At the Vanishing Point: Encounters with the Souvenirs, Merchandise and Memorabilia of International Law

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Fisher Library, University of Sydney
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Bringing together forty significant artefacts from a larger collection, the exhibition highlights the different ways in which international law and its institutions are memorialised, commodified and represented in the public sphere. The collection includes souvenirs available for purchase in the gift shops of international institutions; products sold by commercial partners with the permission or collaboration of these institutions; products which otherwise engage with international law (including advertisements which invoke the power and prestige of international law to sell particular items); and written collections which memorialise the histories, institutions and characters of the international legal system. Befitting the exhibition space, in Fisher Library’s Rare Books section, this latter category includes a number of old and rare books. The exhibition invites viewers to consider the social lives of these artefacts and what these tell us about international law and its institutions. How do international organisations present themselves to the world (by way of their gift shops or commercial collaborations) and how does society at large perceive of international law and international institutions? What do these artefacts say about the role of international law in the social and cultural zeitgeist? How do objects become memorabilia, relics or fetishes for international law and international lawyers? And how do these objects tell a different story about international law’s claims to authority and relevance from the traditional narrative presented through texts and institutions? Brought together by four international lawyers from three different institutions, this collection uses the material products of international law as a window through which viewers – lawyers and laypersons alike – can explore the everyday life of international law.
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