Uncurated objects and global narratives

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


From 2014-17, I was involved in a large-scale research project that explored Italian cultures of migration on a global scale. The research team investigated cultural expressions and memories of italianità manifest in stories, images, and objects in a number of locations that Italians had migrated to from Unification to the present day (including UK, USA, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Ethiopia). At the end of the project we put on two large-scale exhibitions (Rome, London) which brought together in digital form the largely private objects and narratives that we had collected locally, and put them into dialogue with similar, but always different, objects and narratives from other sites of migration. The effect of the exhibitions was to use these intimate objects and stories to initiate a critical conversation between the local and the global without privileging either.
The aim of this paper is two-fold. I will first of all look back critically on this experience of curating these exhibitions to reflect on what narratives they produced through strategies of juxtaposition, omission, and visualisation. The second, and primary, aim is to examine what might be called the uncurated presence of Italian historical migration (1880s-1940) on the urban landscape of Edinburgh. I will draw on the curatorial methodology of the exhibitions to identify the uncurated public traces (signs, shopfronts, names etc) of Italian migration, and then use these visible, but characteristically unacknowledged traces, as the means to tell a global story of migration and a de-centred Italian culture.
Period14 Jun 201817 Jun 2018
Event titleAAIS Annual Conference
Event typeConference
LocationSalerno, ItalyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Paolozzi
  • vernacular culture
  • transnational