Disorder : rethinking hoarding inside and outside the museum

Chen, Hsiao-Jane Anna
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Hoarding tends to appear in museum studies scholarship primarily as a foil for “proper” museological collecting. Yet hoarding has attracted a constellation of assumptions and meanings. In popular discourse, hoarding is often perceived as a behavior learned from a life of deprivation, while clinical discourse about hoarding seeks to determine how it should be classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These multiple perspectives inform the ways in which hoarding, and by extension collecting and museum practices, can be defined and understood. This report, then, examines how the idea of the museum is incorporated, reworked, or even rejected in three case studies of hoarding: art-historical approaches to Andy Warhol’s hoarding habits; "Clean House," a television show that cleans and redecorates families’ cluttered homes; and "Hoarders," a television show that pairs hoarders with psychiatrists and professional organizers. In each case study, the discourse surrounding the hoarder attempts to bring hoarding in line with “acceptable” collecting practices. At the same time, this particular discourse competes with other messages about the cultural role of collecting, generating a dialogue with important implications for collecting institutions about acquisition and appraisal, curatorial and archival bias, and institutional identity.