From Nordisk Museologi 2005/1, SUMMARY pp. 3-14
Reviving the good old days: open-air museums and the play of the past
The Danish open-air museum Den Gamle By recently turned to "living history" interpretation. This involves dressed-up first person interpreters and inviting visitors to "taste, smell and experience history". Drawing upon fieldwork among interpreters and tourists at the museum during the summer of 2002, the article analyses the principles and practice of the "living" interpretation of the past, identifying and discussing a range of structural and communicative difficulties and dilemmas inherent in this genre. In the case of Den Gamle By, a set of written principles from the museum director to the living history actors is analysed as it transforms into practice. In this process, it is argued, the written principles are "refracted" into a range of "local" meanings among the museum staff, diverging in some cases significantly from the intentions of the curators. In particular, the meaning and the priority of three identified "key words" -professionalism, authenticity, and hospitality - are left almost entirely to the individual actor. Since the different characters designed for the project all carry out roles of service and hospitality for the public (cooking food for them to taste, selling candy, steering the ferry, etc.), the all-dominant principle in practice is "hospitality": never let the customer see a sour face. Furthermore, the unclear way in which the actors are supposed to perform "authenticity" leads them, in many cases, to dismiss their historical (but fictitious) characters; they simply do not "act" in the first person. This dismissal, together with powerful, media-induced expectations among the visitors about the cosy, rosy nature of Den Gamle By as a whole, leads to a "living" practice that is light on cultural history and heavy on hospitality. This therefore leads, it is argued in conclusion, to an unintentional reinforcement of the museum's established image of presenting "the good old days".
Mads Daugbjerg, er mag.art. i etnografi og socialantropologi med speciale i turisme og kulturarv. Han er ansat som ekstern lektor ved Center for Museologi, Aarhus Universitet og har endvidere varet tilknyttet andre danske universiteter.
From Nordisk Museologi 2005/1, SUMMARY pp. 15-28
Lars K. Christensen
The cultural meaning of industrial society
In 1880, the Danish journalist Herman Bang wrote about a visit to a department store in Copenhagen. The author was overwhelmed by the immense piles of goods that were offered to the consumer, and felt it very hard to condense his many impressions into a short newspaper report.
The ever-growing quantity of consumer goods is a common experience of people living in industrial societies. And today's museum professionals might feel just as overwhelmed by the number of potential museum objects, created by industrial society, as Bang felt overwhelmed by the piles of goods in the department store.
However, industrial society is not only about consumption. It is just as much about production. Focusing on the production processes, via which the objects of consumption are created, might help us to get a better understanding of the cultural meaning of industrial society.
The industrial production process takes places in a certain mode - capitalism - characterised by two major types of relations: the relationship between man and nature, which is primarily technological, and the relationship between men themselves, in terms of power and ownership, which is primarily social. As the sociologist Michael Burawoy has put it, industrial work is thus not only about production of goods, but also about production and reproduction of social relations and experiences of these relations - in other words: about culture.
Museum professionals with intentions of preserving the cultural heritage of industrial society should therefore take care to include objects and other evidence of the production process. And this should be done with a focus on cultural praxis. Preserving technical artefacts and listing buildings is not enough, without knowledge of the cultural meaning, which was produced inside the buildings, when operating the technology. Furthermore, industrial society should be seen as the basis for modernity. Industrial society leads to fundamental changes in our concepts of time and space, and enables the disembedding of social relations, which, according to Anthony Giddens, is a core phenomenon of modernity. Due focus should be given to objects and evidence which, either concretely or symbolically, tell us about the production of modernity. Finally, it should never be forgotten that history never does nothing - on the contrary, history is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends, as Karl Marx once wrote. Some of these men - and women - were factory owners, civil engineers and investors. But the largest group of them all was the industrial working class. The core concept of the modern labour movement is that of solidarity. In the framework of the labour movement, solidarity can exist across time and space - it is in fact disembedded. Thus the labour movement can be seen as a certain expression of modernity, or rather the vehicle by which the working class becomes an actor in modernity. Working people created their own cultural praxis in the everyday life of industrial society. And as a movement, they were a driving force behind the creation of modern industrial relations and welfare states. For this reason, museums should give due attention to objects and evidence, documenting the culture of the working class and the labour movement.
Lars K. Christensen Museumsinspektør, ph.d.
Nationalmuseet, Danmarks Nyere Tid
Frederiksholms kanal 12
DK-1220 København K., Danmark
From Nordisk Museologi 2005/1, SUMMARY pp. 29-38
Kristine Orestad Sørgaard
How do we revitalise artefacts as objects of fascination?
The purpose of this paper is to address some of the challenges the museums are facing in the 21st century. Today, museums are competing for people's leisure time against a plethora of information providers. These information providers offer new technologies and new educational opportunities in addition to aggressive commercial marketing. How should museums face up to these new conditions? Should they respond solely by embracing new technology? Or should they use these challenges to reflect on their own identity?
Traditionally, museums have chosen objects to constitute their principal point of reference. Over the past 10 to 15 years, however, many museums have reinvented themselves beyond recognition. They are not only places for visual and aesthetic display, but are also civically engaged institutions or places for entertainment, creativity and learning. Some museum workers tend to believe that traditional exhibitions are not powerful enough as a communication mode, and that the role of the museum should be modified to serve other needs. I am, however, convinced that museums should remain faithful to their own mission (although they should of course integrate new technology in their agenda and equip exhibitions with sound recordings, demonstrations, hands-on activities and so on to help contextualise the objects). The success of the 21st-century museum is based on its ability to engage its audience through displays of objects, not by being just another digital enterprise. It is important to note, in this respect, that people respond to objects on an emotional level, and that museums have a far better opportunity to engage people on a personal basis than other media.
