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The Object Habit: Legacies of Fieldwork and the Museum

March 4, 2016

7 th – 8 th April 2016, Institute of Archaeology, UCL

The term ‘object habit’ describes the phenomenon and associated practices of collecting material culture and specimens out of sociological, cultural and historical interest. It takes into account not just the physical nature of an object or specimen, but also the transformations in its relationships, meanings and receptions after it has left its original context and typically entered into a collection in another part of the world.

The aim of this conference is to explore the tensions surrounding historical and contemporary object habits and the constructions of knowledge that spring from cultures of field-collecting between the late eighteenth century and the present day. We seek to examine how provenanced objects and collections instantiate different sorts of knowledge as they are dispersed outwards from the fieldsite; how the material results of fieldwork are transformed or are emergent through curatorial practices; how they might reflect or reproduce national identities and imperial ideologies; the ways in which they may, or may not, remain connected with or relate back to the field; and what effect shifts in contemporary interests have upon the way individuals and communities relate to objects and their institutional histories.

Conference Details: This two-day, cross-disciplinary conference at University College London will take place on the 7 th and 8 th April 2016 at the Institute of Archaeology. The conference is linked to the AHRC-funded project ‘Artefacts of Excavation: the international distribution of artefacts from British excavations in Egypt, 1880–1980’, which is seeking to situate the treatment of archaeological finds from Egypt within broader, multi-disciplinary perspectives. Attendance of the conference is free, but registration essential. Please contact project post-doctoral research associate Dr Emma Libonati (

See here for more details.

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