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Diagnosing Collections

Nina Liebenberg







University of the Arts, Helsinki, Finland

A small traveling medicine chest is housed in the Manuscripts and Archives Department of the University of Cape Town as part of a larger collection of papers. Since the chest falls outside the library’s systems of categorisation and search engines, it has been rendered somewhat invisible in the institution. Liebenberg uses the chest as a prompt and a provocation to consider where else in the institution knowledge has been rendered invisible by its own taxonomic systems. In this hybrid work (conference presentation, exhibition walkabout, pedagogical lesson, website) she explores how artistic and digital curation can provide exciting dimensions to explore existing archives.

The website, The Medicine Chest, referenced in this work, was the last chapter of her doctoral thesis, which used an object of study realised curatorially, to expose the limitations of systems of categorisation within university academic departments.

Nina Liebenberg is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Uniarts, Helsinki. She is interested in disciplinary object collections of all kinds – from herbariums and musical instruments to pathological specimens and geological collections. She draws on these materials to curate shows and make artworks that highlight occluded histories and extend the meaning of how these objects are understood in their host departments. Currently Liebenberg is involved in the postdoctoral research project, Planthology.