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tion to migrations and multiculturalism—describes this very well when he writes about the conflicts which arose from the exhibition “Pour que la vie continue–D’Isère et du Maghreb” (So that life continues–From Isère and Maghreb), which put French repatriates and citizens of Algerian origin side-by-side, each with their own claims and open wounds (Duclos 2008). This remark by Ercole Sori warns against the worst enemy of migration museums: naivety. Joachim Baur relates the comment by historian John Hope Franklin about the opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum: “No one in the black community is really excited about the Statue of Liberty. We came here on slave ships, not via Ellis Island” (Baur 2010, 6). The vast literature about “rival” or “conflicting heritages” which has appeared in recent years (Sandell 2002, 2007; Karp et al. 2006; Labrador 2010; Sandell and Nightingale 2012) is there to show the complexity of museum work in the present day. Who should be represented? What exhibitory method is most suitable for telling the story in an attractive way, without sacrificing the truth? What should be put under the lens of the observer? Tracing a history of “European’s migrant conscience” would be far too ambitious for this short essay. Still, the central question is: why now? When is a nation—a territory, a community—ready to represent its migratory experience? Nancy L. Green wonders about the CNHI in Paris:

the pertinent question for historians seems to be why now? After two centuries of immigration to France, three decades of historiography on the subject and twenty years of museum projects at a time when the impoverished suburbs have erupted, when the sans-papiers (undocumented immigrants) continue to make headline news, and when debates over history and memory and France’s colonial past have made a resurgence, why have the French decided to commemorate their immigrant ancestors now? More generally, why do questions of memory arise at certain moments and not at others? (Green 2007)

Joachim Baur tries to answer these questions starting from the nonEuropean museums, but his answer might just as well be applied to the European ones. Migration museums were born during—or as a consequence of—the museum boom of the 1980s. Moreover, “museum popularity” goes hand in hand with the “musealisation of the popular,” a consequence of the expansion of the field of social studies which took place in the 1970s and 1980s. The shift from a single story (in Anglo-Saxon countries, that of the “winners,” of the colonisers, and only later that of the “first nations”) to a multifaceted, pluralistic history would thus be a necessary condition for migrations to be represented in museums (Baur 2002). In the case of Europe, we could also add that, in certain countries, in particular in Scandinavia, Ireland and Germany, migration museums represent the answer to the need—prevalent mostly among US and Canadian citizens—to go back to family roots, to search one’s origins, to trace one’s ancestry. After the museum boom, we should talk about a genealogy boom, the reason for the growing popularity of “heritage

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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...

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