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Im/materialities: Museums between real and digital – International Conference

IMMATERIALITIES - international conference
Museums between real and digital
011 44 06 903
Dal lunedì al sabato dalle ore 9:00 alle 18:30
The conference IM/MATERIALITIES, held at the Museo Egizio in Turin from the 28th of November to the 1st of December 2023, will delve further into some of the main topics developed and proposed by the temporary exhibition “Invisible Archaeology”, which opened in March 2019.

The exhibition explored objects and their unique histories, biographies whose clues are largely condensed into the materials they are made of.

With more than 40 scientific institutions involved in the project, the exhibition emphasised the growing collaboration between Egyptology and Natural Sciences in studying archaeological artefacts and how archaeometry (increasingly employed by the Museo Egizio as a standard method to investigate objects) is changing the way a collection can be explored, preserved and, eventually, presented to the visitors. Of course, archaeometry provides information about the materiality of objects that would otherwise be inaccessible and invisible to the naked eye, and this allows researchers to fill in the gaps about what is unknown about the history/biography of the objects (who made them, why, when, where, with what materials etc.) to define, for example, the best ways to preserve them.

An opening to disciplines outside Egyptology is now an indispensable prerequisite for debating these topics. Hence, the desire to involve many people in the conference from diverse backgrounds, including physical and cultural anthropologists, philosophers, sociologists, archaeologists, paleopathologists, historians, heritage scientists, museum curators, museologists and AI specialists.

The conference will be divided into six sections:


  • IM/MATERIAL: 28th November 2023. This section deals in particular with the main challenges and opportunities that the large amount of data generated by imaging and archaeometric analysis represent for museum practice in the 21st century. On the one hand, digital technologies allow the traditional museum practice of copying originals to be enhanced in terms of complexity, durability, interaction and dissemination; on the other hand they foresee in the digital objects (data-driven descriptions of real objects reassembling all the scientific data in new digital schemes) the emergence of a new form of materiality, or “a trajectory of materiality that links our commonplace understanding of the digital to the analogue, information to material, system to structures, knowledge to form” (Geismar 2018). The contributions will also question the traditional exclusion of technology from culture exploring if, in museum practices, digital objects can be finally intended as independent and authentic cultural experiences in dialogue with the objects.


  • IN/VISIBLE: 29th November 2023. Scientific investigations on ancient objects have resulted in a greater understanding of their materiality, producing new information useful in their preservation and for their historical meanings. Archaeometry, indeed, gives a different but complementary image of the objects, through the characterisation and reconstruction of the object’s biography, analysing the natural and artificial traces left during its lifetime. In this section scientists and Egyptologists, who contributed to the exhibition with their research, outline the present and future theoretical and empirical framework of collaboration between Human and Natural Sciences.


  • IN/TANGIBLE: 29th November 2023. In this section Philosophy, Sociology, Archaeology, Cultural
    Anthropology, Material Sciences and History of Design compare research, methods, and experiences, to compose a transdisciplinary introduction to the nature of objects and, at the intersection of tangible and intangible heritage, their ability to activate (agency) and incorporate (object biography) experiences of culture over time.


  • DE/CODED: 30th November 2023. The contributions in this section expand on the previous topic of exploring how a
    digital ecosystem is catalysing new and different forms of human agency in the cultural environment. The unprecedented availability of such a quantity of data and images of museum objects are meaningless without analytics to unlock connections and knowledge otherwise out of reach of human abilities alone. In the general framework of the digital transformation of cultural institutions, an area that deserves particular attention is AI and Big Data applications in the fields of collection management and scientific research and the most recent strategies to optimise digital impacts on museum engagement and outreach.


  • UN/PERCEIVED: 30th November 2023. This section looks back at the relationship subject-object but this time addressing some questions concerning the former. When did our sense of time and beauty develop? What happens to the mind when we are faced with an ancient object or an artwork? When can digital technologies catalyse or disrupt cultural experiences? How can the dychotomy between real and digital harmonise in an augmented perception of the world? A dialogue between Museology and Neuroscience will explore how museum strategies could support new understandings of cultural heritage and, more generally, new experiences of the world of objects around us.


  • UN/CONNECTED: 30th November - 1st December 2023. The final day of the symposium takes the discourse on object agency into the broader framework of what the digital museum ecosystem became more than three years after the outbreak of the global pandemic. We will go back to the question of what museums represent, who they address, and most importantly, how they can embrace and redirect a change that is not limited to technological innovation alone but rooted in the broader historical, cultural, and social transformations that shape the relationship between museums, society, and media in the 21st century. In particular, this section explores the new meanings and requirements of museum curatorship, especially in the context of the digitisation of collections, and the risks that can arise when this mediation
    is interpreted as a purely technical fact. Finally, attention is paid to how understanding the new digital audience's behaviours, needs, and vulnerabilities is fundamental to building a digital environment that is responsive to people and creates connections rather than isolation.

The conference is in English and it will be broadcast via streaming on the Museum's Facebook page and Youtube channel.

The scientific and organizational committee consists of:

Christian Greco, Museo Egizio, Turin

Maria Elena Colombo, Museo Egizio, Turin

Enrico Ferraris, Museo Egizio, Turin

Paolo Del Vesco, Museo Egizio, Turin


CLICK HERE to download the program and HERE to download the abstracts.

IMMATERIALITIES - international conference
Museums between real and digital
011 44 06 903
Dal lunedì al sabato dalle ore 9:00 alle 18:30