Page 1

International Conference

MUSEUMS AND CONTESTED HISTORIES. Between Memory and Oblivion Ljubljana, 5th and 6th October 2017 National Museum of Contemporary History, Slovenia

Book of Abstracts

International Conference

MUSEUMS AND CONTESTED HISTORIES. Between Memory and Oblivion Ljubljana, 5th and 6th October 2017 National Museum of Contemporary History, Slovenia

Book of Abstracts



Aleksandra Berberih Slana, president of Slovene Museum Association


useums can serve as media, and very powerful ones! This is why we as employees are faced with a great responsibility, accounting for the information transferred to our visitors based on our interpretation. Being perhaps the only ones that are trusted by the public to provide accurate information, it is our task to remain credible and trustworthy. Our selection of topics of research and our interpretations are therefore of key importance. And it is of even greater importance to remain neutral in interpreting historical facts and refrain from any disfigurations. In what we do we are faced with topics that were once forgotten, pushed away or withheld. It is for us, museums, to bring such topics out in the open, explore them and “dare” to interpret them. Some museums have made a big step forward in this respect, whereas others prefer to remain on the safe side. However, in order to reach general consensus and understanding, and particularly, to create a “perfect” image of history, we have to dare, and we have to integrate the general public into our endeavours. The experience presented at the conference should be used as a guideline and a tool for museums’ future efforts.

Kaja Ĺ irok,

President of ICOM Slovenia


useums play a key role in the creation and representation of the shared cultural heritage of different communities. They have become social nodes that encourage peaceful relationships between people and the improvement of society, addressing traumatic histories through mediation and multiple points of view. The discovery of divisive histories and the ability to express what cannot be said are duties that museums must carry out as active co-shapers of society. They can help reach peaceful solutions to traumatic events from the past and foster an understanding of history that encompasses many points of view by sharing knowledge. ICOM Slovenia, the Slovene Museum Association, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana (Department of Sociology) and the National Museum of Contemporary History are organizing an international conference aimed at answering questions about the understanding of hidden histories and the interpretation of cultural heritage today. We are interested in the ways in which collective memories that do not correspond to the dominant historical narratives interact (or do not interact) with the national narrative and how this is reflected in museum exhibitions. What stories are overlooked in museums? How is undesirable and neglected history structured in individual historical periods? What forms and what dismantles public consensus about which heritage should be preserved and in what cases does it become unwanted or even denounced? How does collective memory work and where does forgetting come into play? What limits the freedom of museums and what are the roles of NGOs? What creates consensus and who dictates the interpretation of the past – the professional sphere or politics? Tackling with this questions, the conference provides us with a better understanding of the role of museums as tools for creating peaceful communities and an overview of such implementations in different national environments.

Programme THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2017 Morning coffee

9:30: Opening remarks 9:50: Keynote speech:

Taja Vovk van Gaal (House of European History, Brussels, Belgium), Contested History: European Approach 10:40: Coffee break 10:50: Panel 1:

• Marcin Jarząbek (Institute of History, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

New Museums and Old Problems. Upper Silesian heritage and Polish politics of memory in the 21st century

• Kaja Širok (National Museum for Contemporary History, Slovenia; Faculty of Arts University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Narrating the 20th century: the reinterpretation and transformation of “difficult” museums

• Nataša Jagdhuhn (Europäisches Kolleg Jena, Germany), Affirming historical

continuity: The Second World War – through the lens of the most recent wars

12:10: Coffee break 12:30: Panel 2: •

Elma Hašimbegović (Museum of history of Bosnia and Herzegovina),

Tonček Kregar (Museum of Recent History Celje, Slovenia), Between (re)inter-

What happens when once shared heritage becomes unwanted?

pretation and revisionism: The case of Museum of Recent History Celje

Aleksandra Berberih Slana (National Liberation Museum Maribor, Slovenia), From a museum of war to the Museum for Peace

13:50: Lunch break 15:10: Panel 3:

• Višnja Kisić (Center for Museology and Heritology, University of Belgrade,

Serbia), Recognizing heritage dissonance and contestations – implications on contemporary museum practices

• Ina Belcheva (University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, France), The social-

ist past trough socialist art: the search for a museum representation of the socialist period in Bulgaria

• Blaž Vurnik (Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana / City Museum of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Entering the Privacy of Distant Childhoods. The Research on the Hidden Children in Ljubljana during the Second World War

(till 16:30)

16:30 - 18:00

Visit of the exhibition Temporary Boarder. Life and Longing in zone A (1945-1947) with discussion

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2017 Morning coffee 9:00: Panel 4:

• Alenka Černelič Krošelj (The Posavje Museum Brežice, Slovenia), Hidden and contested stories of Posavje, a small region in the “big picture”

• Sanda Kočevar (The City Museum of Karlovac, Croatia), The City Museum of Karlovac and its voices of a difficult past

