Chen SHEN 沈辰
Royal Ontario Museum 皇家安大略博物館

Objects in Art and Archaeology and Objectivizing Early History of China in Museums

Subjects of museums' exhibitions and galleries are objects. In most art museums, objects are treated naturally as arts. Defining arts within contents of ancient history sometimes could be problematic and challenging. This paper explores practices in museums of art and history of how early history of China can be objectivized, in addition to being contextualized. Objects can be, and should be, classified and viewed both as artworks and as functional utensils that were created in times of ancient civilizations. However, interpretations of ancient objects do not necessarily contextualize ancient history when those objects in exhibitions and galleries was simply displayed in historic chronologies with labels of archaeological contents. This paper argues objectification of early creations in art and archaeology while displaying and interpreting objects in museums.

The purpose of re-thinking of ancient objects in displays is derived from public engagements as current trends in museum practices. When objects in art and archaeology are interpreted in very different, some times obscured, ways with tools of social media, museum curators should utilize exhibits and programs to provide a multi-faced and multi-layered meanings of objects linking to early history that might be in process objectivized. Three integral process of presenting ancient objects of early history appealing to general audiences can be re-considered: 1) objects in visual arts following principals of archaeological content; 2) objects in archaeological contents following design principals; and 3) objects in art designs and archaeological contexts following needs and interests of publics. Therefore, the foundation for this new approach of museums' displaying ancient objects is to identify public interests (especially in non-Chinese communities) in Early Chinese history.