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1995/1 Summaries

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 3-10

Carsten Paludan-Müller:


When a collection is established, one must find, in the process of collecting, a balance between the uniqueness of objects and being able to demonstrate their mutual connection. When old pictures of the world break down, new connections between the objects emerge and the exhibitions must be re-edited. The essay examines three processes of change: the creation of the historically ordered museum, the formation of the museum of modern art and the change of the art museum on the eve of the 21st century.

Carsten Paludan-Müller er forhistorisk arkÊolog, nå leder af Kulturhistorisk Museum i Randers. Arbejder konkret med utvikling af udstillingsmediet og desuden med en afhandling om arkÊologi som makrohistorie.
Adr: Kulturhistorisk Museum, Stemannsgade 2 DK-8900 Randers.
fax +45-86 41 86 49

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 11-16

Beate Sydhoff:

A Museum of the Muses

Among cultural institutions the museums, especially the art museums, occupy a specific position as an arena for the presentation of a considerable portion of new knowledge as well as being the store-house for our cultural heritage. Around them new ideas and visions of change keep circulating all the time. The role played by the museum thus has an importance that those serving the institution do not always realize.
The task of the museum if you want to situate it along the line of production-distribution-consumption is evidently that of distributor, i.e. of knowledge and experience. We take for granted that what the museum offers to the public has great value and quality.
The museum in a secular society has in a way become a spiritual centre as a substitute for the church. Both in their architecture and even more in their intentionally contemplative atmosphere museums offer an ambience where the historical dimension, as well as the presence of a multitude of ideas expressed in the works of art, gives the visitor an opportunity to encounter a concentrated spirituality that many people long for.
The association of museum with church has for long been established, many European churches today function in reality as museums housing invaluable art treasures.
The spiritual role you can note in some museums means that they are free to deal with existential issues often treated and discussed from surprising and unconventional vantage points - issues such as multiculturalism, ethnicity, the restitution of cultural property etc. In museum work it is possible to look at the collecting activity as part of a sensibilization process concerning questions of time and history. A political museum at Lusaka, Zambia, is used as an example.
But at the same time as the art museum experiences this rise in public interest and attention, the artists are reacting against the museum as an institution that impedes direct communication with a non-élitist public. They look for exhibition grounds outside the museums in order to reach a new audience. Thus it is also possible for them to control the distribution of their works, which has so far been controlled by the museum and gallery system, where the curators may interfere with the artistic statements. Today those often take the form of art projects carried through on the spot. They are no longer a traditional show of works produced in the artist's studio.
However a contradiction can be observed the distance between public and artist has not diminished in the process. There seems to be a greater need than ever for the intermediary, the interpreting curator, who is a public servant more less biassed than the newspaper reviewer.
The museums must accept their key-role in public culture. One important aspect of that is the regenerating effect which the buildings themselves have in the townscape. The museums must respond to the need for spiritual centres in our world of anxiety with the resulting human pursuit of existential meaning. They must accept the responsibility of offering an arena for multiculturalism and ecoculture. If they fail to integrate those phenomena, the risk is that they will become separated and marginalized.
The paper concludes in suggesting that museums should explore the possibilities of decentralizing their activities through the establishment of branch galleries and of using multimedia to keep abreast of changes in demographic patterns and in media development.

Beate Sydhoff är ordförande i svenska nationella ICOM-kommitteen och ledare för det stora projektet 'Stockholm kulturhuvudstad 1998'.Hon var åren 1963-66 knuten till Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, arbetade 1966-79 som konstkritiker i Svenska Dagbladet, därefter som överintendent hos Stockholms kulturförvaltning 1979-1991 och tjänstgjorde 1987-90 som kulturråd vid svenska ambassaden i Washington.
Adr: KHS'98, Box 7313, S-103 90 Stockholm.
fax +46-8-249916.