• Neža Čebron Lipovec (University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities, Slovenia)/ Martina Mihić/Maša Sakara Sučević, Collective memories and the therapeutic potential of sharing them: Storytelling in contested urban centers of Istria

10:20: Coffee break 10:40: Panel 5:

• Alenka Pirman (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Contemporary Artwork in the Former Political Prison’s Cells. A Case from Rajhenburg Castle

• Blaž Bajič (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Tentative observations on creative co-production of death masks

• Branko Šuštar (Slovenian School Museum, Slovenia), Museums and Problems with Educational Heritage between Memories and Oblivion

11:50: Closing remarks 12:30: Lunch break

13:30: Visit of the sites of memory of Ljubljana Optional:

19:00: Exhibition opening in Slovene Ethnographic Museum: LGBT: Razstava štirih (The exhibition of four)


Blaž Bajič — bajic.blaz@gmail.com Blaž Bajič – BSc. in ethnology and cultural anthropology, is a student of interdisciplinary doctoral studies in ethnology, cultural and social anthropology at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. His principal fields of interest are the anthropology of space and place, anthropology of the body, and popular culture, as well as anthropology of art. In TRACES he participates in the creative co-Production Casting of Death and the work package Ethnographic Research on/with Art Production.

Belcheva Ina — belcheva.ina23@gmail.com Ina Belcheva is a PhD candidate from the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. The title of her dissertation is Socialist Monuments in the Post-Socialist Public Space: conflicts, memories, aesthetics. The Bulgarian case in the South-East European context, which she is writing under the tutelage of Dominique Poulot. Belcheva has written a Master’s thesis at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) with Eric Michaud on the problem of The Monumental Sculpture in Sofia During the Establishment of the Communist Regime (1947/8 - 1956). In 2014, she also worked as a curator at the Bulgarian National Art Gallery, in its newest branch the Museum of Socialist Art.

Berberih-Slana Aleksandra — aleksandra.berberih-slana@mnom.si Aleksandra Berberih-Slana holding a PhD in contemporary history is Director of National Liberation Museum Maribor and Photography museum Maribor. Her main topic of exploration is the history of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, particularly the political history of Slovenia and Croatia. She is Chairperson of the governing body of the Slovenian Museum Association. She has extensive experience as lecturer at the Department of History, Faculty of

Education, University of Maribor, and was also visiting professor at the Department of History, Faculty of Arts, and University of Zagreb, Croatia. She has been a museum director for 11 years.

Čebron-Lipovec Neža — neza.cl@fhs.upr.si Neža Čebron Lipovec is an art historian and Master of Science in the Conservation of monuments and sites (RLICC, K.U.Leuven, Belgium). Since 2009, she has been a researcher and teaching assistant at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Primorska (Slovenia). Her main research interest concerns the interdisciplinary analysis of post-war architecture, urbanism and heritage conservation.

Mihić Martina — martina@sentoria.si Martina Mihić is a practising physiotherapist and cranio-sacral therapist, currently specializing in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the Institute of psychodynamic psychotherapy in Slovenia (European Confederation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies). In her private practice, over the last 10 years, she has been focusing on psychosomatics, and researching how psycho-behavioural patterns manifest on the body.

Sakara-Sučević Maša — masa.sucevic@pokrajinskimuzejkoper.si Maša Sakara-Sučević is in archaeologist, holding a PhD from the University of Primorska, and museum counsellor in archaeology at the Regional Museum of Koper/Capodistria. Over the last decade she has been the curator of several exhibitions; lately she has been focusing on the new permanent exhibition about the history of the town of Koper/Capodistria, named “The Heart of Koper/Capodistria”.

Černelič Krošelj Alenka — alenka.cernelic.kroselj@pmb.si Alenka Černelič Krošelj (1972) studied at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana. After the diploma in the history of art, ethnology and cultural anthropology, she has worked in different institutions and has been involved in several projects financed with EU funds. Since 30th of June 2014 she has been the director of the Posavje Museum Brežice, where she is now an acting director. She is included in different strategic and development groups and boards, organizations and societies that are involved in developing our society through and with our cultural heritage.

Hašimbegović Elma — hasimbegovice@gmail.com Elma Hašimbegović, a historian and museum professional, born in Sarajevo, holds an MA and PhD in medieval studies from the Central European University (Budapest). From 2001, she has worked at the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, holding the position of museum director from 2013. She is actively promoting the museum as a place of constructive dialogue and dealing with the past.

Jagdhuhn Nataša — jagdhuhn.natasa@gmail.com Nataša Jagdhuhn studied art and art education in Belgrade, Vienna, and Ljubljana from 2003 to 2008. After earning her degree, she worked as a freelance journalist with a focus on post-conceptual art, theatre, and performance. In 2013, she completed a Master’s degree in “Art in Context” at the Berlin University of the Arts. As an artist, curator, art and history communicator she has conceptualized and (co-)organized numerous exhibitions. She developed the concept of the educational centre at the “AVNOJ” museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 2015, she has been a research assistant and doctoral candidate at the Europäisches Kolleg Jena.

