Advertisement

Human Studies

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 697–717 | Cite as

On Thick Records and Complex Artworks: A Study of Record-Keeping Practices at the Museum

  • Yaël KreplakEmail author
Empirical Study/Analysis

Abstract

In 1967 Garfinkel and Bittner were investigating good organizational reasons for bad clinic records, demonstrating how the reading of such records as sociological data should be reported to the understanding of their production’s practical contingencies and to the situated circumstances of their use. This seminal paper opened new avenues of research related to the study of records in various professional contexts and of their transformation, to the development of praxiological approaches to practical and professional texts, or to the study of historical documents and archives. To contribute to this ethnomethodological strand of research, I propose a case-study of artworks’ records management at the museum, investigated as a perspicuous site to reflect upon how artworks are experienced, apprehended and defined in the institutional ordinary business. Drawing on observations and materials collected at the French National Museum of Modern Art, I study records’ careers (how they are produced, used and transformed by museum’s members) and describe their material and organizational properties, by giving a close look at some elements (initial artworks’ descriptions, installation instructions and confidential correspondence). More particularly, I focus on one distinctive property of some records: their thickness, investigated as a scheme of interpretation of the situated features of documentation work. By reading artworks’ records as local collective practices of assemblage, disruption and reconfiguration of pieces of documentation, I demonstrate that what is documented in this process is not only the artwork: it is also the collective work of working with artworks, dealt with as ongoing achievements of institutional practices.

Keywords

Ethnomethodology Contemporary art Museum practices Documentation Archives Record-keeping Instructions Descriptions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Laboratoire d’excellence Créations, Arts et Patrimoine (Labex CAP) and by the French national council for visual arts (CNAP) and hosted at the French National Museum of Modern Art in Paris. It would not have been possible without the constant support and generosity of the staff at the contemporary collections department. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the Université de Lausanne, in Paris (at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the Archives nationales), as well as at the International Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis in Westerville (Ohio). This paper benefited a lot from numerous comments by Albert J. Meehan: I am very grateful for his careful and generous reading. I owe, among other things, the title of this paper to Albert Ogien. The two anonymous reviewers provided with insightful comments, references and ideas for further research: many thanks to them as well.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All pictures were made by the author, with the consent of the museum staff for reproduction.

References

  1. Atkinson, P., & Coffey, A. (2011). Analyzing documentary realities. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research (pp. 56–75). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Bittner, E. (1967). Police discretion in emergency apprehension of mentally ill persons. Social Problems, 14, 278–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowker, G., & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting things out. Classification and its consequences. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cameron, F., & Mengler, S. (2009). Complexity, transdisciplinarity and museum collections documentation. Emergent metaphors for a complex world. Journal of Material Culture, 14(2), 189–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cicourel, A. V. (1968). The social organization of Juvenile justice. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Domínguez Rubio, F. (2014). Preserving the unpreservable: Docile and unruly objects at MoMA. Theory and Society, 43(6), 617–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Domínguez Rubio, F. (2015). On the discrepancy of objects and things: An ecological approach. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 59–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  9. Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s program. Working out Durkheim’s aphorism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Garfinkel, H., Lynch, M., & Livingston, E. (1981). The work of a discovering science construed with materials from the optically discovered pulsar. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 11(2), 131–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goffman, E. (1981). Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  12. Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional vision. American Anthropologist, 96(3), 606–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hartswood, M., Rouncefield, M., Slack, R., & Carlin, A. (2011). Documents. In M. Rouncefield & P. Tolmie (Eds.), Ethnomethodology at work (pp. 151–172). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  14. Heath C., & Luff P. (1996). Documents and professional practice: ‘Bad’ organizational reasons for ‘good’ clinical records. In Proceedings of the conference on computer supported cooperative work (pp. 54–363). Boston: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  15. Komter, M. L. (2006). From talk to text: The interactional construction of a police record. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 39(3), 201–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Koschmann, T., LeBaron, C., & Goodwin, C. (2011). Can you see the cystic artery yet? A simple matter of trust. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 521–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Koschmann, T., & Zemel, A. (2014). Instructed objects. In M. Nevile, P. Haddington, T. Heinemann & M. Rauniomaa (Eds.), Interacting with things: The social life of objects (pp. 357–377). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  18. Kreplak Y. (2014). L’œuvre en pratiques. Une approche interactionnelle des activités artistiques et esthétiques, ENS de Lyon, PhD thesis.Google Scholar
  19. Kreplak, Y. (2017). Docile documents. Propositions for a reading of the documentation of collections. In É. Bullot & S. Grassi (Eds.), Document bilingue (pp. 201–204). Marseille: Mucem/Manuella Editions.Google Scholar
  20. Kreplak, Y. (2018). Artworks in and as practices. The relevance of particulars. In P. Sormani, P. Giesler & G. Carbone (Eds.), Practicing art/science: Experiments in an emerging field (pp. 142–163). Abingdon/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Law, J., & Mol, A. (Eds.). (2002). Complexities. Social studies of knowledge practices. Duke: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lynch, M. (1985). Disciplines and the material form of images: An analysis of scientific visibility. Social Studies of Sciences, 15(1), 37–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lynch, M. (1999). Archives in formation: Privileged spaces, popular archives and paper trails. History of the Human Sciences, 12(2), 65–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lynch, M. (2002). Protocols, practices and the reproduction of techniques in molecular biology. British Journal of Sociology, 53(2), 203–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lynch, M., & Jordan, K. (1995). Instructed actions in, of and as molecular biology. Human Studies, 18, 227–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meehan, A. J. (1986). Record-keeping practices in the policing of Juveniles. Urban Life, 15(1), 70–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ryle, G. (1971). Collected papers. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  28. Scholte, T., & Wharton, G. (Eds.). (2011). Inside installations. Theory and practice in the care of complex artworks. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Star, S. L., & Griesemer, J. (1989). Institutionnal ecology, ‘translations,’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals on Berkeley’s museum of vertrebate zoologie. Social Studies of Science, 19(3), 387–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Suchman, L. (1996). Constituting shared workplaces. In Y. Engeström & D. Middleton (Eds.), Cognition and communication at work (pp. 35–60). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watson, R. (2009). Analyzing practical and professional texts. A naturalistic approach. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  32. Wolff, S. (2004). Analysis of documents and records. In U. Flick, E. von Kardorff & I. Steinke (Eds.), A companion to qualitative research (pp. 284–290). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Zimmerman, D. H. (1969). Record-keeping and the intake process in a public welfare agency. In S. Wheeler (Ed.), On record: Files and dossiers in American life (pp. 319–354). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SENSE Laboratory (Orange Labs)ChâtillonFrance
  2. 2.IMM-EHESS (Paris)ParisFrance

Personalised recommendations