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1:
SUMMARY pp. 17-24

Per Aage Brandt:

What is a museum

The paper presents a contrastive analysis of the concept of Museum, and isolates its components: a collection of Objects, a collective Receiver, a historical Sender, a stationary Institution housing the collection and staging the Collection, a professional Staff responsible for research on the objects and retrieval of objects according to a selective Definition of the collection from reference to the historical sender, and finally a strategy of temporary Exposition developed by the same staff. This institutional frame is analysed as a conflict between the hermeneutic dimension (research and interpretation: the objects are signs of some historical facts) and the aesthetic dimension (guiding reception from the point of view of some principles of interest: beauty, enigma, entertainment). This reading of the meaning of museality follows the actantial schema elaborated by the semiotician A.-J. Greimas. A Museum is a Theatre of Time. Therefore, a hermeneutics of things past (opposing communication) meets an aesthetics of things present (guiding and helping communication) on the museal location (the stage). Instead of giving privilege to hermeneutics or aesthetics only (only Time, or only Theatre), the analysis pleads for maintaining the conflict and thus the open semiotic drama of truth and beauty in the encounter that any Museum offers as a medium allowing for a communication of the Past and the Present. The presentation of objects (originals or copies?; categorized according to hermeneutic or aesthetic criteria?; calling for thought or for pleasure?) is seen as an essential cultural task concerning human understanding of a world deeper than pure presence, articulating knowledge and perception, science and art.

Per Aage Brandt er docent, dr. phil., forskningsleder ved Aarhus Universitet og Danmarks Grundforskningsfond. Leder af grundforskningsprogrammet Dynamisk Semiotik.
Adr: Center for Semiotisk Forskning, Aarhus Universitet, Finlandsgade 26,
DK-8200 Aarhus N. Fax +45-86 10 82 28

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 25-38

Lars Morell:


When a collection is established, one must find, in the process of collecting, a balance between the uniqueness of objects and being able to demonstrate their mutual connection. When old pictures of the world break down, new connections between the objects emerge and the exhibitions must be re-edited. The essay examines three processes of change: the creation of the historically ordered museum, the formation of the museum of modern art and the change of the art museum on the eve of the 21st century.

Lars Morell er idehistoriker, undervisningsassistent ved rhus Universitet, skriver fast i tidsskrifterne Tegl, Billedkunst og Standart.
Adr: Lundingsgade 28 st th, DK-8000 Aarhus C.
fax: +45-86 13 43 37 (Aarhus Universitet)

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 39-46

Per-Uno gren:

On the visual languages of exhibitions

The paper, which was originally presented at the Holstebro meeting in 1992, reflects on the visual languages which are common in the exhibitions of cultural history museums.
A museum is one of the innumerable expressions of the human urge to assign meaning to the chaos of the surrounding world. Its peculiar nature is to study, order and interpret the scattered material remains of the human past which may be regarded as 'the extended hand of the past, a genuine conveyor of the visual, tactile and emotional experiences of human beings who lived before us'. One basic problem of museum communication is the different ways of perceiving and understanding on the part of the curator and the visitor, the gap between the intended meaning of the curator and the received meaning formed in the mind of the visitor.
The exhibitor finds the traditional classification and arrangement in the institution self-evident, but the visitor who perceives and interprets according to his personal frame of references has difficulties in adjusting to the scholarly ideas expressed both visually and verbally in the exhibition. To overcome 'the curatorial fallacy' it is necessary to become aware of the conditions of the communication process in an exhibition hall.
Over time the different ways of making sense of the objects have resulted in distinctly different visual languages.
In the contextural exhibition objects are inserted in their, normally reconstructed, context in order to make their original meaning easier to understand. In Sweden this method was introduced by Artur Hazelius, the famous founder of Nordiska museet and Skansen in Stockholm. He first applied it in 1873 and it has had a far-reaching and lasting influence on the presentation of collections in museums of cultural history. It is akin to the 'period rooms' in museums of art and to the dioramas in museums of natural history.
The isolating mode of presentation wants to focus the attention of the visitor on the aesthetic properties of single objects and has been favoured by museums of arts and crafts.
In the systematic exhibition the objects are subordinated to a scientific ordering of the world. It became linked to the way of exploring material reality developed by the Enlightenment and its taxonomic and encyclopedic fervour was in Sweden particularly represented by Carl von Linné. Later it was strongly influenced by evolutionary ideas and has been one of the most common presentational methods in museums.
The analytic exhibition has developed as an expression of the functional study of cultures, where the objects are seen as integrated into ecological, economic and social patterns. It uses a combination of media to illustrate these aspects of material objects.
The story-telling exhibition tries to revive the human destinies linked to the objects and thus to stimulate the empathy of the visitor. It uses a multitude of supportive media to bridge the gap of understanding between life in the past and living in the present.
Out of a wish to use material objects to convey more abstract ideas and concepts, the metarealistic exhibition was born. In it objects are combined in unexpected ways to express questions, doubts and uncertainties so as to arouse intellectual curiosity and reflection in the minds of the visitors. It has grown very much out of a dissatisfaction with the often self-sufficient authoritative statements in museum exhibitions.
Most of these exhibition types can be discerned as historical layers in big museums or they meet in various combinations.
The paper ends by referring to the necessity of making both curators and visitors aware of the fact that every exhibiton is a construction, a provisional statement about history, reality and the human condition.