Jarząbek Marcin — marcin.jarzabek@uj.edu.pl Marcin Jarząbek (1984) – historian and sociologist; assistant professor at the Institute of History Jagiellonian University in Krakow studied at the Jagiellonian University and at the Central European University in Budapest. His doctoral dissertation was dedicated to the collective memory of the First World War veterans in interwar Poland and Czechoslovakia. President of the Polish Oral History Association (2013-2015). He is interested in the social and cultural history of modern Central Europe, especially in the fields of urban history, collective memory and identity development.

Kisić Višnja — vikac986@gmail.com Višnja Kisić, BA Art History, MA Cultural Policy and Management, PhD in Museum and Heritage Studies, is a researcher and lecturer on heritage management and policies at the Centre for Museology and Heritology at the University of Belgrade and UNESCO Chair MA in Cultural Policy and Management University of Arts Belgrade. Višnja has a number of years’ experience in both the public and civil sector in heritage, acting as Secretary General for Europa Nostra in Serbia, Board Member of the South East European Heritage Network and as a trainer, lecturer and consultant in heritage projects in SEE. Her recent research and book, Governing heritage dissonance – Promises and Realities of Cultural Policies, awarded with the European Cultural Policy Research Award, analyses the cultural policy tools aimed at using dissonant heritage in the SEE region as a means of fostering dialogue and reconciliation.

Kočevar Sanda — sanda.kocevar@gmk.hr Sanda Kočevar is a senior curator of the History department of the City Museum of Karlovac. For the last twenty years she has been dealing with the local history and its significance in a wider context, especially the period of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Kregar Tone — tone.kregar@mnzc.si Tone Kregar (1971), MA and PhD in History, has published several books and many scientific articles on relevant subjects in the Slovene academic literature and periodicals. As a museum professional, he focuses on local and national 20th - century history with a special emphasis on museum presentations of dark and violent periods and phenomena in history. For his museological work he received the most prestigious Slovene museology award, the Valvasor Award in 2000 and two Valvasor Prizes in 2006.

Pirman Alenka — alenka.pirman@gmail.com Alenka Pirman (1964) is a PhD student of Heritage Studies at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. Since 1991 she has worked as a visual artist, collaborating with various museums (e.g. The Case. Art & Criminality project, executed with the Slovene Police Museum). She is also a founding member of the Domestic Research Society, engaged in collaborative and interdisciplinary research in contemporary art.

Širok Kaja — kaja.sirok@muzej-nz.si Kaja Širok is a historian, researcher, translator, assistant professor of cultural history and Director of the Slovenian National Museum of Contemporary History. In 2003, Širok graduated in History and the Italian Language at the University of Ljubljana. Her doctoral thesis, titled “Collective Memory and Collective Forgetfulness on the Border. Memories of Gorizia 1945–47”, received an award from the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad. As a grantee of the Italian government, Širok continued her studies as

a post-grad at the Department of History of the University of Bologna, researching Italian post-war historical narratives. Širok is currently a lecturer of cultural history and cultural heritage and regularly publishes articles on cultural history, commemorations, national discourses, memorial studies, and practices of historical visualization in Slovenian and international journals. She is always trying to connect her academic practice with her cultural and educational activities.

Šuštar Branko — branko.sustar@guest.arnes.si Branko Šuštar is a historian, an archivist and museologist oriented to the history of education. In the last 25 years he worked for the Slovenian School Museum, the national museum of education in Ljubljana (Slovenia) as curator, during the period of reconstruction and introduced a new pedagogical programme “old school lessons in my grandma’s classroom” and also served as museum director 1998-2006, then as a museum counsellor. His work is also connected with the journal “School Chronicle / Šolska kronika”. From 2013 to 2016 he was board member of ICOM Slovenia. In the last few years he has been President of HAS - Historical Association of Slovenia.

Vurnik Blaž — blaz.vurnik@mgml.si Blaž Vurnik is the head of curators and a curator for contemporary history at the City Museum of Ljubljana. He earned his PhD in history at the University of Ljubljana in 2013. He is author of several historic books, scientific articles, documentary screenplay and occasionally comic book stories. His main topic of professional interest are both world wars, social history of 20th century and disintegration of Yugoslavia. In 2015, he was awarded the ICOM Slovenia Award for the project Hidden Children of the Second World War.

Bajič Blaž

Tentative observations on the creative co-production of death masks

Contentious heritage and the processes of its transmission are the

focus of the Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From the Intervention to Co-production (TRACES) project. The project’s

goals are to “develop a rigorous, creative and all-round investigation into contentious cultural heritages, and to experiment with innovative research methodologies” in order to contribute to an “European

imagination /…/ shaped by self-awareness, on-going critical reflec-

tion, and dialogue across different positions” (http://www.traces.

polimi.it/about/). On a more practical level, the core of TRACES is

constituted by a number of experimental art-based, but nonetheless multi-disciplinary research actions, or “creative co-productions,”

each focusing on a specific case of contentious heritage. In addition,



the creative co-productions are supplemented and supported by theoretically and methodologically oriented “work packages.”

