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The present as past: science fiction and the museum

Butt, A. (2021) The present as past: science fiction and the museum. Museum Engagement as Speculative Design, 7 (1). ISSN 2056-6700

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To link to this item DOI: 10.16995/olh.634


This article explores the role that science fiction (sf) texts might play in the museum, offering a perspective on acts of collection, curation, exhibition, and museum architecture, to ask what the museums of science fiction futures can offer those of us concerned with the role and responsibility of the museum in the present. It draws together methods, content and reflections from a workshop held at the Horniman Museum with art and curation students from University of the Arts London in 2019, which explored the spaces and imaginaries of the museum. Over the course of this workshop, participants were asked to restage the museums described in three science fiction novels: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895), Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924), and Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women (1979). By bringing the spaces of science fiction into the museum, these interventions reframed the terms of our engagement with museum objects and provided a site for broader reflection on the nature of museum design and practice. This process of imaginative construction is extended into this paper, which crosses the fields of architectural design and theory, science fiction and utopian studies, and museum studies. It draws directly upon the interventions generated in the workshop, including photographs and descriptions which reflect on the critical potential present in multiple forms of knowing and the radical possibility inherent in collective acts of remaking. These fragments are used to direct research into museum practices, to situate these actions within wider theoretical contexts, and to explore the science-fictional as a mode of thinking and making as well as a source text.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Architecture
Science > School of the Built Environment > Urban Living group
ID Code:94579
Uncontrolled Keywords:Museum, Science fiction, Fiction, Architecture, Design
Publisher:Open Library of Humanities


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