Per-Uno gren ar fd hogskolelektor i museologi vid Umeå universitet. Per-Uno gren arbetade åren 1953-83 vid Vasterbottens museum, Umeå.
Adr: Mariehemsvägen 11G, S-906 54 Umeå.
Fax +46-90-139852.

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 47-52

Eva Persson:

Reflections on the roles of producer, artist and designer in an exhibition

The author is one of the best-known producers of exhibitions for museums. She worked for twenty years for 'Swedish Travelling Exhibitions', then accepted the position of 'art director' for the new Museum of Work in Norrköping. After completing its much discussed opening exhibition, 'The Sixth Sense', and some minor exhibitions she left Norrköping and now works as a freelance producer. In the paper, presented in 1992 at Holstebro, Denmark, she discusses the roles of the various specialists involved in the production of exhibitions ­ the producer, the artist and the designer. The starting-point is the observation that the exhibition is a 'created reality' and that, without a form, a message is never discernable. Though the exhibition with its combination of many media must necessarily be the result of teamwork you cannot regard all the members of the team as being of equal importance. In a production for the stage, the director must have a vision of the totality of the play which all the participating specialists must accept and to which they must subordinate themselves. It is the same with the exhibition producer who must set out with a clear idea of what he or she wants to achieve. This mental picture must govern the production.
The author has relied on artists to give form to such governing pictures and has noted that they resist preparatory briefings that are too detailed, as they start the process of sketching 'the big form', the structure which will serve as frame and skeleton for the production. She is constantly struggling with the problem of how to offer a manuscript to the artist which allows a maximum of freedom and as well allows the artist to develop ideas out of his or her individual need for expression.
When the manuscript has an exact and special theme the content is of superior importance ­ here the author must be given the priority and the form becomes the task of a designer ­ or an architect. As exhibitions always present spatial problems architects are possible partners for the producer. The interplay between producer, author, artist and designer is always complex and the assignment of responsibilities must be carefully negotiated. A producer may reduce an artist to the role of the designer or give to the designer too much responsiblity for the development of the theme. To combine the roles of author and producer, when you have chosen a designer for the visual form, may be disastrous, just as when a playwright wants to direct the performance.
In each production, especially when amateurs are involved, the producer must scrupulously reflect on the division of roles. A producer must be able to withdraw from professional interference when faced with the spontaneity of naive creativity, the genuine joy in telling a story visually. This is so rare and contrasts vividly with the anonymous, dutiful and mechanical visuals that destroy most museum exhibitions.

Eva Persson är numera frilansande utställningsproducent. Hon arbetade 1967-89 som producent vid Riksutställningar, Stockholm, och 1989-93 som konstnärlig ledare och producent vid Stiftelsen Arbetets Museum i Norrköping. Hennes bok 'Utställningsform' utkom 1994.
Adr: Tengdahlsgatan 16, S-116 41 Stockholm

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 63-68

Stefan Wiktorsson:

Lighting in museums and in theatres

The author normally works with a theatre company. Together with a stage designer he has also assisted in the preparation of exhibitions and compares his experiences of lighting in the different settings. The general principles are the same, e.g. that our sense of light and dark is always determined by changes in the intensity of light and by its colouring. The basic difference lies in the fixed position of the audience in the theatre and the moving museum visitor added to which are strict norms governing the amount of light permitted to play on the various materials that make up museum objects with a view to counteracting deterioriation. However, if you want to use light for emphasis and to create an attractive and exciting atmosphere in an exhibition, you must be allowed to experiment for a while until the desired effect is achieved. Then the light can be reduced to accord with the rules valid for the individual object, while keeping the relative contrasts and shades.
As a case study he describes in detail how the general principles were applied in the lighting of one specific exhibition, presenting Nell Walden, an artist and well-known personality in the cultural life of Berlin in the 1920's. The exhibition was produced in 1986 in the municipal museum of Landskrona, where Nell Walden was born.
Light in itself is of no special interest for the museum visitor. The exhibition, its objects and messages, are the important things. Nevertheless the conscious and imaginative use of lighting can contribute immensely to better and more effective communication.

