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Fragments of the World

Uses of Museum Collections

Suzanne Keene, 2005. Elsevier / Butterworth. ISBN 0 7506 6472 X.



Cover Fragments of the World

This book addresses the important question: what is the purpose of museum collections? The role of the museum has changed from object- and collections-centred to audience centred. Yet most people are unaware that museum collections even exist, so how can they be justified?


Poster: We are the slaves of objects around us

Image: I saw this poster in a London street one day (quotation from Proust); it seemed to encapsulate the museum predicament.


Fragments of the World examines this issue, drawing on clearly explained cultural theory. It explores the use of collections for research, learning, memory and identity, creativity and enjoyment, and discusses the various aspects of cultural value. Examples of these uses are drawn from around the world.

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1 Introduction

Poem: The Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, by James Fenton

2 Museums

3 Collections

4 Collections for research

5 Collections for ongoing learning

Poem: Place du Jeu de Balle, Brussels, by John Fuller

6 Collections, memory and identity

7 Collections and creativity

Poem: Beowulf - the treasure and the dragon, translation by Howell J. Pickering, Jr.

8 Collections for enjoyment

9 Collections and digitization

10 Collections and values

Poem: Poetry, by Saadi Youssef

11 Piecing together the fragments