Museums are sites of emotional engagement: what is represented in an exhibition (and how) may influence what visitors will know, think, remember and do – as a consequence of what they felt. This is particularly evident in the current context of global crises, which have brought museums to deal to an unprecedented extent with situations and topics that engender a range of emotional responses, from anxiety to fear, despair, nostalgia, empathy and hope.
As new responsibilities and expectations are now placed on museums, curatorial teams are rapidly adapting the content and form of exhibitions: exhibition narratives explicitly invoke vulnerability, resilience and empathy, and offer to help us navigate through the emotional volatility and uncertainty of our times.
Yet, whilst we know that exhibitions affect us, virtually no scholarly attention has been paid to emotions in curatorial work. The project then asks: What is the place and role of emotions in curatorial work? How is engagement with emotions impacting on curatorial work and related skills and knowledge?
The main aim of this MSCA fellowship is to engage in cross-disciplinary (humanities-affective sciences) and cross-sectoral (academia-museum) collaborative research on emotions in museums. This will be the first study investigating emotions in curatorial practice; it will develop a new concept – emotional competence in curatorial work – and pioneer a novel methodology combining methods in museum studies, psychology and linguistics, with a tight collaboration with museum professionals.
I will be based at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (CISA), University of Geneva - the world's first research centre dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of emotions and their effects on human behaviour and society. At CISA, I will acquire essential training in the affective sciences (on theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of emotions) and apply this new knowledge and skills to the project.
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