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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Museums as circulation: processes of knowledge-making, collections and audiences

Location Jakobi 2, 110
Date and Start Time 02 July, 2013 at 10:30


Mariana Françozo (University of Leiden) email
Christiano Tambascia (IFCH - Unicamp) email
Pille Runnel (Estonian National Museum) email
Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt (University of Tartu) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The aim of this panel is to address ethnographic museums in historical and contemporary perspective and investigate in which ways they are formed by as well as promote the circulation of objects, peoples, ideas, knowledge, and power. Central to this process are the recent technological innovations, via the so-called digital turn, that stress the mediated processes through which meaning is dynamically created in museums. The panel will be chaired by Pille Runnel (Estonian National Museum), with Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt (University of Tartu) as the discussant.

Long Abstract

Conventionally understood as traditional and static national institutions, ethnographic museums have undergone drastic changes in the last quarter of a century and have tried to redefine themselves as knowledge-producing, public-oriented cultural arenas. However, this re-invention has not changed the very essence of what a museum is and does - a place where different peoples, times and places are connected in a single experience. In fact, movements and exchange are and always have been the basic operational method of the museum. In this panel, we would like to look at museums as places of circulation in the broadest sense of the term. Our aim is to address ethnographic museums in historical and contemporary perspective and investigate in which ways they are formed by as well as promote the circulation of objects, peoples, ideas, knowledge, and power. This is particularly the case in contemporary museum, where the use of digital technologies explicitly demonstrate the interconnectedness and multi-sited nature of meaning-construction and of the museum experience in general. Therefore, we would also like to encourage the discussion of new modes of promoting exchanges between museums and their audiences, focusing on the creative bilateral interactions that occur within such participation. Additional information concerning collections, and digital access to heritage are examples of new digital media adopted by museums. By doing so, we hope to advance the debate on the political constitution of diacritic values.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

- Circulation of objects and the formation of museum collections;

- Circulation of meaning and knowledge-production in museums, with particular regard to participatory audiences;

- Museum publics: local communities, tourism, and the circulation of people;

- Cultural heritage and the role of digital technologies in repatriation;

- New (social) media and new display technologies

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Culture and political protest: display of Kurdish culture at a portable museum

Author: Yücel Demirer (Kocaeli University, Turkey)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will investigate the creation of a portable museum on a festival site in Turkey. On the basis of the transformation of the traditional new year celebration in Turkey, I would like to interpret how the display shows ethnic and artistic aspects of the Kurdish culture.

Long Abstract

This paper, using fieldwork conducted in Diyarbakir, Turkey as a focus, will investigate the creation of a portable museum on a festival site in Turkey. On the basis of the transformation of the Newroz/Nevruz (New Year) celebration in Turkey, I will discuss the creation of an un-conventional museum on a festival site. I am interested in investigating the ideological ways in which Kurdish national movement and the Turkish State have appropriated the Newroz/Nevruz tradition in their political history. In the case of Newroz (the Kurdish version of the festival), the Turkish State first ignored this tradition and did not give any role to Newroz in its highly politicized repertoire of festivals. However, subsequently the popularity and the wide acceptance of Newroz among the Kurdish population in Turkey motivated the Turkish State to appropriate this already invented tradition by the Kurds in Turkey. The "dynamic adaptation" of Newroz by the Kurds of Turkey made the Turkish Republic try to "re-traditionalize" Nevruz (the Turkish version) which had been almost forgotten in the official sphere.

The proposed paper is about the role of a big tent functioning as a one-day-long museum at the Kurdish Newroz festival site. I would like to interpret the display and its attached position in the Newroz festival and how the display shows ethnic and artistic aspects of the Kurdish culture and people. What is seen here represents the artistic notions of the Kurdish culture's "subjunctive mood," in Victor Turner's words, the mood of desire and possibility.

Vernacular museums: ethnographies of the everyman and the everyday

Authors: Cynthia Miller (Emerson College)  email
Tom Shaker (Dean College)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss the emergence and persistence of vernacular museums, which showcase “ethnographies of the everyday” – ranging from the cultural impact of local figures to everyday lifeways – often in less formal locations, and their roles in constructing local knowledge and community.

Long Abstract

This paper will discuss the emergence and persistence of vernacular museums, which showcase "ethnographies of the everyday" - ranging from the social and cultural impact of local figures or groups to everyday lifeways - often in less formal locations, such as storefronts or private homes, and their roles in constructing community. Numerous examples will be visually illustrated and analyzed, with an eye toward understanding their voice in representation and the creation and dissemination of local knowledge.

These small museums, spearheaded by individuals and community groups, have increasingly emerged across the United States, as individuals seek a voice in shaping the creation of our understanding of history and culture - what merits examination and preservation, and how it is made accessible. They typically valorize small histories and cultures - of the "everyday" and the "everyman" - that are ordinarily excluded from larger, institutionalized museums, or relegated to romanticized temporary exhibits. Exploring and understanding these vernacular museums, and the mechanisms that bring them into being, allows us to discuss larger processes of history-making, preservation, democratization of knowledge, and the intersection of history, ethnography, and popular culture.

The document archive of the Museum of Sacred Art of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

Author: Paula Vermeersch (São Paulo State University)  email

Short Abstract

The Campinas Metropolitan Cathedral was constructed between 1803 and 1887 from the rammed earth technique, developed by the Portuguese since the first century of occupation in the Americas. This communication deals with the documents relating to the construction of the building.

Long Abstract

It is a recent discovery at the Museum of Sacred Art of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, in Campinas, SP, of a vast documentation on the construction of the church began in 1807 and ended in 1883. Are also new studies that reveal aspects of the troubled trajectory of works, whose chronology begins on 6/10/1807. It´s possible to discover how a city poor and without resources could, from a specific tax legislation, to build a large building to house a bishopric. In a rare case in the history of Brazilian architecture, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Campinas has almost full the acquis relating to its construction, in all its phases, which allows to determine the technical aspects of its constitution, contributing to its conservation.

