Page 25

european museums in the 21st century: setting the framework (vol. 2) — 315

If the museum was born to strengthen the idea of nation both in its physical and symbolic borders, it is evident that displaying mobility raises a number of questions about the nature, the ownership and the role of the mobile objects displayed; about new, blurred geographies; about an ever-changing political panorama that repeatedly redefines individual and social identities. As Kerstin Poehls remarks together with museums of migration [exhibitions] navigate in this contested field of Europeanisation, and they do so along with political parties and activists, scientists from various disciplines, media and public opinion— a broad field and a complex discourse with numerous participants where nothing even close to a consensus has been reached (and where any such consensus is probably not even desirable). Its omnipresence effectively turns migration into a classical ‘boundary object.’ (Poehls 2012)

If it is true that temporary exhibitions are the precursors of museums, insofar as they can open up dialogic spaces and deal with provocations and highly contemporary issues with some sort of “freedom” or more courageous attitude, it must be recognised that the “blurring effect,” as Poehls calls it, produced by this plethora of exhibitions, reflects perfectly the confusion and lack of sense of identity that goes hand in hand with widespread euro-scepticism.

In the “immigration countries,” such as Canada, Australia, the USA, Brazil and Argentina, for evident historical reasons, the reflection has a different departure point and is much older, having experienced a peak in the Nineties, though still being very active and involved in a process of continuous redefinition. The Migration Museum in Adelaide was inaugurated in 1986; the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York in 1990; in 1994, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (N.Y.); in 1998, the Immigration Museum in Melbourne and the Memorial do Imigrante in São Paulo; in 1999, Pier 21 in Halifax, Canada; in 2001, the Museo Nacional de la Inmigración in Buenos Aires. Joachim Baur’s thesis is that in Canada, the USA and Australia, the building of autonomous immigration museums can be substantially considered a reaction to the crisis of narrations capable of promoting a sense of the community and to the diversification of cultural identities. Representing immigration as a socially unifying experience, museums build a Meistererzählung [master narrative, n.d.a.] of migration, and in this way they work at revisioning the nation’s imagined community. (Baur 2010, 2)

From impulse to calling into question the nation, the transnational phenomenon of migration becomes the basis for its narrative constitution. The main character of the immigration museum becomes, then, “representing immigration as a choral epic, capable of creating integration” (ibid., 2–3). Should we argue that where the concept of nation and of national identity is historically stronger (such as in most European states)—although, of course, this might be debatable—the need to harmonise the “dissonant

Profile for POLITECNICO DI MILANO-DPA

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

Advertisement