Karin Renold

Karin Renoldkre5@le.ac.uk 

Research Area/Interests


Casts of food: a critical enquiry into museum history and practices from the perspective of things the museum (mainly) produces itself


Casts of food have diverse meanings and functions in the museum context. They are collected and treated as "originals“, produced to communicate particular meanings in an exhibition or made to fill a "gap“ in the collection. This research suggests that inside the museum these replica objects are liminal and "unruly", with unclear uses and statuses. Investigating them enables an exploration of wider ambivalences and tensions in museum history and practice. How are the production and use of food reproductions in the museum intertwined with wider political, aesthetic, epistemological and material circumstances?

This historical and critical research project seeks to extend beyond a textual and visual analysis of the institution, and to focus instead on the ways the museum materialises and informs ways of “being-in-the-world”. Methodologically, it is based upon grounded theory and history, and draws on Foucault’s use of history as a way of “diagnosing the present”. It uses the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland) as its case study and involves in-depth qualitative research utilising a wide range of different sources, including interviews.

Key words: museum studies, food, processes of materialisation, copies

My supervisor is Dr Sandra Dudley.


In my Master thesis (2003) in cultural anthropology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, I analysed exhibition concepts in general and the history of exhibitions at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland.

Since 1999, I have been working for several museums. From 2005 to 2011, I was a research assistant at the Museum Mühlerama in Zürich, Switzerland. I co-conceptualised several exhibitions on food topics, for example 'Essen und Macht. Eine Ausstellung übers Schlemmen, Schlachten und Hungern' (on the power of food) in 2008 or 'Geschmack. Eine Ausstellung für Mund, Nase, Ohr und Hand' (Taste. An exhibition for the mouth, nose, ear and hand) in 2010.

Before, I was a project assistant at the Museum.BL at Liestal for the 2004/2005 special exhibition 'Sechsundsechzig. Eine Ausstellung zum Alt und Grau werden' (on aging). In addition, I have wide experience in museum education.

From June 2012 to June 2013, I was a co-editor of Museological Review.

In spring term 2013, I was a visiting lecturer at the institute of social anthropology / Museum of ethnography at the University of Zürich.
Seminar: "Introduction into current debates in museum studies"

Publications (selected)

Gipsabgüsse als "originale" Repliken im Museum: von der Form zur Materie. traverse - Zeitschrift für Geschichte 22/2, 2015, 170-177. (Plaster casts as "original" replicas in the museum: from form to matter)

"Food and the Museum". Erforschung von Museumsgeschichte und -praxis mit einem Fokus auf Essen/Ernährung. tsantsa. Zeitschrift der schweizerischen ethnologischen Gesellschaft 19 / 2014, 132-137. 

Geschmack. Eine Ausstellung für Mund, Nase, Ohr und Hand. Zürich: Mühlerama 2010. (co-edited with Franziska Rüttimann) (Exhibition catalogue 'Taste. An exhibition for the mouth, nose, ear and hand')

Gänsehaut inmitten von Repliken. Denkanstösse für kulturhistorische Museen aus der erfolgreichen Ausstellung Tutanchamun. Sein Grab und die Schätze im Zürcher Toni-Areal (2008). Museums.ch. die Schweizer Museumszeitschrift 4/2009, 12-16. (on success in the context of an exhibition using replicas)

Essen und Macht. Begleitpublikation zur Ausstellung übers Schlemmen, Schlachten und Hungern. Zürich: Mühlerama 2009. (with Franziska Rüttimann) (Exhibition catalogue 'On the power of food')

'Sie sind ein Teil von mir'. Enkelkinder erzählen von ihren Grosseltern. In: Museum.BL/Pantellini, Claudia (Hg.): Ganz schön alt. Basel: Christoph Merian Verlag 2005, 103-110. (on grandchildren speaking about their grandparents)

Zwiebeln, Zoll und CO2: Das St. Johann. In: Verein Frauenstadtrundgang Basel: Ansichtssache. Neun Frauenstadtrundgänge durch Basel. Zürich: Limmat Verlag 2001, 179-202. (on women in the working-class area St. Johann in Basel)

(Conference) Papers / other

Material and Visual Culture in Postcolonial Times: Anthropological Museums and Global Cultural Dynamics. Panel organised (together with Alexander Brust, Museum der Kulturen Basel) at the annual conference of the Swiss Ethnological Society. October 2014.

Replicas in the museum: some reflections on material culture and the crisis of representation. Annual Conference of the Swiss Ethnological Society. October 2014.

The Historical Making of Individualised and Original Objects in the Museum Context. Photography for PhDepictions, University of Leicester Festival of Postgraduate Research. June 2014.

Casts of food: an enquiry into form and matter in the museum context. School of Museum Studies Research Week. Leicester. June 2013.

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