Images in context: national photography exhibitions as sites of cross-disciplinary research

'Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits', NPG Canberra, 2017. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Photographer: Mark Mohell.

Images in context: national photography exhibitions as sites of cross-disciplinary research

I explore the interpretation and exhibition of photographs drawn from four collections in national archive, museum, and library contexts in Canberra Australia. My focus is how exhibition curation can instigate cross-disciplinary and collaborative research that can contribute to new interpretations of photographs in these institutional settings. The three photography exhibitions, held between 2003 and 2018, provide an overview on the epistemological qualities curatorial research entails, particularly the ability to cross between established disciplines of knowledge.

I conducted over 50 in-depth interviews with staff members and photographers, focusing on their experience working on those exhibitions. By considering exhibitions as research sites that can produced their own effects, I argue that curatorial work practices as a method can generate different types of meaning and contexts suggested by the collections themselves, moving photographs between genres and established categories of document and art object.


Jennifer Coombes is an assistant director at the Territory Records Office and ArchivesACT.  She has previously worked a curator and archivist at the National Library of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and the National Film and Sound Archive. Jennifer holds a Master of Arts (Museums and Collections) from the ANU.

Jennifer Coombes is a PhD Candidate in the ANU ICCR Program

Date & time

Tue 16 Apr 2024, 10–11.30am


E4.44 Seminar Room Baldessin Precinct Building


Jennifer Coombes, PhD Candidate, ICCR Program ANU



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