Research outcomes

During Eunamus three years of research the project has published nine open access reports and organized twelve conferences and workshops all over Europe.

There are three ways to get a quick overview of Eunamus’ findings and policy implications.

1) National Museums Making Histories in a Diverse Europe. This summary report brings together key points from three years of research in short, clear texts and compelling photos. It covers the role of museums as a stabilizing force for the changing nation, the varied ways museums perform this role, their use of exhibition and narrative strategies, the way their histories are dependent on local political conditions, and the resultant silences that deny a complete or complex history. It includes a substantive discussion of the ways in which European national museums deal with conflict, promoting partisan division, obscurantist ignorance, or future-oriented reconciliation.

2) Striking a Balance: How national museums can contribute to a socially cohesive Europe. This policy brief summarises Eunamus findings, gives away research parameters, and includes recommendations for policy makers.

3) The entire project’s rich set of case studies and reports are available from the Eunamus website

Among the most recent reports are

  • National Museums and the Negotiation of Difficult Pasts. Conference Proceedings from EUNAMUS Brussels 26-27 January 2012. Dominique Poulot, José Maria Lanzarote Gurial & Felicity Bodenstein (eds). The papers examine museum policies in dealing with conflicts of displaced communities or contested religious heritage; the role national museums play in handling historical issues that are socially and politically sensitive; and cases related to restitution. Available from this webpage:
  • Entering the Minefields: the Creation of New History Museums in Europe. Conference Proceedings from EUNAMUS Brussels 25 January 2012. Bodil Axelsson, Christine Dupont & Chantal Kesteloot (eds). This collection presents four inside stories from the Deutsches Historisches Museum, the Polish History Museum, the House of European History and the Maison de l’Histoire de France (launched during the 2007 Presidential campaign and closed after the political shift 2012). It turns out that new history museums and critical research respond in similar ways to pressures from governments and funders. Among the responses are professional networking, the promotion of dialogues, and the sharing and accepting of a plurality of legitimate standpoints and identities. Available from this webpage.

Short introductions to Eunamus nine open access reports are available in this pamphlet.

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Visitor studies at European national museums

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Click on the image to access the report

Read more on the ways in which national majorities and minorities relate to national museums in two open access reports produced by the Eunamus project.

Voices from the Museum: Survey Research in Europe’s National Museums

Alexandra Bounia, Alexandra Nikiforidou, Niki Nikonanou & Albert Dicran Matossian

This report documents the most extensive comparative visitor study of national museums ever undertaken in Europe. It presents the results of surveys of over 5300 museum visitors, who filled out questionnaires at nine European national museums on their expectations of the museum and its relationship to their personal identity. Between May and September 2011, EUNAMUS research teams canvassed the Estonian National Museum, the Latvian Open-Air Museum, the German Historical Museum, the National Historical Museum of Athens, the Nordiska Museet, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Museum of Scotland, the Rijksmuseum and the Museum of the History of Catalonia.

Data are presented both as an aggregate of all respondents and broken down by individual museums. Asked about their purpose in visiting a national museum, 8 in 10 respondents said that they were seeking either “pleasure/entertainment” or “education/learning”.  While they weren’t explicitly there to “experience the past”, they did feel that preserving and remembering national historic heritage was the legitimate role of a national museum. Visitors also said they expected “national” museums, by definition, to present a complete story of the nation. Outside of Germany – especially in young nations and former East Bloc countries – national identity formation continues to dominate over regional or European identity.

Similarly, visitors to the museums in each country claimed a single national identification over pluralistic alternatives such as hybrid national identity (two or more heritage roots), a transnational (European) identity, cosmopolitan ideals, universal humanity or an individualistic identity.

The visitor surveys indicate that national identity for both the museum and its visitors continues to play a central role in peoples’ conceptions of self-in-community.

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Click on the image to access the report

Jocelyn Dodd, Ceri Jones, Andy Sawyer & Maria- Anna Tseliou

This study presents the findings from interviews and focus groups carried out with visitors and minority groups at six European national museums. It looks at the connections that can be made between national, European and minority identities and how these frame very different experiences of the national museum. Whilst visitors were, on the whole, convinced that national museums represented a shared, collective identity, minority groups’ views differed discernibly.

Despite collectively forming a substantial section of the European population, minority experiences were largely absent from national museums, a situation that was recognized by less than 10% of museum visitors. Moreover, as noted by participants in the EUNAMUS focus groups, non-European minorities do not expect to be represented in Europe’s national museums.

