Post-Conflict Exhibition Cultures and the Promotion of Peace: Curating Conflicts in Transnational and Postcolonial Contexts
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A series of online workshops on post-conflict exhibition cultures and the promotion of peace under the auspices of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
This first workshop will be with guest speakers Vikki Hawkins (Curator, Second World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum, London), Eleanor Rowley (University of Bath) and Kieran Burns (House of European History, Brussels).
Studies by Rosmarie Beier-de Haan and Wolfram Kaiser et al., among others, have noted a trend in the late 20th and early 21st centuries towards a museology that seeks to transcend the national frame in order to acknowledge transnational experiences and identities. While many military and war museums remain bound to narratives of national identity, even to the extent of fulfilling a dual function as memorials to the national dead in some cases, we can also identify attempts to offer multi-national and even transnational perspectives on war and conflict in museums such as the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne, the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum in Ieper, or the German-Russian Museum in Berlin-Karlshorst. More recently, calls for the decolonization of museums and public culture more widely have challenged institutions to take account of the experiences of the colonised. In this workshop, we will ask how museums around the world are responding to these challenges and consider the contribution they can make to a culture of peace through exhibitionary strategies that seek to address war in transnational or postcolonial contexts.
Vikki Hawkins (Curator, Second World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum, London)
Curating a Transnational Narrative in Imperial War Museums’ new Second World War Galleries
In 2021, the Imperial War Museum in London will open new Second World War Galleries which will seek to reposition IWM’s traditional remit of Britain and the Empire within a global context. The aim is to broaden our focus to include the millions of people from all sides who were embroiled in the conflict. This will allow for understanding of the experiences of a wider range of people, and may consequently engage non-British and international visitors who have historically felt excluded from the singular interpretation of the British experience in war.
This paper will discuss the ways in which a transnational narrative of the Second World War was developed for the new galleries. It will show that objects have been selected to highlight patterns of historical events and the transnational links between them. It will suggest that the agency of curators in the process of researching, selecting and facilitating donations or loan objects impacts the way in which IWM is able to give prominence to marginalised histories. It will also suggest that despite efforts to build a more international narrative, we anticipate that some of our core audiences will be expecting the galleries to focus on the cultural memory of British national experiences such as the Blitz, rationing, and the theatres of war in which mainly British troops participated. Therefore, this paper will also examine how tensions between national and international narratives will be mitigated though discussions and workshops with community groups and academic advisors to ultimately debunk many of the myths about the Second World War.
Eleanor Rowley (University of Bath)
Archetypes and individuals: comparing the representation of transnational perspectives in two western front war museums
This paper compares the discourse and museography of two site based First World War museums: the Historial de la Grande Guerre at the Somme in France, and In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium. Both museums were established during the 1990s, a significant watershed in the conflict’s passing from communicated memory into cultural memory. Whilst the museums share a cosmopolitan ethos and conciliatory message, their distinctive museographies engage visitors with contrasting approaches. Through archival research, interviews with museum makers, and field observations this paper charts how these strategies have been consolidated at the museums in the context of the recent commemorative wave marking the centenary.
Kieran Burns (House of European History, Brussels)
Mind the Gap(s)! – Tracing Conflicting Narratives at the House of European History
The House of European History in Brussels presents the first permanent exhibition narrating history from a transnational European perspective. What is the place for narratives of war and colonialism in this context? Can a common narrative emerge from conflicting national histories? Taking my experience in developing both the 19th century imperialism and World War I galleries in this new institution, I will discuss the practical and intellectual challenges of forming inclusive and multi-perspective object-based narratives in the limited confines of the museum space.
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact email@example.com by Friday 8 January to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.
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