Balkan history – facilitating dialogues on conflicting pasts – blogpost by Peter Aronsson

Anthony Krause at the UNESCO office of Venice has called on national history museums in South East Europe to work together on a traveling exhibition. Museum leaders from 12 countries met for the third time in Torino 5-6 October for the workshop History, memory and dialogue in South-East Europe: Exploring the Identity of Nations.

Four independent experts was called to comment on a proposal for the exhibition and give advice from various perspectives. Experienced leader from Deutsches Historisches Museum gave advice on how to negotiate collaboration, ICOM executives provided important input on the various steps and sequence best suited to process the proposal, the leader of history educations in Council of Europe gave input on how to frame the uses of history to comply with contemporary international standards.  I was invited as the coordinator of Eunamus and I used the project’s comparative perspectives to give models for how different conflicts have been treated by national museums in the World, what tools are accessible, and what can be learned by these earlier experiences.

The choice of the group is not to deal directly with the recent past but to find a common ground in the Ottoman past of the long nineteenth century. This was at the same time birthplace of modernity and national movements that frame later generations struggle to organize their life and society. Goals, target groups, themes to work with was discussed, and a first venue was set for Slovenia, where the next working meeting will take place in Ljubljana.

The undertaking is very important as one part of building a new future through dealing with the past on the Balkan. There are several initiatives already at play on the Balkans, but non that involves so many central museum partners with concrete collaboration. The possibility for Eunamus to feed into this contemporary practice and use the knowledge from the project to be part of producing quality in a traveling exhibition is an exciting invitation and experience with potential importance to make a difference for future progressive interaction of museums in the making of nations and states in the area.

The meeting took place in Torino to get inspiration of the Italian commemoration of its existence as a state in 150 years. The celebrations are of course framed by exhibitions. The new opening of the Risorgimento museum of the first capital in Italy (1861-1865), a very popular national temporary exhibition, The Making of Italians, show different modes of museography.

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