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The Fearful Object

8 November 2019 by Jen

19th century short sword and scabbard

Sword bayonet brought back from the Crimea by Cunard seafarer George Paynter. – MMM.2012.41.1-2

A couple of years ago I attended a talk at a Museums Association conference entitled ‘The Fearful Object’. The idea behind which was a discussion of objects that are difficult for museums to display and interpret due to emotional or controversial associations. These can take many different forms, from artworks created by artists whose personal activities are unacceptable to us, to objects that are difficult in and of themselves, such as human remains, torture and force-feeding equipment, or weapons.

Just as there are some objects that we find ourselves drawn to, there are also those that repel us. Difficult or unpleasant objects; objects that can ignite a visceral response in us. I recently encountered one within the Maritime History collections that elicited such a response in myself. Read more…



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