In order to facilitate access to the objects, the museums need to make sure that preservation conditions are monitored, since this is the single most important factor for the survival of collections. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the collections are stored in rooms that are damaging to the objects. If museums want to play a more substantial role in the future, they need to take their collections more seriously.
Kristine Orestad Sørgaard er arkeolog og ansatt på RE-VITA-prosjektet ved Kulturhistorisk Museum i Oslo.
From Nordisk Museologi 2005/1, SUMMARY pp. 39-54
Social inclusion - a model of practice for Danish art museums and galleries?
In recent years, the literature on museums and galleries has increasingly paid attention to concepts such as "social inclusion", "audience development", "outreach" and "accessibility", and a whole range of initiatives has been produced concerning a shift towards a cultural policy, in which museums are seen as educational places that involve their audiences in new ways, including the potential audience; and hence a visitor-centred focus has become imperative. This paper takes a closer look at the dissemination of the evolving new practice named "social inclusion". As a phenomenon, this practice is one of the aspects which make up a part of the new museology discourse emphasising that museums should become self-critical, progressively open up and become accessible in every way. In relation to this, the relevance of the "social inclusion" practice as regards Danish art museums and galleries is discussed, and the author suggests that the museum profession needs to see the art museum as a learning resource for a much wider audience. Not only for the sake of the visiting audience,but also as a part of a strategy in which art museums take on a social responsibility for the good of the art institution and the community.
There is no solid evidence for the long-term effects, and much research and evaluation are still needed concerning the social inclusion practice taken up at British museums and galleries. On the other hand, there are indications that regeneration projects are showing some positive effect in certain deprived areas in the UK. Assessed from these findings, one might disagree with the latest developments as regards the scope of activities carried out in the name of social inclusion. However, one should acknowledge that many people in the British museum profession have shown courage in challenging traditional values and priorities, and gained important knowledge, which is useful in order to inform the museums and galleries of the reality outside their walls.
Lene Laigaard, MA i Museum Studies fra University of Leicester. Stud. mag. art ved Institut for de æstetiske fag, Afd. for Kunsthistorie, Aarhus Universitet. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Nordisk Museologi 2005/1, SUMMARY pp. 69-86
Eva de la Fuente Pedersen
This article takes a historical approach that aims to reconstruct the original first room - The Perspective Chamber - in The Royal Kunstkammer in Copenhagen, Denmark, and to discuss whether it was planned from the outset as a coherent and meaningful decoration, in which C. N. Gijsbrecht's paintings formed a natural part.
In 1690, the first inventory was made of the new Kunstkammer, which had been located in the Castle of Copenhagen until the late 1680s. A new building, which subsequently housed the Royal Library, the Arsenal and the Kunstkammer, had been under construction since 1665 and was still being built during Gijsbrecht's stay in Copenhagen in 1668-1672. This article reconstructs the original decoration of the Perspective Chamber on the basis of the inventory from 1690, supplemented by the inventory of 1737, which is in part more elaborate and descriptive. The first items listed are five perspective boxes, three of which are preserved in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. The Perspective Chamber's decoration also consisted of paintings with architectural motifs, still lifes and trompe 1'oeils. With a few exceptions, we cannot tell which of Gijsbrecht's paintings were included in the Perspective Chamber since the entry in the 1690 inventory only says "Twelve nice pieces with numerous figures by Cornelio Gubsbrecht". A journal from 1771 mentions that Gijsbrecht's letter racks or Quodlibets "betray the eye". The article shows how some of Gijsbrecht's paintings of both letter racks and trompe 1'oeil cupboards feature items that would normally be displayed in a kunstkammer. Some of Gijsbrecht's paintings are actually representations of Kunstkammer cupboards. It is tempting to assume that these paintings were made for the Perspective Chamber.
Finally, the article sets the Perspective Chamber and its trompe 1'oeils in a context of the Baroque mentality, when the trompe 1'oeil was seen as one of the period's most typical phenomena. In this respect, Gijsbrecht's paintings express an essential "vein" of their time. If we assume that the paintings with Kunstkam-mer references were those actually displayed in the Perspective Chamber, we can see that they also represent a way of organising the microworld of the kunst-kammer, which is anchored in the Renaissance navigation within the elements of resemblance, similitude and correspondence: a Kunstkammer exposes paintings representing kunstkammers and kunstkammer objects, or issues related to the things exposed in a kunstkammer. In this respect, the presence of Gijsbrecht's paintings in the Kunstkammer could also be said to represent a somehow anachronistic way of thinking.
Eva de la Fuente Pedersen Museumsinspektør, Seniorforsker
Senior Research Curator, Ph.D.
Den Kongelige Maleri- og Skulptursamling
Collection of Paintings and Sculpture
Sølvgade 48-50, DK-1307 København K
From Nordisk Museologi 2005/2, SUMMARY pp. 87-108
ARoS - the new museum of art in Aarhus, Denmark - is the latest example of a Nordic art museum and is considered the most up-to-date illustration of the status of the modern art museum today. This article is intended as a testing ground for the argument that ARoS is an innovation in relation to previous generations of art museums. This is done by comparing it with Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany, as an early historical example of museums of this type. Via this juxtaposition of the edification-oriented 19th-century museum (Altes Museum) and the contemporary event-oriented counterpart (ARoS), the article investigates the emblematic architectural themes and motifs in the art museum as an institution, and reveals the way in which we perceive and understand the art museum as a discourse.
Simon Pedersen er ph.d.-stipendiat i dansk arkitektur-historie ved Afdeling for Kunsthistorie, Aarhus Universitet og Danmarks Kunstbibliotek med pb.d.-projektet: "Åndens katedraler - Om kunstmuseets betydning og metamorfose i Danmark belyst igennem dets arkitekturhistorie ".