Dr. Marisa Karyl Franz’s work focuses on material culture and practices of preservation and collection. She in particularly interested in the affective relationships we have with things and how our connections with the material world construct ontologies of things and alternative ethics of care. Much of her work looks at the use of everyday things that are recast as unique, intimate, or powerful objects through ideas of memory, histories, destruction, trauma, haunting, and memory. This has led her to focus principally in smaller museums including museums of magic, historic house museums, and local culture and history museums.
Her background in religion, philosophy, and intellectual history informs her work and teaching, with a particular interest in the mid-19 th through 20 th centuries. Using theories of materiality, ontologies, and decolonization she is interested in things as complex networks of relations, concepts, obligations, materials, and memories. Her manuscript, Near and Desired Things: Local Siberian Museums and the Role of Shamanism in Late Imperial Russia focuses on histories of collection and classification in Siberian regional museum. The work is both an intellectual history of early ethnographic research and collections of Siberian shamanic religious cultures and a broader recasting of museum history to emphasize non-European and smaller museums. More recently, her work focuses on sites of preservation more broadly to consider the ethics and aesthetics of loss, death, ruin, and destruction. She advocates for decay as generative and creative processes that subverts ideas of permanency, accumulation, and preservation within museums. Some of her new work explores how everyday materials from nuclear exclusion zones become memorialised in contemporary art installations and how intimate mementos left graveside in cemeteries become entangled in the ecologies of the land.