One of the creative co-productions is based in Ljubljana and is

focused on the phenomenon of death masks. Nowadays, the masks

seem to largely be forgotten, lost in the depots and are often being

omitted from the newly rearranged memorial rooms (e.g. Plečnik house). Thus when addressing the masks, one of the questions the members of the said creative co-production regularly return to is

the question of their contentiousness; in what ways, if at all, are the masks contentious, and for whom? While the masks are – as

objects used in the promotion of specific societal and political pro-

jects in the late 19th and early 20th century, namely nationalization

and bourgeoization, and all but forgotten objects of memorialization

– in themselves indeed an interesting phenomenon to explore, they will not constitute the topic of this paper. In the paper, I will, presupposing that as heritage the masks are not ready-made, but are constantly and actively socially constructed, rather focus on the ways in which the members of the Ljubljana creative co-production ex-

plore, document, talk about, present and represent (or plan to do so)

the death masks, and how do they reflect on their own practices and

roles. My observations are based on participant observation (with) in the group and are, to a certain extent, also auto-ethnographic as

I contribute to the ongoing research and indirectly to emergent artistic practices of presenting and representing (purportedly) conten-

tious heritage. By sketching some of the ways of working that are being developed in TRACES I will, in conclusion, address some of the advantages and weaknesses of creative co-production.


Belcheva Ina

The socialist past through socialist art: the search for a museum representation of the socialist period in Bulgaria



With the political changes of 1989, all representation of the socialist period disappeared from Bulgarian museums. For more than a de-

cade all permanent exhibitions in historical and artistic museums would stop at the year 1944 and offer no explanation or an attempt for representation of the second half of the 20th century.

In a memory conflicted society, where every attempt to talk

about the recent past is seen with suspicion and where historical narratives change constantly, the least researched domain (in the

Bulgarian case) the artistic one becomes a refuge of what is seen as the truth. This is how we could explain, not only the numerous tem-

porary exhibitions dedicated to the art of the period of socialism that started in the late 1990s and that continue to be made until today,

but also the opening in 2011, after countless discussions, of the first

state museum dedicated to the period of socialism in Bulgaria: the

Museum of Socialist Art. And while it was welcomed mainly with

disappointment from the carriers of both traumatic and nostalgic memories of the past, as it managed to evade the historical narrative

and it concentrated on exhibiting a small selection of 45 years of artistic production, it remains an important political gesture.

We would like to examine the role of art in dealing with the diffi-

cult and controversial past of socialism in Bulgaria. Following the debates for the creation of a museum of the socialist period, art is

viewed as the most authentic and less contestable vestige of the

past and thus becomes the centre for debate. Looking at key art exhi-

bitions from before and after the opening of the Museum of Socialist Art, we are arguing that art plays a role in both acknowledging the

value of socialist heritage and in presenting the different aspects of the Bulgarian socialist past.


Berberih-Slana Aleksandra

From a museum of war to a Museum for Peace



The National Liberation Museum Maribor was founded in 1958,

having evolved from a collection on the Second World War, i.e. the National Liberation struggle which was formed within the Maribor Regional Museum in 1947. Since its foundation, the museum has explored the contemporary history of north-eastern Slovenia. Howev-

er, the stories presented in the museum were in fact mainly stories of war. The first exhibition was dedicated to the fight for the northern Slovenian border and General Maister, whereas the long-lasting per-

manent exhibition explored the Second World War. This remained unchanged until Slovenia’s independence in 1991 when the Second

World War turned into a secondary topic. The museum then grew emptier each year since nobody was interested in discussing war

and its atrocities, post-war massacres, Germans in Maribor and national issues, etc.

What then is the role of the museum, its items, photographs and

documents? These are all evidence for the museum to build its credibility. The role of the museum as a medium is immeasurable: it is

a medium that people trust. And material evidence aside, trust is something we can build upon. This is the realization that has been

used as the basis to introduce a new approach in the museum, posing questions that had been otherwise avoided, exploring and discussing the history that had been previously withheld, challenging and

attracting the local community. The recent refugee crisis has triggered the Museum for Peace, youth workshops that are provocative

as well as educational, building on past evidence to make young people face their own and others’ prejudices and stereotypes, to learn

about the world of today and of the past. From a museum of war to a Museum for peace, bravely and open-mindedly.


