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1994/1 Summaries

From Nordisk Museologi 1994/1: SUMMARY pp. 47-52

Arne Losman:

Skokloster - a Memory Theatre

The exterior of Skokloster was erected between 1654 and 1668. Parts of its magnificent interior decorations date from the same period. The owner was count Carl Gustaf Wrangel (1613-1676), Admiral of the Realm, later Marchal of the Realm, proprietor of large landed estates round the Baltic, Governor-General of Swedish Pomerania, Chancellor of the University of Greifswald etc.
Skokloster houses collections from the late 15th century up to the 1840's. Here the 17th century of Skokloster is discussed as a case study as it allows interpretations from many aspects. It was an obvious example of conspicuous consumption and it was a status symbol in a Sweden, that had newly attained the position of a great power. Skokloster was part of a domestic rivalry between Swedish aristocrats. You could also call it a memorial to Wrangel's own deeds. The concept of a memorial is made evident by the Wrangel Armoury, showing a large number of weapons, chiefly richly decorated hunting pieces. To some extent it is a Kunst- und Wunderkammer, filled with models and ethnographical items such as a Greenland kayak, armadillos and the famous eight Lenape Indian artefacts from New Sweden, the Swedish colony in Delaware.
Wrangel's Skokloster can be regarded as a sort of memory theatre, or can at least be understood in connection with the art of memory tradition. The history of ars memorativa is well known to us through Frances A. Yates' The Art of Memory and her Theatre of the World, and also through Mary Carruthers' The Book of Memory. Since the days of Cicero, Quintilianus and others the architectural mnemonic is described as an artificial memory, which means the placing of facts and images in e.g. a house or a theatre.
Count Wrangel was not a learned man, but he was certainly well informed. An enormous stream of information reached him daily. His news media were letters, newspapers and books, which he received through a network of news agents, trade commissioners and others around Europe. He had a desperate need to subsume all this information into some sort of structure.
Wrangel, however, had a sort of memory theatre, the last of Philipp Hainhofer's large Kunstschränke. The Kunstschrank was a microcosm and maybe a help in understanding the whole world, the macrocosm. But it was produced and directed by Hainhofer. It did not help Wrangel to memorize or to understand his information. Maybe Skokloster - like some others of Wrangel's palaces and mansions- was constructed as a sort of memory theatre in order to give him the feeling of being the master of reality.
Wrangel filled Skokloster with symbols of the world, the seasons, the four continents, etc. Twenty rooms were named after European towns. The classification system of his library might have been a help in organizing an overwhelming quantity of information. On top of the four towers were armillar spheres, models of the universe.
Today Skokloster mirrors Sweden's period as a great power and Europe of the 17th century. Together with numerous other museums, it can be seen as a memory theatre, where we can study the background of today's Europe. We can be grateful to those aristocrats, who might once have organized their houses and collections in what was at that time still a living memory tradition.

Arne Losman är docent i idé- och lärdomshistoria och sedan 1980 museichef på Skoklosters slott.

Adr: Skoklosters slott, S-746 95 Bålsta

From Nordisk Museologi 1994/1: SUMMARY pp. 53-64

Sverker Sörlin:

On Hometaking

This article analyzes a topic within the field of historical study of scientific travel: hometaking, i.e. the taking home (by collecting, purchase, qonquest, theft or otherwise) of objects (artifacts, specimens, goods or other items) to, typically, the centers of learning and power located in the home countries of scientists, explorers and their patrons. A point is made of the fact that hometaking should not be mixed up with collecting, the systematic and long-term building of collections. Hometaking could certainly be an integral part of a collecting enterprise, but it could also be an autonomous single occasion, a fugitive moment of bountiful return from distant lands.

The article presents three cases.

1) The Danish expedition to Arabia Felix (1761-1767). This expedition, proposed by German philologist J. D. Michhaëlis, was eagerly supported by the Danish king Frederik V. He not only supported the travelling party of five scientists and a servant, he also carefully instructed them to deliver whatever objects or items they could assemble to the Royal Library in Copenhagen.

2) The Royal Spanish expedition to New Spain (Mexico) in the 1790's and the early 1800's. In this case the Spanish king required that all objects should be transported to Madrid and stored in the Royal Museum there after the king himself had inspected them.

3) The return of the Swedish Andrée-expedition. In 1930 the corpses and other remnants of engineer S. A. Andrée's expedition, launched in 1897 to cross the Artic Sea by balloon, were solemnly brought back to Stockholm, where the three dead men were received with patriotic fervour. Years of searching and national mourning were ritually terminated.

