Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum is a major research project focused on recent and contemporary artworks which challenge the practices of the museum. Responding to Tate’s bold acquisition policy and building on its pioneering research and expertise in this field, the project is contributing to theory and practice in collection care, curation and museum management.

The research is grounded in six case studies drawn from works in the Tate collection; works which unfold over time and exist in multiple forms. These challenge the boundaries between artwork, record and archive and rely on complex networks of people, skills and technologies outside of the museum.

At the heart of this initiative is a desire to open up the museum and provide a generous invitation to Tate’s public, making visible the invisible lives of artworks as they unfold within, and in dialogue with, the museum.

How are we approaching this research?

Read, Watch, Explore

Past events

  • Tate Liverpool


    LightNight 2019: Tony Conrad performance

    17 May 2019
    An opportunity to experience the distinctive sounds and visuals of avant-garde video artist, filmmaker and composer Tony Conrad
  • Tate Modern


    Lives of Net Art

    4 Apr 2019
    A day-long series of talks, workshops and interactive experiences that explored how artists use the internet
  • Tate Modern


    Lives of Net Art: Christiane Paul

    3 Apr 2019
    A conversation about how museums engage with internet art, with Christiane Paul, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Gary Stewart and Anne Barlow

About us

Led by Professor Pip Laurenson and centred in Tate’s Collection Care Research team, some of the project’s researchers are embedded in various Tate departments and all work in close collaboration with staff across Tate. The initiative will also host four visiting fellowships and one collaborative doctoral student. The research team will work in partnership with a range of senior academics from around the world who are positioned to open up new areas of scholarship.

Meet the Project Team

Get to know the project team, led by Professor Pip Laurenson and centred in Tate’s Collection Care Research department

Head and shoulders studio portrait photograph of Haidy Geismar

Haidy Geismar, Senior Academic Fellow

Tate Research is delighted to welcome Haidy Geismar as the first Senior Academic Fellow to join Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum.

Haidy is a Professor of Anthropology at University College London, a curator of the UCL Ethnography Collections and Co-director of the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology. Her research expertise lies in collaborative museum practice, indigenous museologies and indigenous contemporary art (Vanuatu and New Zealand).

Haidy will be at Tate until the end of January 2020, based at Tate Britain. She will be using this fellowship to consider how models of social practice and accountability drawn from anthropology can connect to debates about social practice and activism within contemporary art. This work will draw on conversations about the ongoing legacy of 19th-century colonialism and how this is embedded in the structures of power and authority in museums.

Upon beginning her fellowship, Haidy wrote, ‘It’s exciting to connect my knowledge base to some of the core questions asked by the Reshaping the Collectible project, such as how social networks, collaborative practice and public engagement can become part of museum collections and integral to museum practices. The stakes around these questions are particularly high in relation to ethnographic collections, and for the discipline of anthropology, and this prepares us well for bringing questions of colonial legacies, power relations and alternative knowledge practices into other collections and spaces, such as the contemporary art museum.’

Haidy’s UCL profile provides more background on her research and previous publications. These have included Museum Object Lessons for the Digital Age (UCL Press, 2018), an open-access book that can be read here; a volume edited with Jane Anderson, The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property (2017); and Treasured Possessions: Indigenous Interventions into Intellectual and Cultural Property (Duke University Press, 2013).

This fellowship is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


For general enquiries or to join our mailing list, please contact

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation logo

Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum is funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and runs until 2021