Welcome to this research blog, The Transhistorical Museum. The research project The Transhistorical Museum was initiated by M Museum (Louvain, BE) and Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem (Haarlem, NL) in 2015 as a means to collect and produce knowledge around transhistorical approaches to exhibition making and collection presentation. This blog will be regularly updated with articles, conference papers, videos, and other materials.

View of Conversation Piece VI: Rineke Dijkstra, Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem, 2014. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij, Amsterdam.

In 2015, Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem (the Netherlands) and Museum M (Leuven, Belgium) have started a joint research project on the notion of “transhistoricity” (or “cross-historicity”) in curatorial practice within the museum field. A first mapping of this discursive field took place during the 2-part conference “The transhistorical museum: objects, narratives & temporalities  in November 2015  (Haarlem) and May 2016 (Leuven).  This two-day conference brought together an international roster of theorists, art historians, curators, and artists – for more information click here

The research project is an effort to bring together different perspectives (museological, curatorial, theoretical) on the subject of transhistoricity, in order to critically map this domain. It aspires to both trace its genealogies in existing theory and practice, and to present new ideas with regards to questions like: Can a transhistorical approach to exhibition making or collection display produce relevant new insights into the specific qualities of art objects, by manoeuvring them into unchartered contexts—historically, materially, and ontologically? What can we learn from historical artworks, when we study them through the lens of contemporary artistic production—or vice versa? How do we read art history forward into the present, and use recent practice as a vantage point from which to revise the past?

As Hal Foster notes, scholarly movement across different historical fields is hardly new: for example, even before the First World War, Wilhelm Worringer connected German Expressionism to the Northern Gothic tradition; between the wars, Meyer Schapiro moved easily between abstract painting and Romanesque sculpture; and after the Second World War, Leo Steinberg wrote with equal insight on 20th-century innovators like Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and Old Masters like Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Velázquez. This traffic, as Foster explains, is busier than ever before, with art historians such as Hans Belting, Horst Bredekamp, Alexander Nagel, and Georges Didi-Huberman at work on various subjects from the premodern to the postmodern.

Since the turn of this century, we have moreover witnessed a significant expanse in the field of transhistorical exhibition practice: a diverse range of curatorial efforts in which objects and artefacts from various periods and art historical and cultural contexts are combined in display, in order to question and expand traditional museological notions like chronology, context, and category. Such experiments in transcending art historical boundaries can potentially result in both fresh insights into the workings of our entrenched historical presumptions, and provide a space to reassess interpretations of individual objects in relation to their contexts and narratives.

-The transhistorical museum: definitions, methods, models
-Artist projects in / with collection displays
-The autonomous artwork vs the exhibition experience
-Curatorial authorship vs art historical scholarship
-The transhistorical art object: relational or withdrawn?