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2001/1-2 Summaries

From Nordisk Museologi 2001/1-2, SUMMARY pp. 60-70

John Aage Gjestrum

This paper has grown out of the author's PhD disserta­tion in museology concerning the construction of the cultural heritage of Røros, a small mountain commu­nity in central Norway. The South-Sami people of that area have been involved in the museum's activities in this century, but when we look as far back as 1822—23 we see that a Sami family from R0ros was the star att­raction of a large museum exhibition in London. Using living human beings in exhibitions was to become an important feature of zoological gardens and the great world exhibitions of the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies. The German wild-animal dealer, Carl Hagen-beck, was a leading figure in this movement, featuring a group of Swedish Sami people in his first "antropolo-gisch-zoologische Ausstellung" in 1874. Following this, Sami families were sent on tour throughout Europe virtually every summer. In Norway "Lapp tent camps" were also displayed for the special benefit of foreign tourists.
Hagenbeck's exhibitions helped to bring such shows of exotic peoples into the rapidly growing contemporary scientific milieu. In 1859 Charles Darwin had publish­ed his On the Origin of Species, and it was not uncom­mon for scientists to consider different groups of "pri­mitive" peoples as being racially inferior. Exhibitions of human beings, such as the Sami and other "primiti­ves", also helped to create and reinforce stereotypes which were founded on myth and misunderstandings. Moreover, the exhibitions served to underscore the sup­posed importance of promoting modern concepts of progress, with the underlying assumption that Western civilization had to play a leading role in this.
The author concludes by showing how such presentations in world exhibitions, combined with the scientific views of the time, were instrumental in the establishment of ethnographic museums. During the last fifty years, Sami museum collections in Norway have changed location at the same pace as the changing status of the Sami themselves. From about 1970 onwards, we find the establishment of purely Sami museums.
The history of living beings in "anthropological zoological" exhibitions must be considered more as an aspect of the history of Western civilization and its modern concept of progress, than as a history of "primitive" peoples. In our time the focal point has changed from the observed object to the observer.


From Nordisk Museologi 2001/1-2, SUMMARY pp. 113-118

Olav Aaraas

In a playful short story the author confronts a curator and a copywriter on the ever recurring issue of the role of labels and texts in museum exhibitions. Education vs entertainment, dullness vs seduction, a conflict ba­sed on the legibility and quality of the wording. The confrontation ends in peace with the curator admitt­ing that a lot can be learnt from the verbal economy and wit of the commercial copywriter, even from the limitations of SMS messages, in order to catch the at­tention and imagination of the casual visitor, thereby maybe enticing her/him to study more demanding information.

Museumsdirektør Olav Aaraas
Adr: Norsk Folkemuseum, Museumsvn 10, N-0287 Oslo
e-post: ola@norskfolke.musfum.no

From Nordisk Museologi 2001/1-2, SUMMARY pp. 127-134

 Odd Are Berkaak

The author first makes an attempt to deconstruct the notion of 'samtidsdokumentasjon' (documentation of contemporary culture). He shows how the different ideological layers in the theory and practice of museal and archival 'documentation' tend to disregard those elements of contemporary culture that are new and emerging. Ernst Bloch's concept of 'Das noch-nicht Seins' ('the not-yet in being') is used to argue for a new focus in contemporary documentation. Those elements of our current environment which are coming into being and taking shape right before our eyes deserve our attention because the ephemeral discourse that surrounds them will not be retrievable in the future. Thus, essential material for the understanding of our own time will be lost. The conclusion is that it is urgent to document novelties, not monuments, because if they are not documented in the making, they will be lost to history for ever.

Odd Are Berkaak
Adr: Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Oslo
e-post: oddare@uio-pop.uio.no

From Nordisk Museologi 2001/1-2, SUMMARY pp. 135-152

 Line Hjorth

In memory of the city. The reflective type of ex­hibition exemplified in Memento Metropolis - an exhibition about the longing for the New. 