Stefan Wiktorsson driver företaget Ljusdesign i Gävle. Han svarade 1979-1994 för ljussättningen av 60 pjäsuppsättningar, de flesta för Skånska teatern i Landskrona, Folkteatern i Gävle och Dalateatern, ofta i samarbete med regissören Peter Oscarsson och scenografen Peter Holm.Utom i Landskrona museum har han svarat för ljussättning av utställningar i bl a Sjöhistoriska museet och Vasamuseet, Stockholm, samt det nyöppnade länsmuseum Västernorrland, Härnösand.
Adr: S. Skeppsbron 4, S -802 80 Gävle
Fax +46-26 51 34 60.

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 69-77

Birthe Marie Lveid:

About shore-walks and other idle amusements

The author, who is a sculptor and the leader of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bergen, Norway, looks at the art museum with mixed feelings. The works of art which have attained the status of museum objects have been salvaged from the relentless flow of time. But, alas, many of them are doomed to the store-room or cellar.
Even to be accorded a public space in the exhibition hall is a dubious success. The art museum is a relative of the church, it demands deference from its users; and like the church it has a missionizing inclination, which all too often has a devastating influence upon the exhibitions and gives the visitor a bad conscience. The museums too frequently underestimate the visitors' capacity to make their own judgements and choices. In fact most visitors are starved of experience, they are hunters after visual adventures. The experienced hunter wants surprises and challenges, the ignorant look for recognition and confirmation.
The ongoing changes in art also pose new problems in relation to the museum, such as the exploitation of pictures in the mass media, the source of most people's mediated visual experience of art. A particular project, The Meeting-place, presented at Henie-Onstad Art Centre in Oslo, where blind people were invited to meet contemporary art and where, without the interference of mediators, they could feel their way through the exhibited works, which were not adapted or specially arranged for the blind, afforded a special opportunity to reflect on serious communication problems in museums. There are dangerous discriminating aspects lurking behind the attitudes of the museum culture, which wants to conserve and preserve everything in safe cases. For every golden calf its case and its curator and rules and rituals are produced to separate the few to be admitted from the multitude to be left outside.
The artist puts a message in a bottle and throws it into the sea expecting the Right One to find it and respond. Museums are shores where the bottles land. There the concept of Time rules, the bottles are dated and arranged according to period and year, like bottles in a wine cellar according to their vintage. But we must realize that Time does not run away from us, it surrounds us ­ especially in museums. Let museums be shores where we arefree to roam, hunting for half-hidden bottles with exciting messages!

Birthe Marie Lveid er billedkunstner og rektor for Vestlandets Kunstakademi i Bergen
Adr. Vestlandets Kunstakademi, C. Sundtsgt. 53, N-5004 Bergen
Fax +47-55 90 25 70

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 77-90

Karl-Olov Arnstberg:

Museums and "thick descriptions"

In Swedish museums there has been since the 1970s a marked ambition to produce descriptions and analyses of contemporary everyday life. Museum curators trained in ethnology make shorter or longer field expeditions in order to write what is labelled here as "ethnography". The museum which has so far been most productive in this field is The National Maritime Museum situated in Stockholm. Since 1971 it has published 29 reports. In this article four of them are discussed from an ethnographic point of view. They are all interesting and valuable contributions to this type of museological documentation. However, the level of ambitions could, and should, be raised in the future.
A general problem in carrying out field work "at home", is that the projects are given too short a time or that participant observation is replaced by interviews. If the field worker has not made his or her project extensive enough, it is impossible to tell an interesting story ­ to write in the tradition of "thick description".
Although the ambition is not to write theoretically at all, the field worker needs a good theoretical training in order to be able to understand what he/she is experiencing. Some methods and basic concepts are discussed in the text. What is the difference between a subjective and subjectivistic approach? What is cultural relativism and how do you avoid making value judgements? How do you avoid writing moralistic prose?

Karl-Olov Arnstberg är docent i etnologi vid Stockholms universitet, författare och debattör, tidigare intendent vid Nordiska museet, numera knuten till Institutet för urbana studier vid Stockholms universitet.
Adr: Box 4051, S-12704 Skärholmen

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 91-100

Göran Rosander:

