From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 3-10
Ulla Keding Olofsson:
The international development of the ecomuseum concept as reflected by Riksutställningar
Ulla Keding Olofsson who had served Riksutställningar for 23 years from the very start of the institute, was granted the opportunity to organise a seminar according to her own wishes when she retired in 1965. Before then she had been responsible for the series of international seminars which had taken place at Riksutställningar in Stockholm from 1973 and onwards. A complete list of the seminars and topics is added to the text which she herself offered as an introduction to the seminar in her honour. It took place on May 30 and 31 1996.
The ecomuseum concept was essentially brought to attention in Sweden through the seminars. Mrs Olofsson had attended the 1971 general conference of ICOM in Grenoble, where the word ecomuseum was introduced. She lists the occasions on which the development of the ecomuseum-movement, later called the new museology, was reflected in seminars and visits by people engaged in ecomuseum projects. Of special interest is the fact that Mrs Mathilde Scalbert, Vice Director of Le Creusot, was an invited guest to a seminar in 1983, where she spoke about The museum without collections - experiences of Ecomusée Le Creusot, and that in the following year the idea of a Swedish equivalent, Ekomuseum Bergslagen, was launched and published in the form of a report from Dalarna's Museum, Falun. This is one example of what Riksutställningar and its international seminars have meant for the introduction of innovators and new thinking into the museum field in Sweden and Scandinavia.
She also recalls how the institute worked closely with Dalarna's Museum to support and participate in the renewal of the cultural action of the museum, which was led by Erik Hofrén and Örjan Hamrin, and to make the experience known in other parts of Sweden.
There was however a long way to go before Ekomuseum Bergslagen was officially inaugurated in 1986 with seven municipalities in two counties, Dalarna and Västmanland, as partners. Thus in 1996 the ecomuseum concept celebrated its 25th anniversary and Ekomuseum Bergslagen its 10th.
The idea of the seminar was to discuss recent thinking about ecomuseums and combine it with an excursion to Bergslagen to study ongoing activities and participate in the anniversary celebrations.
Ulla Keding Olofsson joined Riksutställningar in 1967 after ten years as a teacher. She worked there in various capacities until her retirement in 1965. She has sat on the governing boards of two national museums and worked internationally in ICOM since 1968. She has also served as a member of the jury for the European Museum of the Year Award, EMYA, since 1977.
Adr: Idungatan 14, S-113 45 Stockholm
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 27-34
The Bergslagen ecomuseum - from idea to reality
The paper states that Ekomuseum Bergslagen is not a proper ecomuseum in the original French sense of the word. Initially the project was influenced by the French concept and adopted the term - but in many respects it has grown logically out of a set of existing structures and ways of coping with cultural changes. The author points to the initiatives taken in the 1920s by the author, local heritage enthusiast and popular educator Karl-Erik Forsslund (1872-1941), who lived in the region and created the famous folk high school at Brunnsvik and later, in 1938, founded at Ludvika, the first open-air museum of industrial history in the world. Another influence came from the industrialist Axel Ax:son Johnson, who at Ängelsberg kept in good repair buildings, furnaces, hammer forges and waterwheels reminders of the early steel industry. The site was eventually included in the World Heritage List. When Erik Hofrén became Provincial Antiquarian and Director of the regional Dalarna Museum in 1967, he soon developed ideas about the decentralisation of museum activities, regarding the local historical sites as a network that should be included in the museum's extramural activities. Thus in 1970 a 60 km heritage and nature trail, Husbyringen, came into being. It was organised as a museum foundation, serving as an umbrella organisation for several small museums, sites and collections. It set the pattern for the kind of ecomuseum, which should be named 'Scandinavian' as it has its counterparts today in both Denmark and Norway.
When plans for the western part of the region, Västerbergslagen, were drawn up, the author offered several ideas akin to the Husby trail. However the project grew in size and in the end it broke both municipality and county boundaries in order to give a comprehensive picture of the, nationally important early industrial history of Bergslagen. The planning work was done in the 1980s and in 1986 the official opening took place. The characteristics of the new museum, which maintains the "umbrella" style, are that the ecomuseum does not own the objects in it, the responsibility for each site stays with a local association, that cooperation with municipal tourist organisations is important and that the museum activities are linked with the cultural affair authorities as well as with the local heritage movement and voluntary workers.
