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Conference report: “Museums and Difficult Heritage”

POLIMI has been during the last week attending at two important conferences: the Museums and Difficult Heritage, ICMAH Annual Conference-2011, held in Helsinki (SU), and the Current Issues in European Cultural Studies , ACSIS Conference 2011, held in Norrkoping (SK). We start, here-in-after, to make a report on the first one.

The ICMAH Conference had a great partecipation of Museums’ staff and scholars in Museology, mostly from the community of History Museums and City Museums. All selected speakers presented very interesting case-study analysis with a reachness of material. During the first day (110616) mostly of case studies presented were dealing with what could have been more correctly called ‘Difficult topics’, has well explained in the keynote speach of Marie-Paule Jungblut from the Luxemburg City Museum, titled How Historical Museums Negotiate a Difficult Cultural Heritage? where she highlited the key role of the curator/exhibition designer for a clever investigation of ‘difficult topics’

as much as the relevance of communication strategies in building and defining an exhibition design. Of peculiar interest were also papers presented by Irene van Renselaar from the Museum Rotterdam (Netherland), titled Difficulties in Contemporary Heritage Projects: Community Participation and (Re)Presentation of Contemporary Urban Culture illustrating the new policy of the city Museum of Rotterdam which has decided to present & represent also the ‘present history’ of the city and not only the historical facts, almost acting as Urban Sociologists and/or journalist investigations presenting to the public ‘Difficult stories’ belonging to the Rotterdam everyday life.

During the second day, finally, the topics presented were more strongly connected to Sharon MacDonald definition of ‘Difficult Heritage’. The illuminating keynote speach by Jan Löfström from the University of Helsinki (SU), titled Reparations for Historical Injustices – Implications for Museums when Dealing with the Issue of Difficult Heritage, has been of a great interest and deepenes. Approaching the question of education and pedagogy centred on young people and children, Löfström has highlited the crucial role Museums could play in a moving and mixed society as ours, also due the fact they do not pay any more attention to oral history and to private stories. History appears in a wide spanning Scandinavia research on the topic only a subject dealing with mummies, without any relation with social identity

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and future choice. For the speakers, Museums could take the challange to cover a new role in this framwork.

Interesting presentations were also delivered by Simone Erpel from the German Historical Museum in Germany, titled Perpetrators on Display. Nazi dictatorship and WWII Perpetrators in Exhibitions and by Alexandra Bounia from the University of the Aegean in Greece, titled Heritage and/in Conflict: Historical Museums in Cyprus.

Convenor was Jari Hairi, actual Chair of ICMAH (International Council of Museums of Archaeology and History) association. Charming and collaborative atmosphere, with intense chats during coffe- and lunch breaks.

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