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For the Record:[un] official voices at the V&A

Author(s): Linda Sandino

Journal: Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies
ISSN 2049-4572

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 54;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Museum studies | Oral history | Institutional history

This report gives an overview of the historical and affective value of oral history recordings drawing on my current research on curators at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The interviews demonstrate the changing definition of the title ‘curator’ over time, but show how this is achieved through the medium of the oral history interview, a context which enables a form of self-reflection that throws light on the interviewees’ individual and collective identity as curators working together in and for a specific institution. In telling of their lives, curators’ agency is extended to encompass the construction of, what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur termed, their narrative identity, a temporal category captured by this research ‘for the record’ (amongst other uses). The interviews reveal the entanglement of the ‘unofficial’ and ‘official’ persona of the curator. Nevertheless, is it possible to disentangle this distinction? Is it even necessary? Or, is the personal voice the medium for reflecting and transmitting the multilayered snapshots of experience, and that what engages is this very quality of the life lived as a story?
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