EUNAMUS data suggest that European minorities regard European citizenship positively because it allows them to retain their own identity. Non-European minorities, however, are more ambivalent. For them, aspects of European identity can help safeguard their rights, but other aspects can present further barriers to integration. Personal and national identity was especially complex and important to minorities because they were constantly negotiating their relationship with the dominant culture, but the silence in national museums and lack of recognition of their contribution to national society only confirmed their status as “Other”.

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Museum Policies in Europe 1990 – 2010: Negotiating Professional and Political Utopia

Lill Eilertsen & Arne Bugge Amundsen (eds)

This blog post recycles elements from the report’s section Key findings. We are curious of your reactions, and comments are welcome.

This EuNaMus report studies how nations develop policy in order to deploy national museums in national redefinition. It focuses on museum utopias that have been negotiated by politicians and museum professionals. The report establishes some major perspectives on the development of museum political discourses during the last 20 years by comparing museum political material from five different countries: France, representing former colonial empires; Norway, demonstrating the Nordic countries’ variety of minorities and migrants; Estonia and Hungary, exemplifying the challenges of former European Soviet states; and Greece, allowing us to investigate the uses of classical antiquity. We also present the EU as an actor in the museum field. The report material discuss two main issues:

  • How policy makers in different regions of Europe identify national museums as instruments for negotiating identity, diversity and change.
  • How national museums in different regions of Europe formulate their position as political and cultural institutions.

The political functions of national museums are obviously of a rhetorical character, stating how politicians and leading specialists and professionals intend to reshape the national museums and accordingly to distribute new symbolic and material value to these institutions: Museum policies have been formulated, museum acts have been passed, re-organisation and re-building have taken place.

The period 1990-2010 in fact seems historically important with regard to active political action towards renegotiating the political meaning and function of national museums. The reason is quite obvious: The dramatic political changes in Eastern Europe concurring with major demographic changes in Western Europe have created a new agenda for using culture and cultural institutions politically to smooth or counteract the effects of the changes.

Museum policy development and change are accomplished through what in the report from France is described as “a normative kind of moral discourse in the form of elaborate operations of communication” (quote Jean-Yves Boursier). The reports contributing to this study demonstrate five important policymaking techniques used to engage in that moral discourse:

  • Re-formulation. By challenging museological taboos, museums are encouraged to re-formulate their aims and scope in the direction of new norms such as post-colonial positions, cultural diversity, or minority rights. Using re-formulation, changes in museum policy in most cases are given their rationale by reference to historical injustice, past national one-sidedness, or ethnic and cultural negligence. Changes, accordingly, are presented as (morally) necessary, as in accordance with public opinion or as concurring with recent political development.
  • Re-narration. Closely connected to re-formulation, re-narration aims at using national museums as instruments for change or correction of collective memory. On the museum policy and rhetorical level, this has led to a relative negligence of traditional national narratives in a number of European countries, with Norway as a rather extreme example. In France this negligence has been considerably more contested in public debates. In post-Communist countries, the re-narration of the national museums has included a depreciation of the old regimes and a revaluation of the  national and ethnic continuities. In Greece, the re-narration seems to be      responses to European integration followed by an economic crisis.
  • Re-mediation. This technique uses new media and new ways of inviting museum users into existing or new museum institutions. Many national museums have, for instance, digitised parts of their collections, thus making their use and      interpretation independent of time and place. Another aspect of this is, of course, that the museum collections in this way are “liberated” from old and traditional perspectives and made the possible object of new interpretations and cultural dialogues.
  • Re-organisation. This seems to be among the favourite museum policy techniques. France is possibly a rather extreme example of this, constantly changing the names, locations and scopes of many of its central museum institutions. But even a small nation like Norway has been through massive government-initiated      organisational changes during the last two decades. These changes have in many cases strengthened political control with the museum field, but they have also aroused substantial critiques and negative reactions among museum professionals.
  • Re-professionalization. It seems clear that many of the changes in recent European museum policy have been closely linked not to traditional academically educated museum personnel but to new groups who have deeply influenced the museum field both theoretically and practically. These actors include consultants, artists, economists and architects. Normally, these groups of professionals are not keepers of the traditional knowledge and skills needed to collect, interpret and display museum objects. Rather, they represent the “outside” of museum work – the financial results, the  administrative efficiency, the experimental display or the material      surroundings of the collections. Critically evaluated, this re-professionalization  can be said to have developed a new elitism in the museum field, an elitism requiring perspectives representing the new symbolic and rhetorical values installed in national museum institutions.

National museums as utopias

National and transnational narratives coexist uneasily in national museums due in large part to the varying utopian ideologies articulated by Europe’s various policymakers. This study has more or less a priori regarded the changes articulated in the last 20 years of museum policy development in Europe as utopian, but which utopia depends on which policymaker is consulted.

