Constructing histories through material culture

Popular Music, Museums and Collecting


  • Marion Leonard University of Liverpool Author



popular music artefacts, local history, material culture, museum exhibitions


This article examines how popular music has been represented within museum exhibitions and considers the specificities of collection and display relating to popular music artefacts. Using a number of recent exhibitions as examples, it considers how very particular versions of popular music history are constructed through the display of material culture. In effect, the institutional logics of museums and art galleries mean that the conceptual underpinning of popular music exhibitions tends to take the form of either canonic representations, the contextualisation of popular music artefacts as art or the presentation of popular music as social or local history. The article argues that these types of approach represent a problem for the researcher/curator attempting to reconstruct a truly social history of popular music as they tend to replicate dominant hegemonic versions of history. The article then suggests ways in which the popular music curator can actively learn from private collectors in order to give a more balanced representation of a variety of popular music practices. Drawing on interviews with private collectors it considers how the material culture of popular music can offer an avenue through which to explore personal and social histories, memory, affect and identity in the exhibition context

Author Biography

  • Marion Leonard, University of Liverpool

    Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool


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How to Cite

Leonard, M. (2007). Constructing histories through material culture: Popular Music, Museums and Collecting. Popular Music History, 2(2), 147-167.