Archives, Collections and Museums

The group actively uses and develops collaborative working relationships with archives, collections and museums. Through this work many in the group also seek to reappraise the nature of the archive and archival practice and redefine what is considered as a research output in historical and cultural geographic research.

Merle Patchett's research into taxidermy specimens and zoological collections necessitated that she reappraise the nature of the archive and archival practice. For example, this research incorporated the use of specimen-artefacts as object-based archives and required the purposeful assemblage and rehabilitation of diffuse archival and historical remains to tell of the lifeworlds of practice behind the making and maintenance of specimens and collections. Part of the goal of this research was also to reassert the public value of taxidermy specimens and collections through collaborative exchange with museum practitioners and contemporary artists. These exchanges resulted in the collaboratively curated exhibitions Blue Antelope (2006) and Out of Time (2007) at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, and Fashioning Feathers: Dead Birds, Millinery Crafts and the Plumage Trade at the Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton (2012-13). These curatorial projects and Merle's current collaborations with the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on  Animating Animal Afterlives aim to highlight the potential of the exhibition as a research output. 

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, Merle mobilized the design competition as a public engagement method. As part of part of Rob Shields’ SSHRC-funded project “Reimagining the Mini-Mall", Merle conceived and curated Strip Appeal, an ideas design competition and travelling exhibit intended to stimulate and showcase creative design proposals for the adaptive reuse of small-scale strip-malls ( The competition received over 100 submissions from 11 different counties and as well as the exhibit tour the bookwork Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall (co-edited by Merle Patchett and Rob Shields) - documents the outcomes of the competition and research. By framing the design competition as a public engagement method Merle and Rob argue design is not simply a medium that brings about “construction” or “building,” but can rather be conceptualized as a “theory of action".

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