A Proposal for a Camp Museum
Master's Thesis

With etymological origins in the old French se camper, meaning to pose or act in an exaggerated fashion, “camp” entered Victorian English as slang to describe the affected mannerisms of effeminate (read: gay) men. The significance and purpose of the term has morphed in accordance with the changing attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and identity. While contemporary queer theorists and activists strive to reconnect camp with its (homo)sexually “authentic” origins, popular culture has created the campy, an Americanised, apoliticised version with broad mass appeal. Everything and everyone, from drag shows to low-budget horror films, Elvis impersonators to Cindy Sherman, have been described as camp(y); yet a clear definition remains elusive.

The proposal for a Camp Museum represents an attempt to interpret the various guises of camp, first by research to establish its history and characteristics, then by process of selection, categorisation, and presentation of cultural and artistic artefacts within a museum context. Camp’s ironic tilt in perception and performativity questions the idea of social(ised) norms by “tender” parody, a paradoxical mixture of philosophical detachment and emotional engagement. The challenge is for the museum to demonstrate the irony and subjectivity of camp as well as present a convincing argument on the subject.