The inaugural Discursive Space Conference brought together an international contingent of academics, students, designers, artists, curators and museum educators to discuss the transformative role of the visitors and discourse in narrative environments. The event focused on content discourse and the publics, but placed spatial discourse and its development in the broader context of social integration and relevance.

As a conference influenced by the prior events hosted by the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, the Discursive Space Conference also created opportunities for developing future collaborations and research from the existing body of knowledge present today in practice and in theory. Based on the feedback from both attendees and the presenters, we are thrilled that the conference successfully met its objectives and was rewarding to all who participated. We hope to see you all again in future conferences.

Yours sincerely,

Jana Macalik,

Chair, Discursive Space Conference 2013


With the theme “Discursive Space: breaking barriers to effective spatial communication in museums”, the conference provides a forum for deliberation concerning the integration of art, design, and architecture in the creation of memorable and immersive museum experiences, while balancing the public’s expectations of self-directed expression and engagement.

Today’s society is continuously challenged to break down barriers; barriers that stand to separate individuals and ideas. Art and design in their truest forms are created to fracture barriers and initiate dialogue with individuals, internally and socially. How does one make an emotional connection, effect communication, and immersively engage a museum audience with an experience when there are these barriers to be overcome? The issue of how cultural institutions can reconnect with the public and demonstrate their value and relevance in contemporary life has been at the forefront of discussions between scholars, designers and professionals in recent times. In order for the conference to have relevance within the museum community, it has to have relevance for those who work in or study museums, but also to those who visit museums; to those who design museums; and those who see museums as an educational resource.



21 June 2013_6:00pm


Presented by Ryerson University, Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation


Moderated by Michael Prokopow

 TH_4X4  km portrait photo
As Thinc’s Founder and Principal, Tom Hennes has developed a design approach that is grounded in a deep knowledge of history and world cultures, and a profound respect for the environment. Hennes’s exhibition designs are in natural history and other types of museums, national heritage projects, science centers, aquaria, zoos, and children’s museums, among others. His scholarly publications promote the transformation of exhibitions into powerful places of personal experience and learning. In his current work, Hennes explores the ways in which exhibitions and other media can be designed to form and sustain active communities. His research into audience perspectives and the integration of visitors’ individual and collective experiences into designs has increasingly placed him at the forefront of the field. He launched Thinc in 1995 as an extension of his successful theatrical design practice, which has continued and expanded on his work in theatre and opera, as well as trade shows, product introductions, and other corporate events. He holds multiple patents for immersive theatres and 3-D projection techniques. Hennes also serves as Exhibitions Editor for Curator: The Museum Journal. Kathleen McLean is principal of Independent Exhibitions, a museum consulting firm specializing in exhibition development, design, programming, and strategic planning. From January 1994 through September 2004 she was the Director of the Center for Public Exhibition and Public Programs at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, where she directed the major revisioning and strategic planning project, “Refocusing on the Floor.” Other projects she directed at the Exploratorium include the national award-winning traveling exhibition, Memory; a visitor/storytelling research project called Finding Significance; and Seeing, a 10,000 square-foot permanent art and science exhibit installation.Since 1974, McLean has designed and developed a wide range of exhibitions for public audiences in museums of history, art, and science, as well as interdisciplinary and children’s museums. Many of the exhibitions she has developed focus on social issues and public response. From 1986 to 1990, McLean established and led the first exhibitions department at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, New York.In 2006, Kathleen McLean was selected for the American Association of Museums’ Centennial Honor Role, as one of 100 museum professionals to have made a significant contribution to American museums over the last 100 years.
MICHAEL J. PROKOPOW | Michael Prokopow is an historian of material culture and art. He has written extensively about the meanings of objects in everyday life, about the built environment and about aesthetic engagement. He teaches at OCAD University where he is the director of the graduate programs in criticism and curatorial practice and contemporary art, design and new media.  He also works as an independent curator.  Most recently he served as the co-curator of the Museum for the End of the World at the 2012 Toronto Scotia Bank  Nuit Blanche. He serves on the boards of the Arthur Erickson Foundation, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and the Ontario Crafts Council.  Currently he is working on an exhibition about Scandinavian aesthetic influence in Canada after 1920.  He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University.


UPDATED: 23 June 2013_12:30pm


Presented by Ryerson University, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Communication and Design


JANA SCHOLZE | Curator of Contemporary Furniture, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK  
Jana Scholze is Curator of Contemporary Furniture at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where she worked on important acquisitions and various exhibitions, including *Cold War Modern. Design 1945-1970* (2008). She is regularly invited as lecturer and critique, and publishes on design history and theory internationally (including Medium Ausstellung, Transcript 2004). She is exhibition review editor for the journal *Design and Culture*.