The Journal Nordic Museology



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2000/2 Summaries

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 13-30

Bjørnar Olsen

On the representation of Saami history in Saami museums

During the last three decades, a number of Saami museums and cultural centers have been established in northern Fennoscandinavia. These institutions are assigned an important role in the ongoing process of Saami cultural and ethnic revival. This paper focuses on how Saami culture and history are represented at these «indigenous» museums: what stories are told and what images of Saami cultural and ethnic identity are produced or reproduced. An examination of the three main Saami museums in northern Fennoscandinavia reveals representations that conform to a surprising degree with the ethnographic master narratives of the Saami as a never changing traditional society. The real, genuine Saami life is always in the past and unchanging.
Change is more or less uniformly portrayed as a product of the evil forces of modernity involving cultural contamination and loss of identity. The final section of the paper reports on Saami museums that contest this picture of a pristine, untouched culture. These museums focus more on the creativeness and bricolage of living Saamis in a globalized world and depict Saami culture and identity as a continuously ongoing process of human invention.

Björnar Olsen är professor i arkeologi vid Tromsö universitet.
Adr: Institutt for Samfunnsvitenskap, Universitetet i Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 31-38

Anders Ekström

The new museum pestilence

The paper opens with a reference to a statement in a 19th century encyclopedia saying that there is an insect, anthrenus museorum, which causes the gradual deterioriation of objects preserved in museums. The encyclopedia also contends that there is a branch of the humanities, museum science, which deals with the various types of work carried out in a museum.
A brief sketch is then given of the theoretical development starting when, towards the end of the 20th century, museum studies moved from museums to universities and the concept of muscology was born. The author dwells at length on the disastrous influence of Michel Foucault which he discerns in many works on museology. Foucault's concept episteme has led to trivial simplifications in the understanding of the societal role of the museum institution. He argues that it would be more rewarding to analyse museums as active and creative participants in public life. Museums, where they exist, definitely intervene and influence the social scene. For that reason it is important to study museums as part of the history of contemporary massmedia and communication situations. Of course museums are also part of the general history of exhibition activities, not least in the present industry of global tourism. He concludes by suggesting that the self-reflection nowadays frequently recommended to museum directors, curators and keepers might result in a new type of museum pestilence.

Anders Ekström är docent i idé- och Iärdomshistoria vid Uppsala universitet. Han disputerade 1994 på avhandlingen «Den utställda världen.
Adr. Institutionen for idé- och Iärdomshistoria Slottet, ingang A0, S-752 37 Uppsala
Fax +4618 504422

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 39-46

 Bengt Lundberg

Museology and its field of research

During an excursion to Swedish historical sites with friends from France the author observes how his companions had to transform their impressions into a verbal discourse with the aid of a printed gui­de before they were satisfied. Just taking a good look at the monument or contenting themselves with what they were told by their Swedish friend was not enough. In doing this the French guests confirmed in a striking way Foucault's statement that we are inscribed in the order of one of the dis­courses at our disposal and that we are subordina­ted the cultural heritage, the memories and experi­ences we carry along like an invisible museum. The Swedish scenery, monuments and objects did not communicate a meaning until they had been ver­bally translated into French.
The basic formula for the museum process is inscribed in the standard programme for museum studies - collect, preserve, exhibit. Less prominent is museological research although it can be traced as far back as the 16th century. The introduction of the journal Nordisk Museologi in 1993 has however been important in establishing a forum for research concerning theoretical issues. In the seven years of its existence 180 articles have been published, of which 70 deal with the museum institution as a phenomenon, 20 with collecting and 20 more with exhibitions. The concept of heritage is treated in 10 articles and a few are concerned with preservation, personalities, internet etc.
The potential wider perspectives of the idea of musealization are graphically described by the aut­hor and the new directions in museological studies and research it indicates.

Bengt Lundberg är docent och förestår avdelningen for museologi vid institutionen for kultur och medier, Umeå universitet.
Adr. Institutionen for kultur och medier, Umeå universitet, S-901 87 Umeå.
Fax +4690 166672

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 47-58

 Kerstin Smeds

Some reflections on «the museological project»