  • EUtopia. As the report on the EU as an  actor in the museum field shows, the cultural dimensions of the European integration project have been strengthened during the last years’ political development. The EUtopian perspective is linked to a European citizenship based on common European values and identity, and the museums’ role in this is to contribute to transnational cohesion and integration. There are many political actors and strategies sustaining this perspective, but it remains open whether there are any convincing successes. The reports from Hungary, Estonia and Greece suggest that the EU has contributed to changes in national museum policy and practice through economic funding of specific museum projects, but that this effect also bears witness to the weakness of such processes: They change sectoral and temporal practice, but leave the rest of the field unchanged.
  • Multicultural Utopia. The museum policy changes advocating strengthened emphasis on cultural diversity and multicultural ideology also have obvious utopian dimensions, at least with regard to leading national museums. However, the museum collections and the museums’ institutional history are likely so strongly linked to the national narratives that turning them into dialogue institutions or arenas for      intercultural encounters is a very complicated mission. Presenting a temporary exhibition or writing new visitors’ guides does not change the impressive weight of institutional history and collection history reflecting on national perspectives. The successes of temporary exhibitions or provocative public debates are still left to convince on a general level. The most successful examples might be found in the      transformations of the museums representing the French colonial past, the      international Louvre collections, and the Sámi case. The success of the two former can be explained by the international and even Universalist approaches of their institutional past. The success of the latter is probably and a bit ironically due to the fact that the political rights of the only indigenous people in Norway have resulted in the Sámi launching their own national museum construction.
  • National Historical Utopia. At first glance this seems to have lost legitimacy during the last 20 years of European museum policy development. When looking more closely into the  matter, however, it becomes obvious that there is not “one” European      national museum; the institutional and professional histories of the European national museums are different. Examples from the reports suggest that the national museum agency still is productive and negotiable in several countries. These cases thematize the possibility of expressing both national and European perspectives  when national museum collections are put on display. With ideological  implications taken into consideration, cultural diversity or multicultural ideology are not necessarily the only obvious responses of the European national museums to the old aggressive nationalism.

The report is available at Linköping University Electronic Press: http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:557284

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Museum Reforms in Norway and “Talking Europe” in Museums and Research

Knowledge about policy making processes is crucial for the Eunamus project. On the one hand Eunamus investigates the political functions of national museums and the agency they have in relation to shifting ideological agendas. On the other hand, Eunamus is funded by the 7th framework of the European commission which means that findings needs to be presented in such ways that they are understandable and relevant for those who produce museum policies. The conference Museum Policies in Europe between 1990 and 2010: Negotiating Political and Professional Utopia Oslo 27-29 June furthered the project’s knowledge on policy making processes and implications.

Several talks focussed on the Norwegian situation. Andreas Halse (deputy leader of Oslo City Council’s Committee for Education and Cultural affairs) was invited to share an insider’s view of the current controversies on the placement of the new Munch Museum in Oslo. The location of this museum is implicitly connected to the aim and social functions of the institution and these may in turn be connected to party politics. Being a Social Democrate, Halse advocates that the Munch Museum would remain at Tøyen, a multicultural area in inner city Oslo on the brink of gentrification and in need of cultural capital. The opponents instead want to locate the new museum close to the waterfront in an area being developed for business and tourism.

In recent years, Norway has seen several museum reforms, institutions have been merged and networked  for the sake of professionalism. Dialogues and diversity have been promoted. This was discussed by Eunamus Lill Eilertsen as well as by Jon-Birger Østby former director of the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority.

In his speech, Leif Pareli from Norsk Folkemuseum (Norway’s Cultural Historical Museum) demonstrated how political and ideological changes have been manifested in this particular national museum. For many years this ethnological museum has grappled with how to more fairly balance their service to immigrant and indigenous communities. Even though Norway has been a two people nation since its construction, the Sámi people were not included in the museums representation of the nation until the 1950’s. Today, the museum’s Sami collection has entered a repatriation programme. In addition, Norsk Folkemuseum has re-constructed the apartment of a Pakistani family in Oslo.

The Sami Parliament of Norway, inaugurated as late as 1989 is one of the main actors in the repatriation of both objects and human remains. The 19th of June they signed the agreement that within the next year will guarantee the replacements of half the collection to the Sami museums. In her speech Vibeke Larsen, member of the Sami Parliament of Norway, highlighted that Norway’s Sami museums do more than exhibit collections. They functions as cultural centers with language courses, children activities and political discussions. Vibeke Larsen also gave evidence to the fact that the politics around minorities and indigenous people’s cultural heritage is connected not only to national politics and museum reforms, but also to declarations from transnational organisations such as the United Nation and ICOM.

