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Object relations in the museum: a psychosocial perspective

Froggett, L and Trustram, M (2014) Object relations in the museum: a psychosocial perspective. Museum Management and Curatorship, 29. ISSN 0964-7775

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Abstract

This article theorises museum engagement from a psychosocial perspective. With the aid of selected concepts from object relations theory, it explains how the museum visitor can establish a personal relation to museum objects, making use of them as an ‘aesthetic third’ to symbolise experience. Since such objects are at the same time cultural resources, interacting with them helps the individual to feel part of a shared culture. The article elaborates an example drawn from a research project that aimed to make museum collections available to people with physical and mental health problems. It draws on the work of the British psychoanalysts Donald Winnicott and Wilfred Bion to explain the salience of the concepts of object use, potential space, containment and reverie within a museum context. It also refers to the work of the contemporary psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas on how objects can become evocative for individuals both by virtue of their intrinsic qualities and by the way they are used to express personal idiom.

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