German history is full of dramatic turns. Historiography often discusses what kind of Sonderweg, special path through history that can explain the painful 20th century history. Some museums testifies to these changes but even more remarkable are the continuities they do mark. In reading Smith, H. W. (2008) The continuities of German history: nation, religion, and race across the long nineteenth century, the concept of “vanishing point” is used to understand the changing interpretations. The latest move that makes the Holocaust a vanishing point re-evalues the master-narrative. I think another argument in the book is applicable to the role of museums in producing continuities in the midst of change. Being repositories not so much of internalized identity but rather of externalized, visualized and materialized nation, they can transgress re-evaluation of nationalisms based on the constructivist assumptions. Maps of Germany were drawn in the 16th Century, they are part of the exhibit (picture) in Germanische Museum founded in the mid-19th century and projected on the floor of the Foyer of Deutsches Museum 2011 hence making Germany a reality long before the German unification, partition and re-unification appeared on the scene.
This reflection is part of the work for WP2 and the report on German national museums that I do together with Emma Bentz
Project coordinator Peter Aronsson
Read more on a related Unesco initiative below.