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Cambridge Heritage Research Centre


Letting Be(come): undoings at the museum

Prof. Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter)

This will be a hybrid event with the speaker presenting online. You can join us in-person at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Downing Street, Cambridge and Online on Zoom. 




This seminar will discuss themes emerging from an ongoing transdisciplinary project at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen, The Living Room. The seminar will begin by discussing the institutional and conceptual context for the work, focusing on conventional logics of life and death in museums, and the implication for modes of object care. While museums usually attempt to suppress life forces in collections, it is this self-given antibiotic disposition that the experiments conducted in The Living Room seek to challenge. Caitlin DeSilvey will describe how she and Martin Grünfeld have been exploring the interplay and tension between non-interventionist curatorial strategies of observed decay and alternative interventionist strategies of accelerated decay. The seminar will articulate a vision for a probiotic museum that explores the potential for regeneration, renewal and release through accommodation of decay and metabolic exchange.


Caitlin DeSilvey is Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus, where she is Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Research in the Environment and Sustainability Institute. Her research into the cultural significance of material and ecological change has involved extensive collaboration with archaeologists, architects, ecologists, artists and others, and has informed new approaches in heritage practice, focused on accommodating process rather than securing preservation. Her monograph, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (UMP 2017), received the 2018 Historic Preservation Book Prize. Recent publications include After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics (Routledge 2020), an edited collection stemming from a 2016-17 fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo, and Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (UCL 2020), a co-authored volume arising from work on the Heritage Futures research project. 



Thursday, 2 February, 2023 - 13:00
Event location: 
HYBRID with Online Speaker: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Seminar Room and Online on Zoom