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Curating Profusion: Caring for the Future and Assembling Value in Homes and Smaller Museums

Professor Sharon MacdonaldDr Jennie Morgan and Harald Fredheim.



Display case in the exhibition ‘Industriland’ © Arbetets Museum, Norrköping, Sweden

Curating Profusion addresses the challenges presented by material abundance, the growth of digital storage, and a democratization of memory for making selections about what to save for future generations and how. It examines this in relation to two domains that face the prolific past and present in a particularly acute form: households and small to medium-sized museums. Taking an ethnographic approach (using visual, participatory, and collaborative methodologies) the research explores what is selected for future-keeping and why; what is discarded; the practices involved in trying to ensure longevity; and the complex yet often unacknowledged judgements, emotions, and values involved in making these selections.

Insight will be generated on the ways in which such practices and selections of discarding and keeping for posterity articulate with perceptions of future uncertainty, diversity, and the creation of the archive. Knowledge-exchange events and working with partner organisations will facilitate the co-creation and sharing of both theoretical and practical knowledge to contribute to developing new and sustainable approaches to heritage conservation.

Bookshelves © Sharon Macdonald

Curating Profusion is part of the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures research programme. Across four themes, each of which draws together several heritage domains that share common objectives or practices but which have not generally been considered in comparative perspective, the programme examines the ways in which the past is drawn on to resource the future in the face of a present threat.



Curating Profusion is part of the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures project. Other research themes are run at UCL, University of Exeter and Linnaeus University, Sweden. We work with a large number of partner heritage organizations and other researchers, including through the  AHRC’s Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past theme.

News and Events

News and Events

For all of our latest news & events see Profusion on the Heritage Futures website, or follow us on twitter @Future_Heritage

Torbay's Hidden Treasures, October 2017

A new Blog post that you can read here. It includes a short video of 'My Dad the Collector', a poem written and read by Mary Earle

Archives in Place, October 2017

Jennie Morgan has made a short film with Heritage Futures Transformation-theme researcher Nadia Bartolini. You can watch it here

ICOMOS, December 2017

The Profusion theme joins the Heritage Futures team at the ICOMOS scientific symposium on Heritage and Democracy

Centre for Environment, Heritage, & Policy (University of Stirling), November 2017

On 28 November 12:00-13:00 (Pathfoot D2), Jennie Morgan will talk about Profusion in the Centre's research seminar. All welcome!

 Anticipation conference, November 2017

The Profusion theme participates in a panel organised by Heritage Futures in the second international conference on anticipation at Senate House, London. Jennie Morgan presents a paper called ‘Curating Disposal: Radical Selection as a Response to Anticipated Loss’.

The Story in the Object, September 2017

The Profusion theme is collaborating with Creative Fellow Shelley Castle (Encounters Arts). Shelley will be at the International Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay presenting a new work 'The Story of the Object'. Running throughout the festival, workshops will explore our love of objects, and the sometimes extraordinary stories they tell of our lives. For more details see here, or to take part in a workshop sign up here

Profusion Blogs

Since beginning the project, we have written several 'dispatches' about the Profusion research. You can find these on the Heritage Futures website, including (amongst other things) on Museum storerooms, collecting, our research process, and post-disaster heritage.

Assesment of Significance symposium, May 2017

Sharon Macdonald presents a paper at this symposium held at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

Cabinets of Consequence, March 2017

The Heritage Futures team participates in a Salon in association with the ‘Cabinets of Consequence’ exhibition 

Clutter Culture

Read an interview about the Profusion research on the University website here, posted on 25 April 2016

Museumslabor talk, January 2017

Sharon Macdonald and Jennie Morgan talk about Profusion at the Museumslabor seminar series, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

What not to collect? January 2017

Sharon Macdonald speaks about 'What not to collect? Materials, objects, stories...' at the International Symposium 'Object Lesson Nr.9 Material and Knowledge' at the Museum der Dinge, Berlin

First Profusion workshop held in York, March 2016

In March 2016, we held our first Profusion event at the The New School House Gallery in York. You can read about the workshop, and watch some short video clips made with participants, here

Profusion panel in ASA16, July 2016

In July 2016, Jennie Morgan will co-convene with Dr Zemirah Moffat a panel on Profusion at the Association of Social Anthropologists conference 'Footprints and Futures: The Time of Anthropology'. See here for details, and here for a short Blog about the event. 

Video of Curating Profusion now live

In October 2015, Curating Profusion was presented at the Critical Heritage Studies 'Curating Overflow' seminar at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden). To watch videos of the seminar held at the Museum of World Culture see here

Sharon Macdonald is interviewed by New Scientist magazine 

In an opinion piece called 'Too much stuff: What should we keep to show future generations?' Issue 3044, 24 October 2015

See a new Blog post about Curating Profusion

On the 'Who cares? Interventions in 'unloved' museum collections' conference website, dated October 16 2015

Presentation in the York Heritage Research Seminars (YOHRS), Department of Archaeology

University of York, 5pm 17 November 2015

See here for information about YOHRS. All welcome!

Presentation in the 'Curating Overflow' Heritage Seminar, University of Gothenburg

Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg (Sweden) 15 October 2015

See here for information. All welcome! Please register your participation by 7 October with


A fully-funded studentship is available in collaboration with Curating Profusion. This will be held in the Department of History at the University of York and will investigate a historical dimension of curating profusion.

Information is on this pdf document

Deadline: 7 May 2015

Presentation in the Unpolished Paper series, Department of Sociology,

University of York, 12-1pm W/243, Curating Profusion, or trying to cope with too much stuff?


The Heritage Futures website is here. For blog posts on the Profusion theme see this link.

Follow Heritage Futures on Twitter @Future_Heritage

Scheme: UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past theme Large Grant

  • Research Starts: 01/04/15
  • Research Ends: 31/03/19
  • Grant Reference Number: AH/M004376/1


Contact details

Harald Fredheim
Department of Sociology
University of York
North Yorkshire
YO10 5DD