Object Relations:Representing changing administrative work between 1960 and 2010 in the Manchester Town Hall

Southerton, Charlie (2023) Object Relations:Representing changing administrative work between 1960 and 2010 in the Manchester Town Hall. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis contributes to debates in museology and in sociology by developing a ‘relational’ approach which emphasises the interrelatedness and interdependency of objects in everyday life. The study works with key concepts from different fields of social sciences, notably ‘innovation junctions’ (Science and Technology Studies), ‘scripts’ (Actor-Network Theory) and ‘social practices’ (Theories of Practice), and relates these to recent work in museology, including that which challenges singular historical narratives, and which argues for new methods of conceptualising, studying and presenting objects. These methods and ideas informed an examination of administrative work and office-related objects found in Manchester Town Hall between 1960 and 2010. Sources included Town Hall records, archived photograph albums and interviews with Town Hall staff. Three principal forms of object relations were identified. These included relations between objects that arose from direct physical connection; from their arrangements within and across spaces and infrastructures; and, from their use in the performances of shared practices. This study shows that objects are multistable, and that at any one moment they are positioned in different ways, depending on how they are understood and the roles and responsibilities to which they relate. Objects (and their relations) are also never static or fixed and can change over time along with the procedures and practices of which they are a part. For museums, this suggests that objects can be used to represent multiple co-existing historical narratives. This approach depends on situating objects not as stand-alone artefacts, but in relation to others at specific (temporal and spatial) moments, and across their trajectories/biographies.

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Thesis (PhD)
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01 Feb 2023 10:30
Last Modified:
22 Mar 2023 00:42