Event review: Reading Images

Louise Morgan – PhD Candidate in the History Department (University of Warwick)

Queer History Warwick were delighted to welcome our own chair, Hannah Ayres, for a presentation and discussion of her PhD research. Based in sociology, Hannah’s research examines the reactions and interactions of queer communities with public-facing institutions such as museums. The talk took us through several case studies, the ways in which these museum spaces can be ‘queered’, and the reactions of queer community members who have participated in her research.

Throughout Hannah’s work the voice of queer people remains strong – not only as participants in Hannah’s primary research, but in the museum objects and the curators of the museums. While dealing with difficult power dynamics over the inherently colonial nature of museums, Hannah led us through a tour of the ethics of museums, with the particular case study of The Museum of Transology proving evocative, both for the audience and research participants. Using examples of protest, such as performance protest group BP or not BP, Hannah led us to questions of what it means to queer a space. In particular, how representative are queer ideas? These discussions are especially prevalent with projects developing for actively queer museum spaces in London, such as Queerseum and Queer Britain.

After an active discussion of what it means to be queer and represented/present in museum spaces, Hannah encouraged the group to study objects for themselves. Photos of different objects from British museums were surrounded by both the label each object was given in the museum, a label explaining Hannah’s reason for including it in a study of queer objects, and responses to the object from her research participants. These objects ranged from Ancient Greek jugs to costumes, generating conversations about a variety of different lived queer experiences across time and space.

Thanks again to Hannah for sharing her work with the group – further information about Hannah and her work can be found here: https://warwick.ac.uk/study/csde/gsp/eportfolio/directory/pg/live/u1897894/

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