June 6, 2013

Discursive Space Conference

Art Gallery of Ontario
Sholem Dolgoy, Catherine Dowling, Jana Macalik & Annick Mitchell, In Praise of Shadows, Nuit Blanche, Toronto, ON, 3-4 October 2009. Interactive light installation. Photo by Jana Macalik.

Discursive Space invites designers, museum professionals and design researchers to explore breaking barriers to effective spatial communication in art, design and exhibitions.

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.

Co-hosted by the Ryerson University, School of Interior Design and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Discursive Space continues the dialogue of two previous conferences, Creative Space (2005, School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester) and Narrative Space (2010, University of Leicester with the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham).

21 June
Opening keynote dialogue

Tom Hennes & Kathleen McLean
Moderated by Michael Prokopow, OCAD University

Tom Hennes | Principal, Thinc Design, New York
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.

Kathleen McLean | Principal, Independent Exhibitions, San Francisco
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. 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.

23 June
Closing keynote

Jana Scholze | Curator of Contemporary Furniture, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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 critic, and publishes on design history and theory internationally (including Medium Ausstellung, Transcript 2004). She is exhibition review editor for the journal Design and Culture.

The full programme can be found on:

The registration information can be found on:

Jana Macalik,
Chair, Discursive Space Conference 2013
Associate Professor, Ryerson University, School of Interior Design
[email protected]

Special thanks for the generous financial support from the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Communication and Design and the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation at Ryerson University. The media and online supporter is being provided by Curator: The Museum Journal.

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