Örjan Hamrin är förste antikvarie vid Dalarnas museum, Falun.
Adr: Dalarnas museum, Box 22, S-791 21 Falun
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 35-40
The ecomuseum in a vision of the future
Museum work, like all work on historical questions, is a matter of relating oneself to the past. Retrospection varies through the ages and varies depending on who you are and the kind of society you are living in.
At the turn of the century the Nordic museum urged its visitors to use the past to "know thyself" and the Swedish Tourist Association at the same time invited their clients to "Know your country!" both being aware of the citizens' need for self-reflection in the world they lived in. The present Heritage Act in Sweden states that the preservation of our heritage is the responsibility of all. But the collective memory amounts to far more than the contents of our museums and archives. All human experience and knowledge, all working processes and all forms of expression created by man, together with our physical environment belong to those parts of the collective memory which are not catered for in those institutions. The emergence of the ecomuseums in the 1970s could be regarded as a consequence of that knowledge. A fundamental question for both the traditional museum and the ecomuseum is the role played by the material heritage which constitutes their means of transferring traditional knowledge and experience in a community. Perhaps it has to do with the current materialism - that which is not visible, does not exist. The outwardly manifested forms become important for the survival of a collective memory. Ecomuseums which are not burdened with the ownership or management of intstallations and factories however have every possibility of ensuring the survival of the memories linked to the site. In ecomuseums great emphasis is put on the active participation of people as well as on the living interpretation of history as the centre of attention. To maintain the living spirit in museum work means conducting a continual historical debate amongst the participants in the museum project in which attitudes to the past are constantly being remoulded and new questions are being asked. The author points to the fact that environmental issues increasingly overshadow other global problems. She therefore considers that one important task should be to enhance understanding and knowledge of man's role in his physical environment and the connection between energy, raw materials and human activities. The ecomuseum could play a part in developing ecologically sustainable strategies for the future. She also wants to work harder to increase participation among young people and to achieve wider support for the ecomuseum's objectives. The aim of the museum - to develop as an instrument of social analysis, identification and active historical awareness - is high but not unrealistic. A process-oriented museum is never finished. The pursuit of a balance between the body and soul of the museum is fundamental and never-ending.
Ewa Bergdahl är direktör för Ekomuseum Bergslagen.
Adr: Kyrkogatan 2, S-777 30 Smedjebacken
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 71-86
Ecology as a humanistic discipline - a challenge for museums
In the 1970s ecology forcefully entered both public debate and scientific thinking. It caused the 'greening' of politics both nationally and internationally and is slowly making its way into community planning; it has had what could be described as a paradigmatic effect on scientific discourse, primarily in various natural science fields, but also in social sciences. In 'human ecology' however, the emphasis is still placed on the relationship between man and nature. It is necessary to focus more on the human component and to apply ecological knowledge to the socio-cultural environment using individual life-consciousness as a starting point. Only tools appropriated from the value-oriented humanities can be used to deal with the prevalent crisis in the human world. The author argues for an emancipatory human ecology which could, with an anthropocentric understanding of ecology, set about remedying fundamental structural problems in society. So far ecological policies have only managed to deal with very limited areas in community planning. It is a curious fact that the systematic analysis of processes in the human mind and a value-oriented perspective are both lacking in the present study of culture and society. The author refers to a recently published book, The Life Region. The Social and Cultural Ecology of Sustainable Development, where an attempt is made by the Humanist Futurology Group at Umeå University to demonstrate in concrete terms what a value-oriented human ecology could achieve. Three main points are particularly important in the report. First a theory concerning human nature is presented, where both processes in the human consciousness and cultural needs are defined. Secondly the point is made that an ecological approach in social theory could contribute to a strengthening of humanistic models and theoretical work. The third point considered is that attempts to rehabilitate existential value-perspectives could bring about a renaissance in humanistic studies. Museology, which has a multidisciplinary approach in its study of society and cultural heritage as well as a focus on the museum institution and its position at the centre of local communities, could play an important part both in investigating and in communicating knowledge about the ecological dimension both local and global. He advocates the idea of 'deep museology' as a counterpart to 'deep ecology'.