Čebron-Lipovec Neža, Mihić Martina, Sakara-Sučević Maša

Collective memories and the therapeutic potential of sharing them: storytelling in the contested urban centres of Istria

The contested border lands represent challenging case-studies for

the developing conservation practice and museology as they seek plural values-assessments and interpretation based on multivocali-

ty (Rodman 1992). Architectural heritage as a material reminder can either be a site of contrast but also a site of sharing. Istria, the bor-

derland between Slovenia and Italy, is an eloquent, yet idiosyncratic example: as a buffer-zone between “democratic West” and “commu-

nist East” in the 20th century, it was “the most open border within the iron curtain” and played a key geo-strategic role on the political

chessboard that conveyed tectonic shifts in the region’s population. Then this historical contact area, for a 500-year part of Venetian

Serenissima, became part of socialist Slovenia within Yugoslavia. Consequently, the prevalently Italian-speaking urban population

left and the emptied towns settled by newcomers from Slovenia and 22


Yugoslavia. Its historic cities (Koper/Capodistria, Izola/Isola, Piran/ Pirano) are today considered heritage, yet their majoritarian inhabit-

ants barely have personal relationships with them and their history. Conversely, the micro-stories, linked to pre-war periods, about sites

are mainly preserved within marginalized groups of an Italian mi-

nority. Conversely, post-war new-comers have developed an entirely different link to the places.

Conservation and museum practices thus face a challenge: which

values to preserve in the name of who? How to unveil the forgotten/

suppressed/silenced memories and the related information regarding the sites and their values? How to motivate the inhabitants to share their memories and views? What is the effect that such sharing can have on the inhabitants themselves and their relationship to herit-

age? Searching for answers, an initiative named “I’m telling the story of the town” was set up in 2012 in the Regional Museum of Koper/Capodistria, where local inhabitants of different provenances were the main actors - sharing among each other their memories. The results

had a plural effect: precious material information have been docu-

mented, these public group events became a driving force in mutually discovering common identifiers among community members but the differences as well. At the same time, fundamental discrepancies emerged between official and personal memories. Considering that museums could be (or are?) places “where people come to understand themselves” (Uzzell 1998), also by “talking to each other” (Blud 1990),

such public group events acquire a strong (psycho)therapeutic poten-

tial in terms of group therapy. In this contribution, we shall look into the concepts underlying the initiative, its framework and results; the

latter will be analysed through the lens of group therapy (Yalom 2005). 23

Černelič Krošelj Alenka

Hidden and contested stories of Posavje, a small region in the “big picture”

The Posavje Museum Brežice is a regional museum situated in a small

region that was and still is an important part of the “big picture”, especially because of its geographical position on the way from Europe

to Asia and back. Therefore our heritage is the same as the European and is connected with large migrations and permanent changes. We recognized and determined this in two of our museum statements

that we established in 2014: our museum is a place where tribes, families and generations of the Posavje plains and hills meet and is a

place where the lifestyles of the Posavje inhabitants and newcomers are knitted into a display of rich cultural heritage. 24


But do we act in this manner and is it really so that anyone that

enters the great doors of the castle Brežice (musem), gets the experi-

ence of what we state or we just tell them “popular and nice stories”? We have already started to tell stories that were not “popular”

- like the story of Janez Vladimir Cerjak, conscripted into the Ger-

man Army in 2015 within the project “Coming home”. The same question of what is suitable in a touristic town that should be all

about beauty and leisure opened when we created an open air street

exhibition about Slovenian exiles from 1941 to 1945 in four languages to show this important and difficult part of history to many tourists from abroad. The aim is not to blame the many tourists from Italy and Germany for what their ancestors did but to promote the need for peaceful relationships between people and nations.

Do we have a positive role in creating a peaceful community for

all, when we address the question of the Roma/Gypsy community in the region? This is contested heritage of the region and the community in the Roma/Gypsy village made their own museum without

our regional museum. Are they to blame? We organized guidance through our permanent exhibition and tried to show objects and tell

stories that are connected with the Roma/Gypsies in Posavje. A difficult task because this was and still is forgotten or overlooked heritage in our museum.

This year, the main theme for the international museum day gave

us a special push to take a new deeper insight into our work through new not-so-nice questions that we are aware of, but we usually overlook them or “save them for later”.


Hašimbegović Elma

What happens when once shared heritage becomes unwanted? Museums play a key role in the creation and representation of the shared cultural heritage of different communities. How do they operate in a country where the shared cultural heritage and history are not wanted? The History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a direct collateral of the political context of the country where no political will for promoting shared heritage means no budget for the state’s cultural institutions. For more than twenty years the History Museum of BIH has, together with six other cultural institutions, been facing the problem of no state care, with no legal founder, and consequently no funding. Could this difficult situation be turned into a strength? How to use the lack of state interest as an advantage in order to talk more openly about the unspeakable and most contested? The presentation will discuss challenges and opportunities of being a state museum with no state support.