These cases raise questions about the symbolic character of objects, about the nature of possessing and the sublimation and ideologization of desire. A striking feature in all three cases is that hometaken scientific objects - sometimes referred to as "results" - are symbolically and rhetorically appropriated in order to strengthen national presige, even when territorial conquest and domination were not to be represented (which was otherwise often the case). Hometaken objects became trophies and signifiers of the achievements of the hometaking scientist and of the status and enlightened standing on the part of the sponsoring institution, be it head of state, academy, museum, library or private person.

Sverker Sörlin är professor i miljöhistoria vid Umeå universitet. Han har länge interesserat sig för resans roll i utvecklingen av den empiriska naturforskningens metod och tradition. Till hans arbeten på detta område hör flera studier av linnélärjungarnas resor och böcker som Denationalizing Science: The International Contexts of Scientific Practice, co-ed. (Dordrecht, Boston & London: Kluwer, 1993), och De lärdas republik: Om vetenskapens internationella tendenser (Malmö: Liber-Hermods, 1994).

Adr: Skidspåret 3B, S-90235 Umeå.

Fax +46-90143374

From Nordisk Museologi 1994/1: SUMMARY pp. 75-82

John Aage Gjestrum:

Local museums and professionalism in museums

Today there are several reasons to stress the importance of local museums. At the same time we find big museums growing even bigger and observe an explosion in the number of small museums all over the world . The former ICOM director Hugues de Varine calls this a big-bang in the museum world, which makes it necessary to separate museums in two very different types: the process-museum and the institution-museum, the latter being the traditional museum.
In understanding this new museum process, it is important to know how the scientific needs and basics of the traditional museum differ from many of these process-museums, which are founded on the population's need to understand their territory, - territoriality, - and of being connected to their local history. This need of historicity is different from the professional historians' research aiming at new knowledge. The existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre gives some important perspectives in understanding the importance of history, and how man always has to liberate himself from his past. The choices in the present are partly determined by the past, and partly by the visions of a possible future.
The ecomuseums, first established in France about 1970, afterwards in many parts of the world, have expressed a strong criticism of the "old" museum. The local population as an actor in the present within a limited territory, forms a strong contrast to the traditional museum with its general message to a non-defined and anonymous public.
In 1971 the Canadian museologist Duncan F. Cameron pointed out the museum's need to develop both the functions as a temple and as a forum. Twenty years later he once more offers a critical analysis of the museum and the museum profession. Cameron still thinks the museum profession can form part of the vanguard for positive social change. One of the biggest problems, he finds in the conflicting values within the individual, who is constituted as an unholy trinity of private, professional and institutional persons. Each professional person will have to re-examine himself, the academic disciplines and the museum institution. To meet the challenges of tomorrow it is necessary with a change of heart, not only intellectualism.

John Aage Gjestrum er norsk forskningsrådsstipendiat i museologi, knyttet til Institutionen för museologi, Umeå universitet. Arbeider med doktoravhandling med tema "Museum, kulturarv og lokalsamfunn".

Adr: N-2846 Bøverbru, fax +47-61196013

From Nordisk Museologi 1994/1: SUMMARY pp. 83-89

Erik Hofrén:

The Green Porcelain Palace

"The green porcelain palace" is described in H G Wells' well-known novel The Time Machine (1895). The author has chosen as his starting-point H G Wells' ideas about the global communication of knowledge and ideas as the remedy for all disputes, antagonisms and enmities afflicting our planet and menacing the continued existence of mankind. Looking at the museum and its role in cultural communication, which to a great degree is a question of offering historical knowledge and insights, the need to base this work on an analysis of an ever changing media-situation is stressed. H G Wells uses "the green porcelain palace" as a metaphor for an archive, which was founded when the construction of a Western culture began. Could it also be applied to the museum and its function in society?
What is the attitude of those working in a museum to the communicative task? Power over the media is a key-question; in a world falling apart ideologically it is important to make available to the citizens as many alternative ways of seeing and thinking as possible. Alternatives to reigning dogmas are to be found in the study of history. The author argues that power has to be met with counter-power to make possible a dynamic democratic development. He bases his belief on his experience as a director of the "Museum of Work" in Norrköping and suggests that the six ways to act in order to establish alternatives outlined by the Norwegian sociologist Thomas Mathiesen could also be used in museum communication. The study of such actions should be an important museological theme.

Erik Hofrén är direktör för Arbetets museum i Norrköping. Han var 1967-1983 landsantikvarie i Kopparbergs län och chef för Dalarnas museum. 1982-86 var han ordf i Nämnden för konst, museer och utställningar samt ledamot av Statens kulturråd. Han var en av författarna till "70-talets museum" (1970) och har skrivit många betydelsefulla artiklar i kulturpolitiska och museologiska frågor.

Adr: Arbetets museum, Laxholmen, S-602 21 Norrköping. Fax +46-(0)11-182290

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