Per Råberg är docent och leder Kollegiet för humanistiska framtidsstudier. Han är knuten till Institutionen för museologi vid Umeå universitet.
Adr: Institutionen för museologi, Umeå universitet,
S-901 87 Umeå
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 87-92
Hans Christian Gulløv:
Eskimo culture, archaeology and collections
At the turn of this century, uncontrolled collecting of Eskimo objects by Europeans became a threat to the Greenlandic culture. "Damaging the Eskimo culture by spoiling heathen graves". That was the opinion expressed by members of the political board of South Greenland. A proposal was then made for building a museum which was realized more than half a century later.
From 1929, systematical archaeology was carried out in the country. Before that time, naval officers did the archaeology while museum employees had to take care of the descriptions. Therefore, it was a provocation to Danish museum circles that the first scientific description of the larger collections from East Greenland, to be published in the national monograph series Meddelelser om Grønland, were left entirely to a linguist, William Thalbitzer. But for the latter it became a challenge. He learned how to listen to the objects as he listened to the voice of the East Greenlanders. That way of scientific thinking made no sense to scientific circles in Denmark at that time, and Thalbitzer's work was neglected until 1956 when as an esteemed honorary chairman of the International Congress of Americanists he entered the Danish National Museum for the first time since the beginning of the century.
The story of Danish research in Eskimo culture raises the problem of ownership to the past. The attitude of the colonists towards the opinion of the colonized Greenlanders about their past and the scientific ownership to interpretation and understanding make no difference in etno-centrism. It is only in recent decades that archaeology in Greenland has adopted the guideline pointed at by Thalbitzer when doing cultural historical research: listening to the Greenlanders to learn from their traditions.
Hans Christian Gulløv, seniorforsker ved Etnografisk Samling, Nationalmuseet. Studeret antropologi, arkæologi, geografi og eskimologi ved Københavns Universitet. Disputats om Grønlands etnohistorie. Fagredaktør af Meddelelser om Grønland, Man & Society. Feltarbeider i Grønland siden 1968.
Adr. Etnografisk Samling, Nationalmuseet, Fredriksholms Kanal 12, DK-1220 København K
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 93-114
Inger Lise Christie:
The exhibition "With my own hand"
- "Folk Art" in a renewed view and new lighting
The comprehensive collections of folk art in Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Folk Museum) in Oslo were presented in a new "basic" exhibition in 1993. The concept of "folk art" in Norway is mostly understood as "rural hand craft" or "rural art", produced in the country districts for the rural milieu, mostly for the more well-to-do social classes, before industrialism started around 1850. In what way could an exhibition of folk art be presented to a modern public, far removed from the old rural life and people, their traditions of craftmanship and their different world view? The presentation was structured as a walk through history, from the Middle Ages until the present day, which would reveal both tradition and change. We imagined the exhibition visitor to behave like the Norwegian fairytale figure, "Askeladden" ("the Ash-lad") who used his eyes and imagination, and discovered wonderful things. His faculty of combination and a rapid tongue brought him to "Soria Moria slott" ("The Soria Moria Castle"), where he (as always) won the princess. In the same way the visitor should wander into the story and discover the folk art with his own eyes, perhaps finding unexpected treasures. We wanted to show folk art contextualized. The exhibition should not present mere objects and facts, but give a more comprehensive visual experience of the theme, by combining objects with contemporary pictorial presentations - of craftsmen, men and women in their daily life, children, landscape, home interiors - to give an impression of time and place. Contemporary sound and music is also added.
The intention was to make a presentation that communicates both the visible values of the material, such as the skill of the makers, the flourishing imagination, the form, the carvings, the colours, the beauty, and the courage to mix tradition with new traits of urban styles in the most personal way, - and the immanent values of symbolic meaning, the hidden qualities behind the surface of the items. We wanted to show both the connection between the objects and their makers, and their relations to the users, often in situations of the life cycle where the objects had a symbolic meaning in the ritual seremonies. The exhibition texts are short, in English and Norwegian. A book for supplementary background information will later also be available in English.
