Call for papers


Undoing conflict in museums: materiality and meaning of museum architecture and exhibition design

ICAMT 49th International Conference 2023
University of Porto (Porto, Portugal)
25th to 27th October, 2023

We are used to seeing museums as cathedrals of urban modernity, ritual spaces, disciplinary structures, or contact zones. They are seldom seen as conflict zones. Nevertheless, conflict can touch museums, their spaces, and architecture: through destruction, confiscation, the imposition of design/planning, making areas or buildings inaccessible, etc. Besides, conflict is inherited with the very idea of the museum and its many intricate ethical questions. These concerns, for example, collection practices and the politics of the human gaze, establishing the political by translating politics into powerful decisions about inclusion and exclusion, such as: “Who gets to see and who is blinded?”, “Who gets to be seen, and who is invisible?”. Indeed, the many conflicts museums experience in the 21st century, namely historically bound ones, are becoming increasingly present in their daily lives: they are envisaged as places of healing and reconciliation but, at the same time, they occasionally ignite controversy and become contested and occupied spaces, ones that disclose public conflict zones.

In light of this, how can museums experience conflict without diluting dissensions and contradictions, singularities, and possibilities of resistance? How can museums accept conflict and recognize it as a power that generates other forms of relationship between bodies, spaces, and actions between subjects, objects, territories, and memories? In contemporary Museum Studies, it is often said that museums are inherently political institutions. But in which ways are “politics” and “the political” produced as conflict zones within architecture and exhibition design? 

These questions have led to the idea of exploring further the role of architecture and exhibition design in conflict, particularly its potential contribution to the production of conversational spaces. This seminar will examine how conflict takes shape in exhibitions and museum buildings. Architecture and exhibition design provides an arena where various parties negotiate conflict. This International Conference explores how politics and the political are encoded in material forms and visual vocabulary. A further theme focuses on conflicts that arise between different parties and the knowledge played out, both in the creation and throughout the life of the museum, namely in terms of how the socio-cultural role of museums is envisaged and how museum spaces are experienced, both by those who work in museums and by their more transient visitors. Each round table is organised around a central contradiction, including the roles of silence, absence, and light; conservation, destruction, and transformation; memory, authenticity, imagination, and hope. The conference offers a range of case studies, including visits to museums to consider how museum practices have taken up various conflicts in terms of architectural options and exhibition-making. Complementarily, we also offer different creative, arts/design-based workshops to conceptualise these issues.

It seems to us that acknowledging and articulating conflict in this way is an important step toward decolonising and radically transforming our museums.


Key Theme 1 – Dealing with Conflict
How can lighting, climate control, storage, and security systems (among other “invisible” systems in museums) produce conflict zones (e.g., conservation/access) or contribute to dealing with conflict in a museum context?
Resignification of interpretative devices with conflict markers through museum architecture and exhibition design.
Climate crisis and environmental sustainability: emerging conflicts and possibilities for action worldwide.

Key Theme 2 – Symbols of Conflict
Architectural and exhibition design processes, particularly experiences developed around difficult/contested/controversial heritage.
How architecture and exhibition design incorporate processes associated with the slow memory of places and its conflicts. How is slow memory defined in these contexts?
The role of museum architecture and exhibition design in the processes of revealing, concealing, and transforming conflict.

Key Theme 3 – Processes and Conflict 
Dialogues between the global North-South and South-South in museum architecture and exhibition design projects dealing with conflict.
Conflicts that take place in the process of developing museum architecture and exhibition design projects that look precisely at conflict-related issues and ways to deal with them (e.g., architects vs museum professionals)
Museum architecture and exhibition design as a tool to develop critical awareness around conflict processes.

Key Theme 4 – Healing, Resistance and the Future
The power of museum architecture and exhibition design in fulfilling the social mission of the museum when dealing with conflict.
Future perspectives for exhibition design and museum architecture in dealing with conflict.
Museum architecture and exhibition design as promoters of healing and resistance.


We invite you to submit abstract proposals for the upcoming ICAMT 49th International Conference 2023 at the University of Porto, 25 to 27 October 2023.

We encourage submissions of proposals beyond traditional paper presentations, such as digital posters and short videos. In terms of presentation formats, the conference will feature paper presentations that will take place in person and last 15 to 20 minutes (max).
Digital posters and short videos will be displayed online: digital posters as static images (jpeg, A3 size, landscape format) and short videos with 8 to 10 minutes presentations.


Before submission of a proposal, please fill out the Application Form:

Your proposal should include the following:

  1. The way of participation – Paper presentation (on site), Digital Poster or Short video (online)
  2. Chosen Key Theme (1 from suggested 4 key themes)
  3. Title of contribution
  4. Name (s) of Author (s)
  5. Abstract (applies to all ways of participation) – do not exceed 300 words / no images nor bibliography
  6. 3-5 Keywords
  7. Short bio (max. 200 words) of the author (for each author, in case of joint work)
  8. Affiliation, full address: country, city, phone numbers, e-mail address (of each author in case of the joint proposal
  9. ICOM membership number (s), committee (s).

All Abstracts / Posters / Short videos should be prepared in English. Abstracts should be sent as a separate Word Document (.doc or .docx file) attachment to the following email: – no later than May 31, 2023, midnight GMT*.
The proposals received after the submission deadline will not be considered for evaluation.

*Extended deadline: June 14, 2023, midnight GMT.

Important note:
In case of participation with a Poster or Short Video, applicants will be asked to send, together with the abstract, a draft version of:

The final approval or rejection of Abstracts / Posters / Short Videos proposals will be announced by July 5, 2023.

Deadline for submissions of the final papers, posters and short videos: September 5, 2023, midnight GMT.

Important Dates

Call for Abstracts / Posters / Short Videos – draft submission opening17 April 2023
Abstracts / Posters / Short Videos – draft submission deadline31 May 2023 (midnight GMT)
14 June 2023 (midnight GMT)
Approval of Abstracts / Posters / Short Videos proposals5 July 2023 13 July 2023
Registration opening
(participants with presentation / Short video / Poster)
5 July – 5 September 2023
Registration (attendants)5 July – 5 September 2023
29 September 2023
Submission of final Papers, Posters and Short Videos5 September 2023 (midnight GMT)
Late registration (attendants) + 25%30 September – 12 October 2023
Conference dates25 – 27 October 2023