The Norwegian policy development reflects a global interest in museums as spaces of cultural encounters and dialogues. In her paper, Clelia Pozzi from the MeLa Project suggested a theoretical model that would take museums beyond the formula of dialogue. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s notion of agonistic pluralism, she discussed how power imbued social relations can be acknowledged in museum spaces, not by deliberative dialogues but by keeping democratic contestation alive and by providing space for dissent.

Both Maria Höglund and Stefan Krankenhagen gave speeches on European cultural policy. As culture is a subsidiary area, EU acts by providing funding and not by legislation. Maria Höglund highlighted that in the case of museums, EU interventions have encouraged collaboration, mobility and exchange between institutions. In his speech, Stefan Krankenhagen argued that even though there is no such thing as an explicit museum policy at a European level, many museums “are talking Europe”. Krankenhagen has particularly looked into activities in the field of contemporary collecting. In this area museums finds ways to renew their social bonds by inviting people to participate in assembling objects.  In the field of contemporary collecting as well as in the database Europeana objects are engaged to be part of negotiations of what contemporary Europeaness means.

Comparing research and museum practices, some striking similarities appears. Research programmes funded by the European Commission, such as Eunamus, indeed “talk Europe” too and they do encourage collaboration and scholarly exchange.

Read more on Eunamus and the conference here.

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Contemporary national museums, the classical heritage, postnationalism and multicultural nations

Conal McCarthy, Kylie Message, Rhiannon Mason and Sheila Watson at the Acropolis museum.

At the heart of the three-year research programme Eunamus is the contemporary and future roles of European national museums. To develop the project’s research on identities in museum, its researchers gathered in Athens 23 – 27 April for workshops and a public day with open lectures. The occasion brought together researchers from around the world, who discussed a range of related themes from European and non-European contexts to inform and enrich the Eunamus research consortium. The headline of this blog post points to some of the keywords. Among the guest speakers were Kylie Message, Conal McCarthy, Rhiannon Mason,  Huism Tan at the National Heritage Board Academy, Singapore, John Orna-Ornstein, Robert A. Saunders and Gwen Bennett. If you are curious on Rhiannon Mason’s ongoing research on museums and postnationalism read Mela News #03

Copies of the original caryatids at Acropolis.

The workshops also included some fascinating, critical and reflexive talks of Greek academics. Antonis Liakos talked around the current function of Acropolis and its new museum. He pointed to how the classical heritage has become detached from both its historicity and contemporary everyday life when entering a transnationally determined aesthetics. Continuing the theme of the loss of the elgin marbles and especially the absence of one of the six Caryatids from the Acropolis museum, Dimitris Plantzos talked about Greek museums as sites of trauma. Arguing that the classical heritage had been colonised by Western archeologists and Classicists, he exemplified how contemporary Greece reclaims its material past in repetitive enactments and mimicries. Read more in the journal ANTIQUITY 2011: 85. 

In the same critical spirit, Manussos Marangudakis suggested that current processes of developing a pan-european identity is operationalized by elites. Andromache Gazi was instead invited to discuss how museums use space and the design of exhibitions to locate people in the social world, to produce maps of identities and points of belonging. She suggested that museums navigates between the two pools of exploring identities and confirming identities.

Taken together, the workshops and lectures re-framed Eunamus research on the implicit Europeaness in national museums, the interplay between regions and nations, and the representation of minorities in museums.

The contemporary uses of the classical heritage will be further developed by Alexandra Bounia at the conference Museum Policies in Europe  between 1990 and 2010: Negotiating Political and Professional Utopia in Oslo 27-29 June

Text: Bodil Axelsson

Photos: Andrew Sawyer

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Museum papers at the Re-theorising heritage conference in Gothenburg 5-8 June

Guestblogger: Christer Felix

The conference took place in Gothenburg June 5th to 8th and was the inauguration of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies. It was held over the theme “Re-theorizing heritage” and hosted more than 500 participants from all continents of the world. During four sunny and cool days the faculty of science at the University of Gothenburg arranged speeches and sessions, social coffee-breaks and lunches at Wallenberg Conference Center as well as receptions and dinners at the town.

The conference covered critical views on a wide range of subject, reaching from theoretical aspects on world heritage, intangible heritage, policy making and professional work via copyright and ownership, post-colonial aspects on uses and abuses of heritage, representation and gender studies to intermediating heritage, touristic and urban development, architecture and questions of preservation. More than 400 papers were presented in more than 50 sessions.

