MeLa-PoliMi participated in the international conference Museum Policies in Europe 1990-2010: Negotiating professional and political utopia, organized by the European research project EuNaMus on June 27-29. The conference was held in Norway at the University of Oslo. Focused on the impact of policies on today’s national museums, the conference addressed crucial themes of the contemporary museum debate, as migration, diverse social groups, minorities, conflicting demands and cultural cohesiveness. Over the three days, invited speakers and EuNaMus contributors debated the following questions:
- What are the practical functions of national museums?
- Is the national narrative (still) too strong?
- What are the limits/limitations of politics for national museums?
On June 27th, following an introduction by EuNaMus partner Arne Bugge Amundsen, a panel of three invited speakers and one EuNaMus contributor presented their views on the role of policies for national museums. Stefan Krankenhagen of the University of Hildesheim discussed “Contemporary Collecting Policies and the Musealization of Europe.” Claiming that the great collecting phase of European museums has now given way to the reframing of already collected objects, Krankenhagen addressed the following topics: participation strategies as a way of collecting in common; the online collection Europeana as a medium of transmission; European industrial heritage as a strategy of routing culture; contemporary art as a tool to fill the empty space of the past.
Next, MeLa-PoliMi participated in the debate with a presentation by Clelia Pozzi with the title “National museums as agonistic spaces.” Proceeding from Chantal Mouffe’s notion of “agonistic pluralism” as a transformation of antagonism into a “unity in a context of conflict and diversity,” Pozzi presented the first findings of the MeLa research in relation to national museums and migration. Her argument was exemplified through key museum policies and exhibitions from the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum of New Zealand, and the Museum of Polish History.
A paper by Richard Benjamin of the International Slavery Museum of Liverpool was presented by Lill Eilersten. The paper, “Museums and the struggle for social justice and human rights in a brave new Europe,” presented the Liverpool Museum as an active supporter and a vehicle of social change thanks to its three permanent galleries—Life in West Africa; Enslavement and the Middle Passage; Legacy.
Last, Maria Höglund of EuNaMus-Linköping University presented a comprehensive overview of cultural policies in Europe from 1990 to 2010, stressing the EU effort to integrate the museum field into several cultural policies and projects.
The June 28th session was structured in two panels. In the morning panel, moderated by Dominique Poulot, Andreas Halse, Deputy of Oslo City Council’s Committee for Education and Cultural Affairs, introduced the museum political process in Oslo. In the course of hi argument, he claimed that the museum’s role hasn’t changed because of migration, for European countries have always dealt with migration—what has changed is the scale of the ethnic divide.
Curator Leif Pareli of the Norsk Folkemuseum presented two recent exhibitions to illustrate the challenges of the contemporary social complexity in Norway, with particular reference to the Sami population.
Last, Jon-Birger Østby, former Director of the Norwegian Archive, reported on “Political signals for museum development and the museum reform in Norway.” His paper offered a brief introduction to the development of museum policies in Norway from 1970 to 2012, claiming that practices of national, regional and local financing to museums necessarily establish strong ties between museums and politics.
The afternoon panel included four presentations moderated by Simon Knell. Lill Eilertsen discussed “Norwegian cultural policy and its effects on national museums.” Her presentation focused on the major reform in museum policies of 2003, which introduced experimental exhibition strategies that have since changed the face of Norwegian museology.
Vibeke Larsen, Council Member of the Sami Parliament of Norway, further discussed the Sami representation in museums by reporting on Sami museum policy. Her presentation focused on issues of collection management, legislation preserving Sami language and culture, and the return of Sami material cultural heritage to its people.
Next, Gabor Ebli of EuNaMus- Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design discussed “Hungarian Museum Policy in the context of the European Union.” Ebli claimed that the status of Hungarian museums has changed from “ivory towers” under communism to “visitor centers” after 1989, and rebutted the belief that such opening was due to Hungary’s joining the EU in 2003.
Last, Kristin Kutma from EuNaMus-University of Tartu presented museum policies in Estonia in the transition from post-soviet conditions to reconfigurations in the European Union, claiming the instrumentality of Estonia’s recent EU membership in the renewal of its museum institutions.
The June 29th session began with a paper by Ian McShane of Swinburne University of Technology, entitled “Productive Nation? Museums and National Cultural Policy in Australia.” The paper presented a 2010 Australian cultural policy—diversity centered and innovation oriented—and compared it to the 1994 cultural policy “Creative Nation.” The presentation highlighted two concepts as crucial for museums: social innovation and productive diversity.
Next, Alexandra Bounia of EuNaMus-University of Aegan discussed “Cultural policy and natioan museums in Greeece (1990-2010).” In presenting an overview of the recent developments in Greek museums policies, Bounia stressed three main aspects: public understanding of the role of national museums, questions of diversity and inclusion, and the role of museum professionals in the construction of new strategies.
Last, Dominique Poulot and Felicity Bodenstein of EuNaMus-Université Paris-Sorbonne presented “Paris as Le Musée Monde: National Museums and Universalism for the Global Tourist.” Linking the development of the notion of cosmopolitanism to the appeal of national museums for the international community, Poulot and Bodenstein analized the Louvre, the Citè de l’Immigration and the Quai Branly museum experiences—their argument investigating possible mediations of the national and global voices and economic and cultural policies that enable them.
The panelists’ speeches will probably be published later in 2012.