Inclusivity, Objectivity, and The Ideal

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  • Title: Inclusivity, Objectivity, and The Ideal: The Museum as Utopian Space
  • Author(s): Donald Dunham
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Inclusive Museum
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum
  • Keywords: Museums, Architecture, Utopia
  • Volume: 3
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2011
  • ISSN: 1835-2014 (Print)
  • ISSN: 1835-2022 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Dunham, Donald. 2011. "Inclusivity, Objectivity, and The Ideal: The Museum as Utopian Space." The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 3 (3): 39-48. doi:10.18848/1835-2014/CGP/v03i03/44332.
  • Extent: 10 pages


At first glance the contemporary “Cabinet of Curiosities” appears to provide all the necessary ingredients for inclusion into the utopic environment: the museum program generally provides access to all, a scholarly objectivity in the display of curated artifacts, and, in exhibit design, the object displayed “ideally.” The museum as an “ideal” venue (outside the intended or original context) for select objects, for example, can be decoded through the British Museum’s neo-classical pedimented entry as well as through the Museum of Modern Art’s 1939 International Style structure designed by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone as an embodiment of the Modernist Utopian ideology. However, not all museum structures, spaces, and installation furniture appear to fit the utopian template. Daniel Libeskind’s deconstructivist Jewish Museum in Berlin does not conjure up “perfect worlds,” in fact quite the opposite. Nevertheless, within the dystopian shadow of history lie the roots of Libeskind’s discontinuous void: the survival and rebirth of a broken people, a concept also found in the utopian work of the Russian Constructivists. This paper examines the museum as a utopian space; using case studies and contrasting museum agendas, “The Ideal” is explored and challenged as prerequisite in the planning and maintenance of museum space.