Jagdhuhn Nataša

Affirming historical continuity: the Second World War – through the lens of the most recent wars The aim of this text is to categorize the tendencies – the museo(ideo) logical movements and turns – in the transformation of the memorial Second World War museums in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia, by focusing on the following research questions: How many memorial Second World War museums remained after the dissolution of Yugoslavia? Which strategies have curators used to revitalize these museums? How has the designation of Second World War images (of the museum artefacts) been developing since the breakup of Yugoslavia? How the breakup of Yugoslavia influenced and changed the perception of the Second World War? As the collapse of Yugoslavia demanded a new museal form and a new interpretation of history, I claim that memorial museums – in all three of the mentioned countries – as actors involved in the post-Yugoslav nation building process are using similar tactics in the musealization of the Second World War: cleansing the museal narrative of communist ideology; the addition of ethnographic collections for the purpose of transformation into regional based museums; the commercialization, ‘rebranding‘ of the historic site; the introduction of religious rituals into museums; a reflexive approach i.e. exhibitions untouched from the Yugoslav period; the installation of exhibitions dedicated to the wars of the nineties parallel with the Second World War exhibitions. In my lecture, I will examine in particular the last curatorial strategy: affirming historical continuity: Second World War – through the lens of the most recent wars


JarzÄ…bek Marcin

New Museums and Old Problems. Upper Silesian heritage and Polish politics of memory in the 21st century



The ideas of the “new museology” came to Central and Eastern Eu-

rope at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. New museums with

big narrative expositions became tools to modernize and popular-

ize this institution and - at the same time - to formulate a powerful

narrative about those elements of the (national) past that were not

present in the public sphere before 1989/1991. Therefore, museal exhibitions have been, since the beginning, a highly political issue there: the House of Terror in Budapest or Museum of the Warsaw Up-

rising in Warsaw etc., had not only political connotations, but also politically influential exhibitions. This “come back” of the (forgot-

ten) national history was however quite problematic when it came

to histories which did not go along with the national framework. i.e., regions, borderlands, minorities, gender etc.

The paper focuses on one of the examples of such an uneasy

relationship between the dominating national memory policy and

the heritage of a borderland region. Two museums in Upper Silesia

(a region with a Polish-German-Czech past) opened in 2014 (Museum of the Silesian Uprisings in Świętochłowice) and 2016 (a permanent exhibition “The light of history. History of Upper Silesia”

in the Silesian Museum in Katowice) presented the first modern nar-

rative exhibitions about the key issues of modern regional history. Both of them touched on the historical specificity of this borderland province, although they both openly take a Polish perspective on it. In the case of the historical exhibition in the Silesian Museum, an

initial conception has significantly evolved because of the political pressure insisting on limiting the presence of those themes that did

not fit the national memory framework. Changes to the exhibition

and the whole debate around it have presented the limits of the possibility to formulate an independent regional museal narrative in contemporary Poland.


Kisić Višnja

Recognizing heritage dissonance and contestations – implications on contemporary museum practices



Recognizing the newly discursive acceptance of contested heritage

in museums, this paper argues that in dealing with contested herit-

age, the main shift that should take place is not just in addressing controversial and painful moments from the past, but in recognizing

heritage dissonance and the multiplicity of interpretations, experi-

ences, events and voices that have been unspoken, ignored and mar-

ginalized in museums (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996; Smith 2006; McDonald 2008, 2016; Kisić 2016). This shift of recognizing heritage as intrinsically dissonant and plural, challenges the seemingly neu-

tral museum practices and apolitical position historically claimed

by museums, and creates numerous implications for the practices of collecting, research, protection, interpretation, presentation, education and communication in the museum field. In analysing selected

cases that have dealt with heritage dissonance in museums – “Yugoslavia from beginning till the End” (Museum of Yugoslavia), “Imagining the Balkans: Identities and Memory in the Long 19th Century”

(UNESCO SEE cooperation with twelve national museums), “History Unfolds” (National History Museum, Sweden) and “Case Koen” (Museum of City of Hoern) – I draw out the implications of introducing dissonance in contemporary museum practices. These include the use of participative methods of heritage making, co-manage-

ment and interpretation such as personal collecting, crowd-collect-

ing, oral histories, crowd-curating, open discussions and artistic

interventions. Each of these can contribute to starting a dialogue

around the past and remembrance, encouraging multiperspectivity and multivocality in the museum field.


KoÄ?evar Sanda

The City Museum of Karlovac and its voices of a difficult past

The paper would try to examine the concept and interpretation of the difficult heritage and hidden histories in the City Museum of Kar-

lovac, Croatia. Based on a comparative analysis of the archival documents and press clippings, the author would scrutinize the complex

heritage of wars on the Karlovac territory (the First World War, the Second World War and the Croatian War of Independence) and its in-

terpretation and reflection in the Museum’s permanent (since 1996)



and temporary exhibitions (since the 1950s) as well as in the public space. The paper would also show the fluid and even paradoxical changing of the view on what was considered to be an overlooked

story from the traumatic Karlovac past and why at a certain period.

The heritage embodied in the material findings is a constituent part of identity making. This process of identity making through herit-

age is highly selective and emphasizes only the triumphs, victories and sacrifices in this struggle for recognition. Other events, findings,

monuments, people and stories that do not fit into such narratives are usually officially and publicly ignored, elided, physically removed from the space and discourse or even demolished.

