Gerrit Schouten, Dansende en musicerende slaven in een open hut, c.1820.

Date: Monday, 21 March 2016
Time: 19:00 – 21:00

Mostly known as an entertaining pedagogical tool in museums of natural history, the diorama is a two-century old illusionistic device capturing a three-dimensional scene frozen in time. The golden age of dioramas in 1930s colonial exhibitions and world fairs branded national prestige and foreign commercial interests. Their influence on contemporary artists, historians and thinkers critically reflects on those artificial environments designed to represent and contextualize the unknown.

In dialogue with current debates on the decolonisation of the museum, this roundtable discussion with John PlunkettClazien Medendorp, and chaired by Florence Ostende explores the visual legacy of colonialism through historical and contemporary dioramas.


John Plunkett is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Exeter. His publications include Queen Victoria—First Media Monarch (2003), the co-edited, with Andrew King, Victorian Print Media: A Reader (2005) and Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship 1820–1910(2012), co-edited with Joe Kember and Jill Sullivan. He has held fellowships and grants from the Yale Centre for British Art, Getty Research Institute and the Leverhulme Trust. He is currently working on a book of nineteenth-century visual entertainments, covering the panorama, diorama, peepshow, and magic lantern, provisionally entitled, Picture Going: Popular Visual and Optical Entertainments 1820–1914.

Clazien Medendorp is freelance art historical researcher and editor. In the nineties she lived in Surinam were she was curator of art at the Surinam Museum. Back in The Netherlands her research focusses on Surinam nineteenth century art of the artist Gerrit Schouten, whose dioramas and botanical and zoological drawings are spread all over the western world. She initiated exhibitions of his work in the Surinam Museum in Paramaribo and in Teylers Museum in Haarlem. At KIT Press of the Royal Tropical Institute Amsterdam she published Gerrit Schouten (1779-1839) Botanische tekeningen en diorama’s uit Suriname and, commissioned by the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Kijkkasten uit Suriname. De diorama’s van Gerrit Schouten. At the exhibition Stories from the Wild Coast, accompanying the composure of the Surinam image database (1599-1975), she presented curator highlights from the Surinam Collection of the University Library Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam.