The Museum as Third Space

PhD course, Centre franco-norvégien en sciences sociales et humaines FMSH, France, April 13-17, 2015

Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology & MusVit in collaboration with Programme franco-norvégien, FMSH

Rød vegg. Foto/medie Moesgård: Rógvi N. Johansen


Museums and collections have in many ways operated as the birthplace for modern sciences of man and culture. Here, materials of the world could be ordered and categorized, and processes of cultural evolution and diffusion that could not be observed in the empirical world could be scrutinized through the odd amassment of objects. However, up through the 20th century the university took over as the prime mover in the development of these sciences while museums increasingly focused on their public relations, as places for educating and engaging ‘the people’.

This division of labor between university and museum seems to be challenged again today. A number of developments have made it possible to re-insert the museum as a main agent in the development of research: The re-emergence of materiality in social sciences, experiments in collaboration between art and science, and experiments in engaging the lay public in research processes are all issues of great importance to modern museums.

As an overarching term we will suggest that we may consider the museum as a ‘Third Space’; a constructed field away from the empirical field, where objects and ideas can be put together traversing time and space, and where different disciplinary backgrounds can be put in motion in order to constantly re-explore the potentials of ideas and objects. In this sense the museum challenges what empiricism is and how we may relate to that in the social sciences.

What we want to explore through this course is how the museum may position itself as a cutting-edge research institution that takes advantage of the particular framework given by the institution: interdisciplinary collaborations, collections, material installations and a direct relation to an audience.

To discuss these issues we have invited 3 key speakers who have all worked with and considered the potential of the museum as a particular kind of research institution:

As former director of Museum Cultural History in Oslo, Rane Willerslev has initiated an institutional change at MCH, aiming to place research in the centre of the museum’s operations.

As an archaeologist and visual anthropologist, Sara Perry has worked theoretically and practically with visualizations of the past, both towards a public and an academic audience.

And, as a visual theorist, Irit Rogoff has suggested the term ‘criticality’ as a way to describe new understandings of knowledge as always situated and performative in their essence.


Course work

The course will consist of lectures from senior researchers, seminars with pre-prepared student papers and museum visits. Each PhD student should have, before the start of the course, a paper of 5 pages prepared for pre-circulation. At the seminar, PhD students will give short presentations of c. 15 minutes on problems directly related to the course topic. After the seminar, a paper with reflections from the seminar is to be submitted.



Rane Willerslev, University of Aarhus

Sara Perry, University of York

Irit Rogoff, Goldsmiths, University of London



Peter Bjerregaard, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

Brita Staxrud Brenna, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo



1 month or 7 ECTS.

Location, travel and costs 

The seminar will take place at the Centre franco-norvégien en sciences sociales et humaines. The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, as well as supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students.  Two PhD students will share a room.


The Graduate school invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. The application (in English) should include information on the individual PhD project, and how the project will benefit from the planned PhD course. From these applications the board of the Graduate School will select c. 20 PhD students for the course. Interested PhD students should apply for the course to: Vibeke Viestad, E-mail:, using this application form.



Vibeke Viestad, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Box 1019 Blindern, N-0315 Oslo, Norway. Email:


Important dates

Application for participation: January 28, 2015

Confirmation on your participation will be sent out shortly after this date together with a reading list.

Submission of working paper (5 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): March 9, 2015

Submission of post-seminar paper (5 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): May 15, 2015


Published June 11, 2015 6:48 PM