The Arts & Society virtual exhibit site originally began as an online supplement to a semi-permanent physical exhibit which the Maltwood featured from 1996 to 1999. The exhibit was unique in that it was classifed as being "under construction". Students, professors, and other members of the University of Victoria community and beyond were encouraged to participate in the development process through contributions of research, essays, or a simple helping hand in the installation of the exhibit. In this respect, Arts & Society was dynamic in that it changed and improved over time with the involvement of the wider community.
The exhibition methodology for Arts & Society is perhaps somewhat unusual for contemporary museum exhibits because the usual grouping systems based on chronology, geography, object type or maker have been avoided. Instead, the exhibit builds on the seventeenth century notion of the "cabinet of curiosities", an early ancestor of the modern museum. But while the order may seem random, in fact the groupings are intended to prompt curiosity by encouraging the viewer to make intellectual comparisons across traditional boundaries in the context of object function or use. Thus the theme groupings: Arts & the Natural World, Arts & Religion, Arts & War, Arts & Economy, Arts & Death, Arts & Everyday Life, Arts & Leisure, Arts & Scholarship.
It is interesting to note that by adopting this manner of organization we are following in the footsteps of the museum's founder Katharine Maltwood. Her original collection illustrated her own interests in art as documentary evidence of the human condition, in particular, belief systems and attitudes in the face of such grim realities as death and the destruction of war. Indeed these very themes form an omnipresent backdrop to studies across the many disciplines of the humanitites.
Participate and enjoy,