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european museums in the 21st century: setting the framework (vol. 2) — 339

some of the emerging identity dilemmas of the “second modern age” or “late modernity”? (Macdonald 2003, 1)

[…] I would like to propose an interpretation of the birth of museums of immigration as a strategy to overcome the crisis in the concept of nation in museums. The thesis I propose is based on the reading of the internal dynamics of these places, which, despite the diversity of their collections, are characterized by a presentation of immigration as a transversal narration and, starting from this consideration, the exhibition of an “imagined community” for migrants. In this way the various stories of immigrants from different origins are not only intertwined, but also blended with the stories of the early settlers, who were themselves immigrants, thus connected to a wider framework.. Thus immigration museums can operate as a stage for the harmonisation of dissonant cultural heritages, as well as a platform for a multicultural re-visioning of the nation. The concept of “re–vision” evokes two different ideas: a renewal of contents and a structural consolidation of the concept of nation. The first aspect involves the recognition of the history of those who have long been marginalized, the re–evaluation of the counter–narratives of non-hegemonic groups and, above all, the shift from homogenizing attitudes to a mentality encouraging cultural diversity. The second aspect appears in the growing inclusion of multiple narrations in a migration masternarrative. These ones tend to gather and regulate the imaginations, which have been stretching beyond the limits of the nation state. The immigration museums act as tools for re–centring the politics of identity (above all ethnic identity), as places of national identity politics, ensued by gathering and assimilating particular political identities. They can also operate as a “staging ground” (Annis 1986) for the reformed nation, in the name of multiculturalism. Thus, immigration museums can be intended as a boundary and a continuation from previous museums that represented the nation. As far as concerns the aspect regarding continuity, [...] it is necessary to note to what extent social inequalities and conflicts are omitted, when exhibiting a migrant “imagined community,” or represented through the valorization of cultural diversity, in the name of ethnicization and culturalization. What is at stake is also the relationship between exhibition and appearances, which is characteristic of the national meta-narrative, in other words between exhibitions, history and the perspectives of the indigenous population: it is important to clarify and, more generally, to think about how, in presenting a mainly inclusive narrative, specific forms of exclusion may be produced.

Source: Baur, Joachim. 2009. Die Musealisierung der Migration. Einwanderungsmuseen und die Inszenierung dermultikulturellen Nation. Bielefeld: Transcript, 57-68. Text translated by Matteo Ghidotti and John Elkington.

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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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