The museum as educational institution. A state report and reactions upon it

In spring 1994 a state report on musems was published entitled Memory and education. The objectives and organisation of museums. The report deals with national and state-supported museums. It has been circulated to 150 state agencies, institutions and organizations asking them for comments and opinions. Many have praised the recommendated changes in the report, recommendations which are in part very radical. Among museum professionals however the attitude is markedly sceptical.
The main idea in the report is that museum activities should be based on a responsibility in the field of public education. As a consequence considerable parts of the collections amassed in national museums would have to be returned to regional museums, schools and other cultural institutions in the parts of the country from where the objects originated. It is also important that the backlog in the conservation and documentation of museum objects be cut. This is at present estimated to comprise 3.400 (conservation and care) and 2.300 (documentation and registration) work-years ('årsverken'). The reporting committee thinks that it would be possible to eliminate the backlog provided that a number of restoration workshops spread over the country were set up, where unemployed persons could be used to carry out the work instructed and supervised by professional restorers and museum curators.
Among the other recommendations it should be noted that the committee proposes a new administrative structure for national museums, bringing them together in bigger units ­ the largest should comprise 13 currently independent institutions. Another proposal that has provoked bitter protest is that museums should not be allowed to do research within their operating budget, but should have to apply for extra means from research foundations.

Göran Rosander är förstekonservator (intendent) vid Norsk Etnologisk Gransking, Oslo, sedan 1986. ren 1980-86 var han docent och tf professor i europeisk etnologi vid Uppsala universitet, 1970-78 knuten till Nordiska museet och den ledande konstruktören av det stora SAMDOK-projektet.
Adr: Norsk Etnologisk Gransking, Postboks 1010, Blindern, N-0315 Oslo.
Fax +47-22 85 41 20

From Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 101-116

Kim Forss:

From Machine to Hologram - Thoughts about the Organisation of Museums

The author was one of two secretaries working for the Committee responsible for the state report Memory and Education. In this paper he discusses the connection between the metaphors for organisational structures prevalent among leaders and employees in museums and the demands made on the structures as a result of the nature of the museum mission and its working methods. The material gathered by the State Committee indicates that many museum curators apply the machine metaphor to their institutions. However in many circumstances such a metaphor is unsuited to the activities a museum should unfold responding to the rapid change in the surrounding world.

Kim Forss är ekonomie doktor. Han var en av sekreterarna i den nyligen publicerade museiutredningen. Sedan 1989 är han delägare i konsultföretaget Andante AB, med huvudsaklig inriktning på forskning, utbildning och råd om styrning, samordning och utvärdering i komplexa organisatoriska miljöer.
Adr: Bisp Thomas väg 8, S-645 34 Strängnäs
Fax +46-15219700

Nordisk Museologi 1995/1: SUMMARY pp. 117-124

Göran Rosander:

Karl-Erik Forsslund, a pioneer in the preservation of local monuments

Karl-Erik Forsslund (1872-1941) was in his day a prominent figure in Swedish public life. Nowadays he is almost forgotten. He was a poet, a journalist and a novelist, dedicated all his life to the study of cultural history. He participated eagerly in public education and the maintenance of monuments. From 1898, when he married, until he died he lived in a traditional farmhouse, Storgården, close to Ludvika in Dalecarlia. Storgården was also the title of his most successful book, which appeared in 1900, a remarkable pamphlet idealizing life in the countryside. Nine editions were printed and it became a cult book for radical intellectuals at the turn of the century. On their farm Forsslund and his wife received a stream of visitors prominent in the literary and political establishment of the day. His home, Storgården, became a permanent point of reference in his writings, he loved the place and made home a central concept in his literary work. Again and again he used the interior of his own home as the model for what a living home should look like.
The only work by Forsslund which is still read is the unfinished description of the valley of the river Dalälven ('Med Dalälven från källorna till havet'), on which he worked from 1918 to 1939. He had difficulties financing its publication, nevertheless 27 volumes, comprising 5.500 pages, appeared. It is a profusely illustrated topographical and historical account of this central part of the province of Dalecarlia.
In the field of antiquarian work he was remarkably modern. In the book On the preservation of local monuments ('Hembygdsvård', 1914) divided into two parts, the first dealing with the preservation of nature, the second dealing with the care of local culture he launches an anathema over the ruin of the former and the devastating effect of modernization on the cultivated land.
The part of this book which is reprinted here is from its last pages and expresses his opinions about the function and mission of national and local museums.

Göran Rosander är förstekonservator (intendent) vid Norsk Etnologisk Gransking, Oslo, sedan 1986. ren 1980-86 var han docent och tf professor i europeisk etnologi vid Uppsala universitet, 1970-78 knuten till Nordiska museet och den ledande konstruktören av det stora SAMDOK-projektet.
Adr: Norsk Etnologisk Gransking, Postboks 1010, Blindern, N-0315 Oslo.
Fax +47-22 85 41 20

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