Gendering Objects at the V&A and Vasa Museums

James Daybell, Kit Heyam, Svante Norrhem, Emma Severinsson

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This article presents two case studies, which are the result of the application of a gendered interpretative tool to the collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum (London) and the Vasa Museum (Stockholm). Objects and their gendered narratives within the museums’ collections were researched across their lifecycle, from commission and manufacture to consumption and display in a museum setting. This research was developed in close co-operation between researchers, curators, and museum professionals, seeking to develop best practice guidance on making diverse gendered history more visible in the museum space. The team of researchers, curators and museum professionals identified and researched a selection of early modern objects and their gendered narratives within the museums' collections. We argue that this gendered analytical focus not only reveals the relevance of gender to the production, consumption and use of any given object in the early modern period, but also how society was organised in a global context. Using two hats at the Vasa and V&A Museums to demonstrate this methodology, we argue for greater awareness of gender as an important analytical category within the museum environment. The application of gendered historiographical analysis has the demonstrable potential to facilitate new gendered perspectives on museum objects, leading to a more deep and diverse representation of gender in curation and interpretation, and further, that this transformation of curatorial and interpretative practice can lead to increased engagement from audiences marginalised by their gender and/or sexuality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-117
Number of pages12
JournalMuseum International
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

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