Danish ethnographic collections in the early 20th century: circulation of objects, production of knowledge

Author: Anne Folke Henningsen (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

Based on case studies of the ethnographic collections at the Danish National Museum in the first half of the twentieth century, I wish to reflect upon curatorial strategies in the production and dissemination of ethnographic knowledge through objects.

Long Abstract

As Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (1998) has pointed out, museum exhibitions are never just passive carriers of content but in themselves powerful meaning making motors conveying specific messages. Through case studies of different strategies of collection and display I wish to analyse what museologist Wera Grahn (2006) with inspiration from Donna Haraway has called material-semiotic nodes - i.e. material objects through which meaning is (re)presented and negotiated - in the ethnographic collections at the Danish National Museum which in the first part of the twentieth century underwent processes of professionalization as well as a major reorganisation. At the centre of attention will be the design of the museal meaning making motors in the production and dissemination of knowledge of the world outside Europe - including collection processes and theoretical and political framework of the curatorial practice.

Museum collections in Republic of Benin: continuity and discontinuity of a collecting policy

Author: Emery Patrick Effiboley (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the history of museum collections in Republic of Benin from the inception of the first museum in Abomey city by the French Administration to date. It tries to show the continuity in the collections but also the discontinuity in the implementation by policy makers a long the years.

Long Abstract

This paper analyses the history of museum collections in present-day Republic of Benin in West Africa. The first museum was installed in 1930 in the former royal palaces and named Musée d'arts et d'histoire dahoméens'' It presented the regalia belonging to the dynasties consisted of thrones, guns, ritual objects, etc.

In 1958, the French administration established another museum, Musée ethnographique de Porto-Novo which show the material cultures of the ethnic groups pertaining to the colony.

The aim of these museums was in one side, to preserve the main cultural productions of the conquered kingdom of Dànxòmɛ in 1892 and in the other side, to present all these objects to the foreign audiences and also to the local peoples.

But when the country gained its independence in 1960, the then new Republic started establishing museums across the country to promote local cultures and help building a national unity which was not in the core of the previous initiatives. In the line of this process, the Regional Museum of Natitingou in the north has been created in 1991. This local museum presented the audiences with artefacts of the region.

While the collections of the museums established at the colonial period have not significantly increased, the new ones are still striving after their effect in the society.

By choosing these three locations, this paper addresses the history of museums in Bénin, from South to North in order to put forward continuity and discontinuity in the collecting policy.

Contrapuntal interpretation of the RMCA: a contact zone

Author: Lies Busselen (KULeuven)  email

Short Abstract

The Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) in Belgium is starting up collaboration with the former colonised communities living in Belgium today. How is this collaboration worked out? What are the ambitions of the institution and of the Congolese actors envolved?

Long Abstract

Abstract This article provides readers with a contrapuntal interpretation of the collaboration between Congolese actors and the Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA). Building on Edward Said's method of contrapuntal interpretation the colonial archives and collections of the museum are the vocal point to outline the contemporary exhibition culture of the RMCA. The author argues that this collaboration is taking place in a contested 'contact zone' where different opinions, visions, perspectives and voices are present within the hierarchy of an 'exhibitionary complex'. The main argument of the article states that the name of the game is still written out by the museum itself and not by extern, subaltern voices or contrapuntal interpretations.

Other audiences: museums and social exclusion

Author: Fatima Brana (University of Vigo)  email

Short Abstract

Open Museum Project is an initiative by the Ribadavia’s Ethnological Museum (Ourense- Spain). This project brings cultural heritage and the functions of the museum closer to groups that do not have an easy access to a museum or other cultural activities. It is a determined step towards the inclusion.

Long Abstract

In this paper, we discuss the experience under the Open Museum Program. The aim of the program is to bring cultural heritage and the functions of the museum closer to groups that do not have an easy access to a museum or other cultural activities. The program's goal is to show the particular visions of three groups, as well as to present to them the cultural heritage the museum works on.

The program implements workshops designed specifically for three groups: inmates from the jail of Pereiro de Aguiar, Alzheimer patients who attend the workshops from the association AFAOR from Ourense (Spain), and learning impaired people who are cared for at the Red Cross day centre in Ribadavia (Ourense- Spain).

Each of these groups and organisations we work with needs a tailored design in order to work with the Museum's heritage. Therefore, the Museum staff develops every year three different workshops targeting each of these groups, and following the same topic related to the Museum's collection.

So this experience is showing us that it can be appropriate to work with ethnographic collections for the mixed public. Even more since its objective is to promote equality and to carry out activities which are aimed at inclusion and visualizing of excluded groups.

Collaborative knowledge-production: case studies from the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

Authors: Mariana Françozo (University of Leiden)  email
Jimmy Mans (Leiden University)  email
Laura Van Broekhoven (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on two projects recently carried out by the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, together with partners from Suriname and Brazil. These projects are examples of post-colonial museological praxis in which curatorial authority is shared with stakeholder communities.

Long Abstract

The National Museum of Ethnology at Leiden, The Netherlands, has been rethinking its policies on research, acquisition and presentation so as to incorporate post-colonial museological praxis as the core of its daily practicies. Since 2007 a number of pilot projects have been launched aiming at different aspects of museological work. In this paper we will focus on two projects carried out with our partners in Suriname and Brazil. Both of them revolve around sharing our collections with stakeholder communities and creating opportunities for collaborative and co-creative knowledge production. This paper will describe these two projects, analyze the impact and meanings of initiatives such as community consultations, and dicuss possibilities for future developments.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.