The changes in the time of industrialisation made a break in the traditions of the folk art, and the question is finally posed: In what way does the creativity that we have met during our walk through history come to light to-day? Some of the items shown are based on inspiration from the sources of the old folk art, but created in the language of our own time. Perhaps this may show the way for the creative hands in future? For the first time in a museum exhibition in Norway, the lighting is based on a fiberoptic system, which produces a light with no damaging effects on the objects, and the lenses may therefore be placed inside the show cases. This gives the objects a special dramatic lighting, that may resemble the light from the open central hearth or corner fireplace in the old houses. Hence both in a literal and transferred sense we hope to have presented Norwegian folk art in a new lighting
Inger Lise Christie er mag.art i etnologi og
førstekonservator/førsteamanuensis ved Norsk Folkemuseum.
Adr. Norsk Folkemuseum, Museumsveien 10,
From Nordisk Museologi
1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 115-124
The Museum and the staging of Art
The staging of art has always been susceptible to changes - according to the needs and purposes of art at different times and in different places.
When we speak of staging art today, we are describing an independent form of expression on a par with other art categories. The breakthrough of staged photography in the 1980s and the appearance of installation art in the 1990s helped to establish this. Staging something has gained a much broader meaning within art.
The artist must resign himself to being one of several parties. Museum staff and curators each contribute with their staging, and artist and art are forced to adapt to the overall idea behind the exhibition. Museum and exhibition activities have also become more closely related. This means that today relations between the artist and the institution are much more direct, and it is not only the institution, but also the artist who is manipulating art.
Museum staff invite artists to manipulate the permanent collections. Thus the artists' task is not limited to producing works which may be acquired by the museum.
In this cooperation the artist lends his authority to the institution. This is based on the realization that the artist's undogmatic views may offer new ways of presenting the museum collections.
But when contemporary art enters the institution, trouble begins. Contemporary art forces the museum to take a critical view of itself as an institution, provoked by the artist's activities. However, these activities may serve to bring out hidden complex relations within the museum.
Vibeke Petersen er mag.art. i kunsthistorie ved Københavns Universitet. Overinspektør i maleri-
og skulpturafdelingen på Statens Museum for Kunst, København.
Adr: Taarbæk Strandvej 115,
From Nordisk Museologi 1996/2: SUMMARY pp. 125-130
The Art Museum as Metaphor
Beate Sydhoff, art historian and writer, explores the role of the art museum as a metaphor for an idea and a period in history, something that has developed during the last thirty years. During this time the museum has become less representative and more subjective in terms of collections, less objective and more individualistic in its architecture and evidently more of a symbol than a functional construction housing historic remains.
Since the museum has a spiritual purpose but has to combine this with a physical construction, it may be possible - in many new museum buildings - also to see inspiration coming from airport terminals, - big transparent structures where the idea of transportation is brought forward in translucent and daring shapes. To discover art is also a kind of voyage, a movement in time and space that might be compared to travel in the physical sense.
One of the most interesting roles of the museum in our time, however, is to create zones, protected from the changes of time. Therefore, museums nowadays are often created out of existing environments, e.g. artists´ studios or other kinds of unique spaces. One example of this kind is the house of the painter Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán in Mexico City. This place, Museo Frida Kahlo, could be seen as one of the most fascinating museums existing today, with its traces of Frida´s life and artistic work, very much alive and in evidencce.
Beate Sydhoff är konsthistoriker, författare och kritiker. För närvarande programdirektör för EU-projektet Stockholm - Europas kulturhuvudstad 1998. Ordförande i den svenska nationella ICOM-komittén samt ordförande i den regionala Europagruppen inom ICOM.
Adr: Stockholm - Cultural Capital of Europe 1998
Sergels Torg 12, Box 7313, S-10390 Stockholm
Fax: +46-8-24 99 16