During the last 10-15 years an increasing number of exhibitions have engendered an empirical grounding for what can be characterized as a "reflexive exhibition type". This typology denotes a tendency for exhibitions to reflect the communicative and aesthetic potentials of the exhibition medium and point to the idea, gene­sis and history of the museum as an independent field of modern culture. In a clearly indicated mise-en-sce-ne style, often mixing the areas of art, cultural history and science, reflexive exhibitions tend to stage a muse-ological archive of principles and ways of systemati­zing and presenting objects. They are clearly aware of the peculiarity of the exhibition medium and diverge from the idea of the medium as an anonymous, objec­tive appendage to a preceding research process. Ins­tead, they are aesthetically based pieces of communi­cation that render the exhibition medium comparable to that of movies, photography, theatre and literature. Like these media they use a varied register of forms and allowing the creation of critical or polemic exhibi­tions or exhibitions which oppose stereotypical repre­sentations of reality.
The article "In memory of the city" states five given criteria for the typology and demonstrates them with the example of Memento Metropolis — an exhibition about the longing for the New. On the basis of obser­vations made throughout the 1990s both in Scandina­via and abroad the author describes five criteria: mise-en-scene, the curator acting as auteur, museological reflection, dioramical perspective and optical pluralism.
Memento Metropolis was shown in 1996 as one of the events staged to mark Copenhagen being appoin­ted European Cultural Capital. Set up in what is today known as "Turbinehallerne", a former power plant da­ting from 1892 situated in the very heart of the city, the building exactly expressed the theme of the exhibi­tion and created a relevant historical architectural fra­me for it. Juxtaposing artworks, panoramas and tableaux of modern city life, the representation of the urban me­mories was meant to shed light on a way of thinking that has marked the world until today: The "Longing for the New" propelled science, art and philosophy into a steady flow of new experiments. Memento Metropolis offered its viewer many ways into its complex the­me. Things spoke very much for themselves through materials, expression and special positioning in cellars, halls and on the tiled balconies. Crooked birds' skele­tons forming scriptlike patterns, one million years sto­red in ten black portfolios, a modern version of the classical library where books could be exchanged ac­cording to weight, a gigantic copy of the French pain­ter Theodore Gericault's "Le Radeau de la Meduse" (ori­ginal 1818/19) could all be seen in the exhibition.
Following the criterion of museological reflection the article traces the many different inspirations and aesthetic fragments which appear in the halls and cell­ars of the power plant; baroque "wunderkammer", early visual mass culture (panorama, diorama, delusion, buf­foonery), and the complex of the Great Exhibitions. More than explaining the content of the twenty or so new artworks and historically inspired tableaux in re­lation to the theme of the metropolis and the longing for the new, the aim of the text is to show how "form" is not a fortuitous wrapping of "content" but the spe­cific language which opens up new ways of looking at the idea of the modern city. Memento Metropolis re­newed the language of exhibitions and challenged the traditional objective status of the museum and our ideas about the limits of the medium. The artworks and ta­bleaux were intended to be regarded as memories and transformed the building into a modern "memory the­atre" dealing with the life, movements and idea of the city. In this way the exhibition emphasized, in a muse­ological reflexive style, what has been a fundamental part of the museum from its very beginning: to incor­porate into our memory, to remember for us.

Line Hjorth er ph.d. studerende, Institut for Kunsthistorie, Aarhus Universitet
e-mail: line.hjorth@jubiipost.dk

From Nordisk Museologi 2001/1-2, SUMMARY pp. 153-170

 Jørgen Hein

 Status versus Learning? Schatzkammer or Kunstkammer?

