Touching Collections: Museums as emotional arenas

What is it like to lift the lid of a cardboard box in a museum's storage room, to open tissue paper wrappers and to pick up historical evidence? How should it be handled? How many hands have touched it before it was placed in the box?

How does it feel to come across your grandfather or recognize your home region in the museum's archives, or to be able to point at an exhibition: "That's an object I've held too"? Why aren’t these experiences possible or accessible to everyone?

In the Touching Collections project, we examine museum collection work as emotional labour from the point of view of both museum professionals and museum audiences. The interaction between museums and their audiences is imbued with emotions, and there are also power relations related to cultural heritage. Whose heritage is displayed in museums, how is it decided, and how are existing collections – and the emotions they evoke – dealt with?