chapter  4
22 Pages

Emblematic museum objects of national significance: in search of their multiple meanings and values

Museums shape to a large extent the lives of objects found in their collections but these objects also correspondingly shape the history of their host museums by their material presence, their signification and the infinite dialogues they instigate with the visiting public. This is a dialectical and recursive relationship which has often been emphasised by museum theorists and practitioners. Thus, in this chapter, because we consider the relationship between museums, objects and persons truly intriguing, we attempt to explore the cultural biography of emblematic objects in the context of a large national museum of ancient art, itself a biographical object of a nation, by drawing on material culture theories1 on the social lives and agency of things.