Martor No. 23 / Year 2018

Towards a Typology of an Emergent Museum Form

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Author: Cheryl Klimaszewski

About the author:
Cheryl Klimaszewski
PhD Candidate, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Communication and Information
ck482 at scarletmail dot rutgers dot edu

Pages: 121-140

Keywords: emergent museums, knowledge-making, metaphor theory, museum-making models, notable moments, patterns of experience, embodied knowledge.


Personal museums created by enthusiastic individual makers are becoming more visible on the cultural landscape. Recent scholarship studying examples of this emergent institutional form in Colombia, Estonia, Finland, Romania and Spain refer to these museums using a variety of terms, including: amateur, author, do-it-yourself, family, grassroots, local, naïve, personal, unofficial, vernacular and wild. Having studied this phenomenon since 2011, one challenging problem for me as a researcher has been: what do we call this kind of museum? Adding to the list of descriptors emergent museums, I employ Greg Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s (2003) work on metaphor theory to present an analysis of how these terms reflect different aspects of this phenomenon. Understood as knowledge institutions, these experimental spaces fosters ways of knowing that contrast with more traditional museum epistemologies, foregrounding knowledge-from-within; knowledge-making; and the individual-as-locus-of-knowledge.  I share my experience visiting Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail, a self-made, self-described museum in Melba, Idaho as a comparative analysis that connects notable experiential moments (captured in photographs) I have had in Romanian emergent museums to notable moments at Cleo’s. Connecting patterns of experiences across these spaces using personal examples illustrates the different ways of knowing emergent museums foster. In conclusion, I consider emergent museums as a new model of museum-making that are not simply anomalies or novelties; they provide an example of what all museums could be.

How to cite this article: Klimaszewski, Cheryl. 2018. “Towards a Typology of an Emergent Museum Form.” Martor 23: 121-140. [DOI: 10.57225/martor.2018.23.07]