At the same time it would discuss the Utopian view of the almost

therapeutic role of museums in fostering the mutual understanding, accepting the differences and their position as co-shapers of a har-

monized society. The truth is rather bleak – the museums, especially these of a local character correspond with the dominant national

narrative. The author would also try to answer to what extent the

museum professionals are independent in their interpretation of the past, what the criteria and standards in choosing stories are and whether the curators are (un)able to cope with the pressure of mundane politics and the public or not.

A changing paradigm in the whole of Croatian society towards its

past, based on the lack of critical reflection, as well as the influence

of the mass media and the revival of nationalistic ideology could be easily traced and seen in the museum narratives and interpretations.


Kregar Tone

Between (re)interpretation and revisionism: The case of the Museum of Recent History Celje

The current social reality in Slovenia is still heavily burdened by the heritage of the ideological conflicts on Slovenia’s territory, which

reached their peak during the Second World War and directly after

it. In the decades after the war, this history was interpreted one-sidedly in line with the perceptions and needs of the ruling communist regime, which helped spread its ideology with ‘museums of the rev-

olution’. This included the Museum of the Revolution Celje, the predecessor of the today’s Museum of Recent History Celje.

The democratic changes in the second half of the 1980s and early

1990s brought a new era with regard to the attitude to the past. Mu-

seums gradually took the path of thematic and conceptual changes,



this museum being among the first when, in cooperation with the Gorenjska Museum, in 1990, i.e. still within the previous political

system and before the formal renaming of the museum, it organized an important exhibition about Slovenes who had been mobilized

into the German armed forces. This was one of the first times that a

Slovene museum dealt with content that had hitherto not been spoken about and which could to a large extent be classified as difficult heritage. Gradually other, even more difficult and complex themes

followed, and this process of the de-ideologization of the museum and its content was well received by the wider public. Moreover, we also assuaged the initial fears of Partisan veterans, members of the

antifascist resistance and the victims of the Nazi regime that all the formerly valid history in the museum would be wiped out and devalued.

Instead, we (re)interpreted the facts that were now stripped of

their ideological ballast in a more complete manner and showed them in an up-to-date fashion. Although this approach did elicit criticism from some who had expected more radical standpoints and steps and in spite of the new interpretations of the past, we were

maintaining a professional ethic and methodology, and with them also scepticism towards any new singularly acceptable Truths and (politically motivated) rewriting of history.

However, this in no way lessens our present and future responsi-

bility towards and treatment of difficult heritage, including our own. It is an unfinished process, whereby difficult heritage in Slovenia

cannot remain limited to the issues relating to the Second World War.


Pirman Alenka

Contemporary Artwork in the Former Political Prison’s Cells. A Case from Rajhenburg Castle.



On the 1st of December 2012 the Municipality of Krško officially

opened the renovated Rajhenburg castle. On the first floor of the

northern wing, a few steep steps led to three small rooms with a low ceiling. The visitor could read that he was about to enter “the prison”. In there he stumbled upon an art installation with an enigmatic title 16432. The exhibition by Polona Demšar, a sculptor, was the only art

installation in the castle, which was clearly in a dialogue with the space and its history (it was on display from 2012 until 2016). What

was its role in addressing the visitor? To which prison did it refer to? In my paper I will follow the path of a contemporary artwork to

an in situ installation in a historical museum building. I will take into

account two perspectives: the conservator’s evaluation of the exist-

ing traces of the former penal and correctional activities in the castle on the one hand and the reasoning of the newly appointed public

institution in charge of the management of the public programmes

at the Rajhenburg castle museum on the other. My research will be based on the conservation documentation and interviews with the conservator and the museum staff.

Changes in the cultural heritage discourse have brought forth

contested cultural heritage. In exhibiting collections or historical facts that we understand today as contentious, museums have been

making use of different strategies and one of them is to cooperate with contemporary artists. The aim of my paper is to critically ad-

dress the following research questions: who can be the initiator of such a collaboration? What are the motives on each side, and what

does each expect from the other and how do they address the public? What can an artist do that a curator cannot?


Širok Kaja

Narrating the 20th century: the reinterpretation and transformation of “difficult” museums



Can museums be active actors of social change? Can they become open-minded institutions where various interpretations and valorisations of the contested past is narrated and presented? In my presentation I will focus on the themes connected with understanding

the politicization of museums and museum contents and, consequently, the mediation of memory narratives through exhibitions

that thematise events of recent past history. I start out from the view that it is not unimportant how objects (and collections) are collected and how they are preserved. Especially, I will focus on how certain

periods of time (and collections) became the subject of reinterpretation for the needs of confirming new political discourses, which had

the function either of protecting the values and meanings of certain events or its complete discrediting. Museum exhibits have become the subject of the “fight for memory� and the bearers of interpretations that have preserved the chosen image of the past. The revi-

sion and creation of new dominant narratives are today mirrored in

the openings of new museums, showing new museum exhibits and especially by giving a totally new interpretation of the museum objects (and visual material) in the exhibitions.