In the keynotes speeches, Laurajane Smith looked back on the development of heritage and asked the crucial questions “Why critical” and “What is heritage”, opposing Samuels idea of heritage as a cultural and social phenomenon to traditional . Mikela Lundahl asked how we deal with difference and stressed the importance of recognizing the winner’s history created by power and reflecting over the way we represent “others”.  Lundahl saw a double threat to critical research from economic and instrumentalist practices and spotted dilemmas in relation to political trends. Tom Selwyn described heritage as fragments from a common ground and presented places from “Contested Mediterranean Spaces” where time and space are limited or expanded. He stressed that acts of recognition is crucial. Sharon Macdonald talked over “the heritage boom” and asked the rhetorical question “Will it be over soon?” Macdonald presented omens and questioned whether the heritage boom is coming to an end and in which way.  However, Macdonald saw new cosmopolite waves, needs of de-construction and recent questions of property and ownership making it necessary to come to terms with the past, even though one might expect a rather bumpy road ahead. Valdimar Tryggvi Hafstein was the last in line, telling an unexpected story of intangible heritage deriving from a letter to the UN and demonstrated in an amazing way the importance of putting stories, history and heritage into context.

Here follows a brief review of the session I visited; of course this is just my views of a minor part of the conference.

In the session Critical Research and the Quest for Policy Relevance Eunamus coordinator Peter Aronsson noted that the demand on research to be useful is central for European funding.  Katty Hauptmann from the Swedish National Museums talked over the methods of the initiative JÄMUS having the aim of gender and lbtq equality in museums.  Jakob Ingermann Parby, Copenhagen City Museum, presented the ideas of the exhibition Becoming a Copenhager, using the city as a phenomenon to analyze migration, hence setting migration as the norm instead of the exception. Andrea Witcomb stressed the need for listening as an approach in making museums including social movements.

In the session Theorizing Gender in Heritage Studies, Malin Grundberg, National Historic Museum of Sweden, asked whether integrated gender exhibitions or exhibitions of women as a group is the best way forward, or if there is a need for both; in that way both male domination and power relations could be questioned. Several papers in the session noted the male predomination in history writing and interpretations of the cultural environment, especially concerning women as professionals.  Comparing two case studies, Bodil Axelsson stressed the uneven power geometry within performance of the past.

In the session Professional Processes in Cultural Heritage Work, Ellen Marie Sæthre-McGuirk from Nordland University in Norway recognizes a threefold shift for the museums: a professionalization of the museums, more communication with the public and increased stress on issues of identity. Visiting museums is expected to contain activity and the making of meaning. The post-modern museum is a body of memory, re-creating memory together with the visitor, who needs to be an engaged Other. The spectator is forced out of a passive role and placed in the center, being a co-creator of knowledge as a way of empowering the user.

Magdalena Hillström talked about conflicts over the identities of the post-modern museums in the light of the professionalization of museum professions in Sweden and in the aftermath of the founder of the museum of cultural history Nordiska museet and the open air museum Skansen, Artur Hazelius. Hillström related the identity of the post-modern museums to four ideal types of museums: the museum as the treasure chamber, as the archive, as the school and as the theatre. The different types exist in combinations, side by side and overlap; hence they do not form a distinct chronology.

Eva Marie Rigné stressed the need for normative analysis of museology in order to create a new field of practice, making agreements with and settle boundaries to rival disciplines. Rigné argued this “boundary work” regarding fields, knowledge and methods is necessary in (re)professionalization of museology.

The Producing Heritage and Identities in Museums session discussed in which ways identities are created and represented in museums.  In the light of post-nationalism, Rhiannon Mason asked how museums deal with material culture, which settled earlier views of nations and colonialism. Mason argued that the issues of post-nationalism are related to the origins of European museums, as a way of managing cultural diversity, difference and exchange. A central issue was that representations of the Self and the Other remain in presentations of colonial artifacts, as was showed in Staffan Lundéns paper “Representing loot. The making of the Benin bronzes at the British Museum”. The museum has denied demands for return, arguing itself to be universal and objective, but in practice the museum presents the Benin artifacts in a prejudice way.

Finally, the session Post-Colonial Heritage brought up a transnational perspective on cultural heritage and discussed how indigenous cultural heritage could be represented and revitalized, both ethically and in practice. Setting a post-colonial perspective is becoming a dominant discourse within cultural heritage of which museums are an important part.

As a whole, the Conference was a very inspiring event and starting point of the international network.

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Eunamus at the conference Re-theoretisation of heritage

Two panels on the first day of The inaugural conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies in Gothenburg 5-8 June are organised of researchers involved in the three-year research project Eunamus on European national museums.

