and McKeown, 2020), alongside an orientation as care aesthetics (Milner and Coombs, 2021; Thompson 2022). Care appears in urgent discussion of the role of museums in mobilising for climate action (Harrison and Sterling, 2021) and their role in an age of protest (Raicovich, 2021). Care also links to developing scholarship on the agency and potentiality of museum objects (Dudley 2020) and to emotion work performed in collection-based museum work (Woodham et al. 2020; Modest and Augustat, 2023), with care foregrounding new forms of practice led by Black and Indigenous curators (Schorch and McCarthy, 2018; see also writings by practitioners David Garneau and La Tanya Autry). Care features centrally in a number of recent socially engaged and activist writings on decolonisation and inclusion (Dalal-Clayton and Puri Purini, 2022; Moore, Paquet and Wittman, 2022), and within this and beyond in relation to a concern with staff wellbeing and working conditions in museums (Krasny and Perry, 2023). More broadly, care enables engagement with the past and alternative or speculative futures. In this way, care also intersects with scholarship on hope, including hope as a method (Miyazaki, 2004), hope in relation to cultural politics (Anderson, 2006) and ideas of radical hope (Lear, 2008; Srinivas, 2018). The edited collection seeks to respond to all these works and the broader literatures on care (in) crisis.

A care-ful museology is premised on care thinking applied to all matters of concern in museums, and brings together pragmatic, activist and radical orientations to museum work into a reflexive, collective, and ongoing project. The edited collection invites scholars and practitioners engaged in all manner of museum (or heritage) work to participate in this project.

Call for chapter proposal: The editors are looking for original chapters and shorter contributions for a book exploring caring and care work as a theoretical approach to or practice framework for different areas of museum work and scholarship. They have already had positive conversations with potential publishers, including Routledge. They are interested in contributions covering a wide range of museum practice, including museum conservation, engagement, exhibitions, ethics, cataloguing, etc., and analysis of museum practices of care across global contexts. They also welcome reflections on care work in art galleries and in heritage settings and projects, and invite scholars’ and practitioners’ contributions. They are interested in writing that considers care from single or multiple angles including care for people, care for communities, care for stories, non-human care, care for staff, care for the past and care for the future. They welcome standard academic chapters from across the disciplines as well as shorter pieces, including creative responses, interviews or dialogues. Together, this writing will be part of a collective conversation and project to build a ‘care-ful museology.’

Contributions might include:
▪ Practices of repair, recovery or hope in museum settings
▪ The politics of care in socially engaged museum practice
▪ Care and self-care of museum professionals
▪ Global perspectives on the care, curation and management of collections
▪ Health inequalities and the caring museum
▪ Design, spaces and architectures of and for care
▪ Planetary care and the role of museums in the climate emergency
▪ Activism, radical care and the museum
▪ Anticipatory care in museum practice
▪ Non-human care relations in the museum
▪ Decolonizing care
▪ Care and hope as method in the museum
▪ Care ethics in the museum, including queering care and cripping care practices
▪ Resisting carelessness and neglect through museum work

They welcome proposals on other care-related topics and also welcome chapters that seek to problematise or trouble the concept of care.
Please send a 500-600 word proposal to by 8 March 2024. Please include a 100 word biography of the author(s). Please indicate if you would like to contribute a conventional academic chapter or an alternative format. They will respond to authors by mid April 2024. If you have an idea you want to discuss further before submitting an abstract, or wish to explore alternative formats together, please get in touch.

Anderson, B. (2006). Becoming and being hopeful: towards a theory of affect. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24: 733-752.
Chatzidakis, A., Hakim, J., Litter, J., & Rottenberg, C. (2020). The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence. Verso Books.
Cowan, B., Laird, R., & McKeown, J. (2019). Museum Objects, Health and Healing: The Relationship between Exhibitions and Wellness. Routledge.
Dalal-Clayton, A., & Puri Purini, I. (Eds.). (2022). Doing the Work: Embedding Anti-Racism and Decolonisation in Museum Practice. UAL Decolonising Art institute.
Dudley, S. 2020. Displaced Things in Museums and Beyond: Loss, Liminality and Hopeful Encounters. Routledge.
Falk, J. H. (2021). The Value of Museums: Enhancing Societal Well-being. Rowman & Littlefield.
Harrison, R., & Sterling, C. (Eds.). (2021). Reimagining Museums for Climate Action. Museums for Climate Action.
Held, V. (2006). The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global. Oxford University Press.
Krasny, E., & Perry, L. (Eds.). (2023). Curating with Care. Routledge.
Latham, K., & Cowan, B. (Eds.). (2023) Flourishing in Museums: Toward a Positive Museology. Routledge.
Lear, J. (2008). Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. Harvard University Press.
Milner, J. & Coombs, G. (Eds.). (2021) Care Ethics and Art. Routledge.
Mol, A. (2008). The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice. Routledge.
Moore, P., Paquet, R., & Wittman, A. (2022). Transforming Inclusion in Museums. The Power of
Collaborative Inquiry. American Association of Museums.
Modest, W., & Augustat, C. (2023). Spaces of Care-Confronting Colonial Afterlives in European Ethnographic Museums. Verlag.
Morse, N. (2020). The Museum as a Space of Social Care. Routledge.
Miyazaki, H. (2004). The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy and Fijian Knowledge. Stanford University Press.
Raicovich, L. (2021). Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest. Verso Books.
Schorch, P., & McCarthy, C. (2018). Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship. Manchester University Press.
Thompson, J. (2022) Care Aesthetics: For Artful Care and Careful Art. London: Routledge.
Tronto, J. (1993) Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. Routledge.
Tronto, J. (2013). Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality, and Justice. New York University Press.
Woodham, A., Hess, A., & Smith, R. (Eds.). (2020). Exploring Emotion, Care, and Enthusiasm in “Unloved” Museum Collections. Amsterdam University Press.