Philoxenia and Museums

Back when I was a child, I had a drawer where I kept the things that I liked to collect. The skull of a seagull, picked clean by the waves. A plaster-cast impression of a fox’s pawprint. Microscope slides. Owl pellets. A lump of raw lead my grandfather and I had melted down together in an eggcup on the open fire.

This November, I’m off to give a paper at the 2023 WHF in Busan, Korea. In the paper, I’ll be talking about my own childhood experiences of museums. And I’ll be using the idea of philoxenia, or friendship with the other, to build on the work of Dr Elee Kirk, and her reflections on the nature of museum experiences.

I’ve written about philoxenia in my book Hello, Stranger, and I worked on editing and revising Elee’s posthumous work on museum studies, Snapshots of Museum Epxerience. Over the years, Elee and I had endless conversations about our work, and so there are lots of crossovers. So it’s been great to have the opportunity to draw these two particular threads together, and to weave something new.

I’m also very excited to be on a panel with the brilliant Dr Lena JE Lee, who translated Elee’s book into Korean, and to be in Korea for the very first time.

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