Firstly, this article provides a very brief survey of the discussion about museology as a «field of research and study», a debate which has been going on among ICOFOM-members for the last twenty to thirty years. ICOFOM was founded in 1976 in answer to demands from the field of museum practice, which changed radically in the 1970s. Since that time the crucial question has been: Is museology a discipline or is it not? What is the object of knowledge and the subject of research in museology?
The focus of definitions of museology has changed over time. Starting from a «subject-matter» discipline (the museum and its institutions) to applied museology and special museology (including other disciplines) culminating in theoretical and general museology which is considered a «real» discipline. It follows from this that the subject of study has developed from the museum as «institution», to the «museum object», from there to «activities» and finally the museum as «phenomenon» (1990s). It is very significant that during the 1990s, definitions of the object of knowledge of museology has in a way come to the «end of the road» It was concluded at the ICOFOM Annual Meeting in Venezuela in 1999: museology is a «philosophie du muséal»! (Bernard Deloche). And the object of knowledge now is a «specific relation» that man has to reality!
Secondly, and partly relying on the definitions mentioned above, I investigate the concept of "heritages. In Swedish there is actually no linguistic difference between «material heritage» and «cultural heritage». Both are included in the concept of «kul-turarv» (the exact translation of which would be «cultural heritage»). The concept however traditionally includes only that part of the «heritage» that we find precious enough to save and preserve for coming generations. What I am arguing for now, is that we should enlarge the concept of «material cultural heritage» to include all that we DO NOT want to save and preserve, but that nevertheless IS THERE forever, left behind us as traces of industrial life, a modern «ruin», «trash», garbage and landfills! My argument is that museology should also study this part of reality, because only there, at the point where the museum and the landfill meet, lies the truth of our «industrial» reality, where consumer Things, Objects, play a major role.

Kerstin Smeds är numera utställningschef vid Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm, och professor i museologi vid Umeå universitet, forskare och docent i historia och museologi vid historiska institutionen, Helsingfors universitet. Hon har doktorerat 1996 på ämnet världsutställningar och nationell identitet vid Helsingfors universitet. Hon har lett ett forskningsprojekt «Ting-Tid-Tanke», Studier i materiell kultur i Finland». Det avslutades i maj 2001 med en forskarkonferens i Helsingfors.

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 59-68

 Anders Johansen

Museum studies as museum development

This text points to the strategic value of museological studies for the development of the museum sector. In Norway, the museum is the sole exception to the rule that a medium or a cultural institution of any importance be regarded as an academic field of study. Lacking the kind of systematic knowledge, critical reflection and discussion of basic premises which normally originate in independent outsider positions, Norwegian museums are consequently deprived of a vital stimulus. In the case of the university museums, the absence of attention to common, specifically museum related problems is seen as an obstacle to the development of coherent institutions out of the various scientific disciplines. In a wider perspective, museums are seen as being not fully established within the cultural public sphere. The enviable attention paid to other kinds of cultural products partly depends on university courses furnishing critics, reviewers and debaters with descriptive languages, analytical skills and evaluative standards. Without these courses, and without the research activity that makes them possible, even literature, painting, and film would miss the kind of qualified conversations that actually mediate between creative activity and the interests of a wider public. Hence the establishment of a museological field of research is seen as a precondition for comparable activities highlighting museum events, pointing out their more or less interesting problematics and their possible relevance to society.
Noting that museology is a field of study defined by its object, not a scientific discipline defined by its methods or basic theory, the author mentions relevant research currently being done in various university departments. As a first realistic step he then recommends the encouragement of such activities and their channelling into museum networks. He points out four main areas of study for future development: the museum may be studied as a form of communication, as a condition for the production of knowledge, as a source of cultural history and as a social institution. While insisting on the distinction between a practical museographical View from the inside' and a critical, properly muse-ological 'view from the outside' the author in conclusion argues that valuable insights may be gained from projects combining these perspectives. As a way of encouraging the scientific orientation of their work, the museums' technical and pedagogical staff may be included in teams exploring new methods of conservation or communication, making the problems they actually meet into their object of study. In particular, the communicative possibilities of the new media seem to be manifestly accessible in this way, studying the object while producing it.

Anders Johansen, sosialantropolog og medieforsker, er professor i medie- og kulturhistorie ved Universitetet i Bergen.
Adr.: Institutt for medievitenskap, Universitetet i Bergen, Fosswinckelsgate 6, N-5007 Bergen.
Fax: +47-55589149

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp. 69-98

 Camilla Gjendem

Exhibition practices in an museums

The text is taken from a thesis for a Master of Arts degree which the author presented in 1990 at Bergen University, Norway. The first part (chapter 3 of the thesis) deals with the German art historian Alexander Dorner (1893-1957), who was director of the Landesmuseum in Hannover from 1923 to 1936. He devoted himself to a methodical renewal of the art exhibitions in his museum in close cooperation with Walter Gropius and the artists of the Bauhaus group at Weimar. Both his theoretical background (Hegel, Riegel, Goldschmidt) is described and his conviction that a work of art is basically a historical document and that it must be understood as part of the mentality of its age, not only be seen as an object for aesthetic consumption. His important book Überwindung der «Kunst», published in 1947 (during his exile in New York) is presented as well as his exhibitions in the Hannover museum, of which Das abstrakte Kabinett produced with El Lissitzky and Raum der Gegenwart have become famous.
The second part of the text corresponds to the two concluding chapters of the thesis. Here aspects of the debate in the 1960s and 1970s about educative initiatives in museums of fine art are surveyed as well as alternative methods for updating the mediation of aesthetic qualities and historical meaning in works of art. Special attention is paid to the observations and ideas of the Danish art historian and museum director Minna Heimbürger laid down in her book from 1978, Hvad er der galt? Kunstmuseernes problemer (What is wrong? The problems of art museums).