 In the 1660s Danish absolutism built up a treasure collection at Rosenborg Castle and a Kunstkammer opposite Copenhagen Castle, both of which contained applied art. It is the aim of this paper to trace this overlapping and to show that around 1690 principles were established for a division of objects that resulted in the two institutions becoming mutually supplementary. In other words the subject is royal heritage and royal collecting 1520-1920.
A comparison calls for definitions. A 'treasure collection' refers to an accumulation of valuable objects that is arranged with pomp and splendour. Three char­acteristics should be highlighted: the Prince or his official has the key to the collection, the objects are parti­ally entailed as inalienable property, and viewing requires the permission of the sovereign. A 'Kunstkammer' in this context means a collection of objects that are classified and displayed according to distinct principles which reflect human knowledge and theories about the surrounding world. Consequently the treasury represents and can provide, in time of emergency, a capital reserve, whereas the fundamental concept of the Kunstkammer is the structuring and imparting of knowledge as expressed in the publication of catalogues.
The Kunstkammer achieved its purest form and its most widespread distribution in the German-speaking area. It has to be stressed, however, that most were only parts of a system of interdependent collections and that in many cases the Kunstkammer existed for only a short time. From around 1600 the most significant of them gave up their best objects to treasure collections as hap­pened in Munich and in Vienna. Expressed in very simplified terms, the treasure collection underwent a Renaissance in the Baroque period. This development also had consequences for Denmark. Christian IV (1588-1648) had a pavilion built in the grounds of Frederiksborg Palace between 1599-1601. It was named Sparepenge and became an official display-collection, an armoury combining ornate weapons and technical innovations with tournament equipment and eth-nographica. In 1634 the king handed over Sparepenge to the Crown Prince, and in the 1640s one of the rooms is referred to as a Kunstkammer, however sparingly furnished. In 1647 on the death of the Crown Prince, Christian IV defined Sparepenge as inalienable "Crown treasure" and had it transferred to the future Frederik HI (1648-70). Apparently the new king, who founded the Kunstkammer at Copenhagen Castle in 1650, left Sparepenge intact, but on the eve of the Swedish inva­sion in 1658 Sparepenge's treasures were rescued and taken to Rosenborg, where they formed the core of a new collection. When Frederik III started, the construction of a new building to house the Kunstkammer, library and armoury in 1665, he collected applied art for both the Kunstkammer and for Rosenborg.
If it had been Frederik Ill's intention to unite all royal collections in the new building, Christian V (1670-99) extended Rosenborg into a genuine treasure collection including the regalia. When the Kunstkammer finally moved into the new building, a dividing line was established, as proved by the accession and de-accession lists of the Kunstkammer 1689-1696. Roughly speaking vessels of rock crystal and hardstones as well as cameos and intaglios were reserved for Rosenborg. Ivory and narwhal tusk, mostly in the form of carved goblets, tankards and beakers with mountings of precious metal were also the preserve of Rosenborg, while turned objects and works of other organic materials were placed in the Kunstkamrner. Finally, royal handicraft belonged in the Kunstkamrner.
In retrospect three things should be noted. First that these dividing lines paralleled the theoretical model put forward by Leonhard Christoph Sturm in his treatise on "Raritäten-UndNaturalien-Kammern" from 1707. Secondly that they remained virtually intact until 1785, when the cameos and intaglios were transferred to the new Royal Collection of Coins and Medals. Thirdly that they also formed the basis for the initial plans when the Kunstkammer was dissolved in the 1820s and the early Danish Museums established. The outcome, however, was not to establish clear divisions for distribution, but quite the opposite.
Between 1823-24 Rosenborg handed over most of its ivory, rock crystal and hardstones, but received in turn several hundred objects with royal associations from the Kunstkammer, including the royal handicraft items. They formed the bulk of the centents when Rosenborg opened as a museum belonging to the royal family in 1838. In contrast the successor to the Kunstkammer, the Royal Art Museum, held the largest and finest concentration of applied art works ever seen in Denmark. In 1864 Denmark's defeat to Bismark's Prussia was followed by a political reaction that heralded new museum plans. Now Rosenborg was defined as a national museum for the period 1588-1848 and the Royal Art Museum was closed down. As a consequence Rosenborg received not only most of the rock crystal and hardstone which had been handed over in 1823-24, but also the best of the Kunstkammer's tumed works, reliefs and statuettes, regardless of whether or not they were of organic material. As the regalia were still unaccessible to the public, the ensuing mixture of objects may explain the description of Rosenborg as "ein vortreffliches Bild einer alten Kunstkammer", which was put forward by the German art historian Julius von Schlosser in his bestseller "Die Kunst und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance" from 1908.

Jørgen Hein är museumsinspektør vid Rosenborg.
Adr: De Danske Kongers kronologiske Samling, Rosenborg, 0sterVoldgade 4 A DK-1350 København
K E-post: jh@dkks.dk

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