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Multiple Narratives of Display and Heritage in Museums: Iznik Ceramics in Comparison

Simge Erdogan

Museums are discursive spaces of representation, display and knowledge. Through their displays and exhibitions, they affect, shape and manipulate our ways of looking at objects and their heritage. Display elements such as spatial organization, light, colour, and texts play a pivotal role in communicating key messages of the exhibition embedded in its narrative. This raises a question: to what extent does a museum display shape our understanding of objects and their heritage?

            This study examines the power of museum representation by looking at the display of Iznik ceramics in three museums: the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum in Istanbul. Looking at each museum’s display elements and design aesthetics, this study identifies three different modes of display adopted in the display of ceramics: aesthetic, contextual and systematic. Through a comparative analysis, it highlights three alternative narratives generated respectively on Iznik ceramics’ artistic heritage, material culture and national heritage, and a common nationalist paradigm that is present in all three.

Keywords: Museum, Display, Representation, Cultural Heritage  

Simge Erdogan is a curator and PhD student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. She obtained her BA degree in History from Bogazici University and her MA degree in Museum Studies from University College London. She worked as a writer and content developer at online contemporary art and culture platform, Art50.net. Her current academic and intellectual interests encompass cultural diplomacy, critical museology, and curatorial studies.