Camilla Gjendem er cand. philol. og konservator NMF. Hun er for tiden ansatt ved Moss by- og industrimuseum, og har tidligere arbeidet som arkivleder ved Norsk Arkitekturmuseum og som prosjektmedar-beider hos Riksantikvaren.
Moss by- og industrimuseum, pb 175, N-1501 Moss

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp.123-131

 Simon Glinvad Nielsen

Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum as museum project and urban remembrance room.

This paper examines the museum qualities of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin. It focuses on the significance of the museum space and suggests that this is a museum which substantially requires the visitors to regard it as a cultural, spatial text. Furthermore, it states that the city of Berlin is a crucial part of the museum. The history of the city is woven into the building and is an important part of the understanding of the museum.
In The Jewish Museum the visitor is met by a noticeably emotional approach to exhibiting. An approach which is based on the involvement of the visitor in experiencing the museum. In the paper this information is used in an examination of Daniel Libeskind's creation of museum rooms, Rooms that can be characterized by their ability to cause instability and insecurity. This is dealt with in the first chapter.
In the following chapter, the museum rooms are used in a characterization of what is called the museum void. This leads into a discussion of the possibilities of using, describing and exhibiting the void. In other words, what is the use of the empty room in a museum? The Holocaust-Tower of the museum is an example. This gigantic empty tower stresses the importance of the visitor's own ability to create emotions and images.
The last part of the paper is an explanation of Daniel Libeskind's wish to integrate the city of Berlin in the museum. In the museum the visitor will experience a wealth of references to prominent Jewish people who lived in the city before World War II. This leads to the conclusion that Daniel Libeskind's creation of a relationship to space and time goes beyond the limits of the museum and expands in the spatial settings of everyday life.
In the final chapter these conclusions are further elaborated and mixed with a questioning of The Jewish Museum as a museum of the future. A museum «which», in Daniel Libeskind's words, «has nothing to show, in which everything already has been shown.»

Simon Glinvad Nielsen studerar litteraturvetenskap vid Köpenhamns universitet.
Adr: Baldersgade 75, DK-2200 Köbenhavn N

From Nordisk Museologi 2000/2, SUMMARY pp.132-144

 Turid Markussen

Progressive past? An anthropological approach to a local history museum in Shetland

Based on the example of the Tangwick Haa Museum in Shetland, I argue in this article for the importance of studying museums and their exhibitions as dynamic phenomena that form part of wider contexts and processes. The analysis questions widespread assumptions concerning the construction of history and identity in museums. Rather than «enlisting the past to combat the present», it is argued that the museum represents an appropriation of a modern way of relating to the past that answers to the felt modern need to «have a history», while exempting people from actually living as in the past. Reference is made to Sharon Macdonald's work on the Gaelic renaissance, which she interprets as re-imagenings of the past. That is, she sees it not as a return to the past but rather as ongoing negotiations between past and present that, while being constrained, also allow for creativity.
Macdonald points particularly to the importance of ambivalence in these processes. A main concern in the article is with ambivalence relating to power in particular, and I adopt the concept of «contact zone», applied by James Clifford to museums, in order to stress ambivalence and inequality in the power relations surrounding the museum. This applies to the ambivalent roles of the museum as such, being at the same time a meeting place for answers to modern needs, and for certain conservative impulses, some of them inherent in the institution. As a result a museum that started out as a progressive initiative, may alter its role with time. Also the concept of contact zone applies to the tensions of the variety of possible and actual interpretations of the exhibitions and the felt discomfort sometimes associated with the «touristic gazes» on local culture and history.
The article is based on research for my Masters degree in social anthropology, documented in the thesis Facts and power: Reflections around a community history museum in Shetland (Markussen 1997).

Turid Markussener cand.polit i samiske studier / sosialantropologi fra Universitetet i Tromsø i 1997, og arbeider nå som rådgiver i Norges forskningsråd. Viktigste interessefelt i tillegg til museum, subjektivitet og makt, er feministisk teori og vitenskapsteori, Hun har sammen med Ann-Therese Lotherington redigert antologien Kritisk kunnskapspraksis: Bidrag til feministisk vitenskapsteori (Oslo: Spartacus, 1999).

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