José María Lanzarote-Guiral and Andrzej Jakubowski (including Felicity Bodenstein) has initated a panel on hertitage conflicts in museums and project coordinator Peter Aronsson co-organises one on the intersection of research and cultural policy with Kylie Message  at the Australian National University.

Panel abstracts below.

Critical research and the quest for policy relevance: the case of national museums

Museums as other forms of institutionally acknowledged cultural heritage negotiate truth claims by connecting scientific, political and social realms of logics. Academic research defines itself in terms of autonomy and critical distance to political influences. Research is however often funded by political bodies and cultural research has traditionally been a backbone of reproducing nationalism and the order of things. The critique of this from within cultural research has led to new positions and re-evaluation of these roles. Balancing the need for autonomy and the quest for relevance is today again more relevant because of the double threat to cultural research from academic and societal marginalization and instrumentalization for new political goals and a cultural economy. This panel will discuss the dilemmas and possibilities created in the intermission between research and politically formulated hopes and demands for policy relevance to museums and researchers. Interactions investigated in the panel range from researcher and activists to policy makers on gender equality, ethnic and European integration, that is some of the major quests for relevance made during the last decades.

Quarreling over the Spoils of History: (Re)locating Heritage Conflicts in Current Domestic Practice and Museums’ Policies

The panel aims at re-exploring the topic of heritage conflicts in current domestic state practice and museum policies. Indeed, the area of material cultural heritage may currently be  perceived as a battlefield of various interests concerning the fate and appropriation of certain cultural assets. Such conflicts are framed within a broader topic of legal claims for the return of cultural property, on the one hand, and social debates, on the other. The panel focuses on internal conflicts – within one jurisdiction – as to the title and the ‘right’ to cultural heritage. It attempts to map the major contexts in which such demands are raised. These inter alia include the clashes of interests between centralized state cultural institutions, such as museums and archives and sub-state entities: local communities, legal persons and individuals. The panel will discuss such heritage conflicts in relation to the socio-political vicissitudes that European nations have experienced in the last thirty years, i.e. democratization, decentralization, reprivatization and territorial reconfigurations.

The panel will be structured into three individual papers (c. 20-25 minute) exploring specific case-studies, followed by a discussion (c. 30 minute). The first paper, by F. Bodenstein, will approach the question of restitutions from a theoretical perspective, using concepts developed in sociology and anthropology, especially related to the notion of the “gift”. The second one, by J.M. Lanzarote, will deal with the topic of the disputed heritage of the Spanish Civil War by discussing several cases related to the Law of Historical Memory, passed by the Parliament in 2007, such as the polemic generated by the restitution of the so-called “Salamanca records” to Catalonia in 2005 or the renovation of the Museum of the Spanish Army, reopened in 2010. The third paper, by A. Jakubowski, will refer to the ongoing debate in Poland as to the legal title and the moral right to ecclesiastic cultural property nationalized by the Polish administration in 1945-1946 in the former German and Danzig’s territories. Finally, we will present an online database of cases related contested heritage currently being developed within the framework of the EuNaMus project (European national museums: Identity politics, the uses of the past and the European citizen). The core objective of this initiative is to establish ‘the first systematic overview of the wars of heritage in European museums’, which will serve as an important tool for the comparative analysis of the restitution cases.

From a methodological point of view, the papers will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective embracing both legal aspects and the historical and symbolic contexts, as well as the ethical and moral significance of contested cultural objects. The papers and the subsequent discussion will explore the outcomes and shortcomings of current practice of domestic judicial and administrative bodies, including the policies of public museums or archives concerning the accommodation of heritage-related claims. They will aim at identifying certain similarities/common tendencies and advocate some alternative methods of settling such disputes.

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Museum Citizens and Representing our National and European selves in Museums and Online

Alexandra Bounia, University of the Aegean , is the main organiser of the twin workshops taking place in Athens 23-27 April. Programme

Eunamus will here discuss research performed by partners and associates in two of the project’s research strands.

The museology of Europe

Fieldwork in eleven European cityscapes, studies of distributed national museumscapes in Norway, Britain, Sweden and Italy a well as two studies of museum-like representations on the Web are summed up in Eunamus report No 2: Crossing Borders: Connecting European Identities in Museums and Online.

Museum citizens: audience identities and experiences

This research strand takes contextual knowledge from Eunamus other areas of studies and relates it to visitor experiences. The aim is to explore the understanding and use of national museums by the public.It also aims to map public understanding of the nation and Europe in the present and how visitors use the past to construct national and European identities.

Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, data has been collected in nine European museums: the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Museum of Estonia, the National Historical Museum in Greece, the Open-Air National Museum of Latvia, the Nordiska Museet in Sweden, the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Germany, the Museum of Catalan History in Spain and the Rikjsmuseet in the Netherlands. The workshop in Athens is one of the final steps in finalizing the research. Some of the previous steps have been:

Developing methodology

The last week of February 2011, the research team gathered at the University of Tartu in Estonia for an intensive workshop. The aim was to discuss the findings from the pilot studies that took place at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens. Furthermore, to exchange ideas and views, to finalise methodology issues and finally to decide on the case studies.

Furthering findings

On November 10th-11th 2011, a second workshop took place in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. The workshop was organized by the Research Centre for Museum and Galleries, which has been working on this research strand. In the intensive but very productive two days, the researchers from three universities – the University of the Aegean, the RCMG of the University of Leicester and the University of Tartu – discussed the qualitative data collected during the previous period in six museums across Europe: the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Museum of Estonia, the Open-Air Museum of Latvia, the National Historical Museum of Athens and the Deutches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

After a brief presentation of the Museums and the context of the data collection, the workshop was structured around the themes that have been identified as important during the previous stages of the planning of the research, but also during the collection and first analysis of the data: How people use museums for the construction of their identity; How people use museum objects and narratives; What the visitors think is missing from national museums; Ideas of Europe; Minority groups’ views and so on, were among the key questions.

The analysis of the data collected through interviews and focus groups will be completed in 2012, by the RCMG, while the data collected through questionnaires will be analysed by the team of the University of the Aegean.

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How to talk about the unspeakable?

Peter Aronsson

The Balkan wars in the 1990’s are ever-present for a visitor to Balkan. Mostly as silences. An unspoken mix of allegations, guilt and suffering is hard to give a format in ordinary cultural institutions and polite society.

In Europe the Second World War and especially the Holocaust has been the absolute historical ground Zero, a pivotal point never to be returned to, an indisputable motivation for democratic cooperation – And yet Srebrenica occurred, Sarajevo was besieged and Belgrade bombed. Can this pass without being spoken, dealt with?

Of course not – but how, by whom and when?

Terrible films and documentaries are available, but I have looked upon how these topics are dealt and not dealt with at some public institutions, national museums in Belgrade and Sarajevo. Mostly the topic is not touched upon at all. The ground is still to dangerous, full of possible complications, unsolved matters, geopolitical issues. Occasionally and in certain institutions there are distinct statements.

Certainly there is a consensus on the fact that there has been violence. There is likewise a strong parallel consensus that both Serbia and Bosnia are firmly rooted as medieval states that awaited liberation. Here consensus ends and this is perhaps a clear sign that there is a long road to go where cultural institutions needs to be involved in negotiating process of truth and reconciliation. As for now these have only rarely resulted in visible forms of cooperation. They are still in the process of defending and accusing but sometimes also planning exchange and joint ventures on secure grounds of displaying for example every-day life in Ottoman and Habsburg days.

In Serbia bombed ministerial buildings are kept as an open wound to show what is named “NATO aggression”. A new monument over two killed children in a popular park gives a face to these losses. In the Military museum a new part first demonstrates Serbian contribution to UN missions, and then goes on to tell the history of in their view illegal separatism in Croatia, weapons with Serbian blood on them, captured NATO equipment and again evidence of the “aggression” ends the exhibition which started with the dawn of Slav people coming to Balkan in pre-history.

In Sarajevo the National History museum is adequately half in ruins and tells a strong story of suffering during the siege. But the institution has a hard time to survive – people understandably rather join Caffé Tito on stairs below for music and a drink.

The national cultural institutions are in both states in great despair: many are closed. A lack of funds is the formal motivation, but I would say that other reasons are as important: the insecurity of which future to pursue makes the question of the past open and dangerous. To close ties between culture and politics means that shifts in political powers generates new directors and policies. This makes cultural institutions lose their credibility and the long-term perspective needed for these. Instead NGOs and festivals fill the void with lots of activities supported also by Swedish efforts.

I think a more distanced and explicitly reflective relation to the war is only possible when a non-fighting generation is in need of formulating what happened, but trauma also needs to be dealt without enhancing and repeating hostility. If old state-run institutions that call themselves national museums do not do that, NGO’s once again have to take the role civic national movements once did in the 19th century. They need to invent and represent how they see the valuable part of their heritage in the face of their aspirations for the future. Maybe they already are gathering forces in communities – I have only missed them because of my focus are on the old institutions? It would be a pity if old investments were not to be re-used again. The capital invested is to large not to be used for creating also new visions and communities.

Piece by piece this is done. See the monument over the dreary meat tin that made Sarajevo survive, the Ironic and nostalgic Tito Caffe, the monument that says it covers a monument and the portal that says Kunst Macht Frei. All this happens in-between the National museum and the National Historical museums. And with a little help from my friends I learn how to read this dialogue in the public space created not in but around the old institutions.

