To celebrate Book Lovers Day, I’m rounding up my collection of museum related books – from the delightfully accessible to the challenging academic doorstops. Luckily for me, a major perk the University of Leicester Museum Studies course is the per module parcel of all the books needed. Put on top of that a penchant for late-night whim Amazon purchases, and I’ve racked up quite the collection. Despite two years of solid reading around all things museum, I haven’t had enough and am continuing reading for fun – which is a pretty good indicator that I’m working in the right sector.
First up is Museum Revolutions by Simon J. Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Shiela Watson. As Leicester Museum Studies staff, perhaps it’s slightly bias that I love this one. But, it was the first academic text that I utterly fell in love with, and it continues to shape my practice. Using primarily global case-studies, it was a great introductory piece to the world of museums’ social practice. The chapter by Robert R. Janes called ‘Museums, Social Responsibility and the Future We Desire’ is a personal favourite, with the margins scattered with excited notes.
As a rather pricey whim purchase based off the love of Jane’s chapter, I bought ‘Museums Without Borders’ from the Wellcome Collection gift shop, which heartbreakingly doesn’t take student discount, but was ultimately well worth the money. While academic, the book remains accessible throughout and is an enjoyable train read. Likewise, ‘Gender Sexuality and Museums’ by Amy K. Levin was the fundamental basis of my under graduate dissertation – so will always hold a sentimental place on my bookshelf.
For a more didactic read, somewhere in between academia and train-read-status, is ‘Writing for Museums’ by Margot Wallace. The breakdown into uses of museum writing (i.e. anything from labels to blogs) and discussing the correct and appropriate styles is a useful way to assist emerging museum professionals.
As a bit of an old-school text, I bought a second hand copy of ‘The New Museology’ by Peter Vergo while I was studying for my MA, just to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, parts of it are wholly out-dated, the principle values throughout really resonate with me. And that retro cover, iconic.
Now onto the fun ones. One of my most treasured books is ‘The Secret Museum’ by Molly Oldfield, I stumbled upon it in an Ofxam at an absolute steal for £6.99 – and I’m now horrified that anyone could ever give it away to a charity shop. It’s certainly the most beautiful in this list, the typography and marrying of images and text is stunning, the book almost feels like an art piece in itself.
The most recent addition to my favourites is ‘Curiosities from the Cabinet’ by Rebecca Reynolds, it’s still on my to be read pile, but I can tell just from flicking through that I’m going to love every page – and that cover, you can judge a book by it, I don’t care what they say. To end on an obvious one, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, are you really a museum fan if you don’t own this one? I have it in paperback, Kindle, and have listened to the podcast – obvs.