In the focus of the interpretation are mainly found the valori-

sation and discrediting of the course of the Second World War and how this should be commemorated. A similar situation took place in

many European countries, and indicated the problematic relation to

the past, especially how the past, particularly its agentic capacity in

relation to the present, was understood and experienced; also how this should be performed and what role it should have in public remembering, such as in museums and heritage sites.


Šuštar Branko

Museums and Problems with Educational Heritage between Memories and Oblivion

The article presents the dilemmas of the presentations of the dissonant heritage of the history of education, which are relevant in museums of education and also other museums with exhibitions on

schools, teaching and the topic of education. Education has always been the ruling conceptual framework of each period with the dom-

inance of a particular religious, political and cultural feature. In the

development of people in accordance with the changing values of the respective authorities, some ideas and people who don’t accept

the changes remain on the sidelines. How is the educational role of Protestants presented in the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy after recatholization? How did the first Yugoslav state affect the evalu-

ation of the development of the Slovenian education system until 1918? Was the attitude towards the German minority education in

the Slovenian part of Yugoslavia in what was similar to the attitude of the state authorities of Italy, Austria and Hungary towards the Slovenian education in their lands? The division in understanding

the events during the Second World War resulted in the subsequent 40


presentation of the history of education during the Second World War and especially after the year 1945.

In the period before the Second World War the so-called “Religious

exercises” of schoolchildren were problematic from time to time. The authorities were also upset over religious education between 1945

and 1952, as well as later. Besides issues of political ideological ed-

ucation in school, school symbols and Pioneer organization we can also find after 1945 issues of access to scholarships and further education. This was especially difficult for pupils and students who were not harmonized with the guidelines of the authorities. Teach-

ers with different beliefs from the ruling authorities had problems

teaching prior to 1918, but also later in disputes between liberalism and political Catholicism and especially after 1945 with the commu-

nist/socialist education. Also our refugee education during the First

World War and after the Second World War, as well as the refugee education in the 1990s mustn’t be forgotten or kept secret. It is also

interesting how museums in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc confront the socialist or Nazi heritage of education.

Each period stresses themes and values, which are close to the

stance of the authorities. Some periods, subjects and people can over time slip into oblivion also without ideological or political rea-

sons. We rarely remember former teachers. In recalling the values of the past, which also have a message for modernity, museums have

opportunities and responsibilities. Museums need to accurately present the wide diversity of knowledge transfer from different per-

spectives. Let the history of education be without overlooked and

withheld subjects, let us be always critical and directed towards people and the search for the truth.


Vurnik Blaž

Entering the Privacy of Distant Childhoods. The Research on the Hidden Children in Ljubljana during the Second World War

Te hidden children in Ljubljana who, already during the war, came to be known as ‘children in hiding’ were the children of activists, supporters of the resistance movement, partisans, killed hostages, in-

ternees and concentration camp prisoners. They were children who, due to the war, suddenly found themselves either without parents or alone with just their mothers, without any means of subsistence.

Within the framework of the Slovenian National Relief organization, the Liberation Front helped find foster families for such children and accommodation for mothers with small children who had



to hide. With the help of their activists, this organization offered assistance for the children in the form of money, food, clothes, food

ration cards and other necessities of life. The system providing help and care to these children involved Ljubljana-based doctors, lawyers, merchants and others whose help was needed. The occupation

authorities searched for some children who therefore had to remain

in hiding or, alternately, their foster families or places of residence had to be changed several times. That is why some children lived with foster carers under false names.

The research by the City Museum of Ljubljana was mainly ori-

ented to conduct interviews with those who experienced the fate of the hidden children. Our interviews were structured around two

main pillars. First was their memories of war, wartime Ljubljana and

their foster families. These memories had already been collected and recorded during the eighties in the initiative given by the former Lib-

eration front activists and was mainly focused on the institutional organization of help within the system of the Liberation front. We

however were interested in the memories from the distance of seven decades and in the contemporary reality of social changes and the

changes of perspective to the Second World War in the part of Slo-

vene society. The second pillar of our research was the question that

regarded the after-war childhoods of the hidden children and the relationships, that developed inside the primary families after the one

or both parents returned home. While most of the interviewees were

comfortable or even eager to speak about the war period and their relations (good or bad) with foster families, most of them were emotionally challenged when asked about the after-war period.


Tito's death mask (kept by National Museum of Contemporary History). Titova posmrtna maska (hrani Muzej novejĹĄe zgodovine Slovenije).

Profile for MNZS - National Museum of Contemporary History

Museums and Contested Histories. Between Memory and Oblivion: Book of Abstracts  

Book of abstracts from the international conference, referring to the official International Museum Day 2017 topic, held in Ljubljana betwee...

Museums and Contested Histories. Between Memory and Oblivion: Book of Abstracts  

Book of abstracts from the international conference, referring to the official International Museum Day 2017 topic, held in Ljubljana betwee...

Profile for muzejnzs