Further reading from Peter Aronsson  & Gabriella Elgenius, (eds.). Building National Museums in Europe 1750–2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus, European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April 2011. (Linköping: LiU E-Press, 2011).

National Museums in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia: A Story of Making ’Us’: http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=064;article=005

National Museums in Serbia: A story of Intertwined Identities: http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=064;article=033

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Museums between National and European Identities

By Bodil Axelsson

This post reports from the panels on Eunamus research and the creation of new history museums held at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, the Cinquantenaire Museum, the 25th of January. The panels were co-organised by Eunamus and the House of European History.

Museums have a role to play in the European unification. That was the message from Professor Chrysoula Paliadeli who in her role as a member of the European Parliament was invited to comment on the policy relevance of Eunamus research.

Martin Schaerer, Chrysoula Paliadeli, Gabriella Elgenius,
Dominique Poulot and Peter Aronsson

In his presentation, project coordinator Peter Aronsson pointed to the ways in which museums form a necessary part of a ‘cultural constitution’ supporting both a connective tissue of culture and underpinning the communicative spaces that are so crucial for democracy. Dominique Poulot emphasized how many national museums today strive to go beyond the national, to become agents of cultural diplomacy or to produce new representations of Europe in temporary exhibitions.

Picking up threads from both presentations, Chrysoula Paliadeli, stressed the importance of culture in times of economic crisis. She also raised concerns about national separatism and suggested that museums may support the European idea by collaborations, loans and exchanges. In his talk, Martin Schaerer from ICOM provided a bridge to the second panel: Entering the mine-fields – the creation of new history museums in Europe.

New history museums are on the top of the museum policy agenda in many countries in contemporary Europe. They are created by politicians, implemented by academics and made for the public. It seems to be a need for the reconstruction of identities that sparks these initiatives. It is not only conservative, or right wing, politicians who support them, rather opponents and proponents are found in several political camps, from left to right, and among both liberals and republicans.

How do then academics respond to the roles and tasks given them? The panellists seemed to agree upon the necessity of destabilizing simple and one-dimensional national identities by creating exhibitions that displays the ways in which national and European histories are constructed rather than given. The German case has proven successful, but time will tell how audiences will react to the other initiatives.

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Rosmarie Beier-de Haan from the Deutsches Historisches Museum opened the discussions by highlighting how she and her colleagues had started with the question: who are the Germans today? Robert Kostro, from the National Museum for Polish History talked about how they are moulding a new narrative of freedom and democracy to support Polish identity. He also underlined that when handing over the task of creating a new museum to academics, politicians do not always get want they want.

Similarly, Charles Personnaz from The Maison de l’Histoire de France advocated the freedom of historians. This French initiative has sparked a sometimes fierce public debate on the possibility of producing a national history. What about the regions and the diversity of cultures within the contemporary state? Who are the French citizens and what is the role of history in the construction of a shared space for citizenry? In this situation, politicians may propose a museum, but they cannot dictate historical narratives.

The future House of European History

The task given to Taja Vovk-van Gaal at the House of the European History, initiated by the European Parliament, is different. She coordinates academics from 18 countries and this museum is created in interactions between the staff. It is not about exhibiting a European mosaic of countries, but about displaying a reflexive European history, also including dark chapters such as colonialism and armed conflicts.

The public debates surrounding the House of European History concern the economic legitimacy of the initiative, rather than the content. This bias may be interpreted as a consequence of the current economic crisis, but it may also be interpreted as a lack of public interest in a common European history, perhaps also reflecting the need for a shared space to discuss cultural issues, and to enhance legitimacy for the European project.

The panels were moderated by Gabriella Elgenius, University of Oxford and Chantal Kesteloot, Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society, Brussels.

There are plans to publish the talks later this year.

Programme

Read more on the event on the blog Une mine d’histoires / histoire de mines or in Swedish on the Museum nu blog

Eric Grubel delivered the speech prepared by Professor Michel Draguet, General Director a.i. of the Royal Museums of Art and History.

Alexandra Kalogirou replaced Xavier Troussard to represent the European Commission’s Directorate General Education and Culture.

Octavio Quintana Trias represented the European Commission’s   Directorate General Research and Innovation.

Picture of the panelists: Andrew Sawyer, the Deutsches Historisches Museum: Peter Aronsson, and the future House of European History, Bodil Axelsson. Pictures below: Andrew Sawyer.

Peter Aronsson introduces Eunamus.

Felicity Bodenstein launches Eunamus wiki on heritage conflicts.

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