Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Challenging Museums: Rethinking Institutional Norms and Practices

Funding European Union via CIVIS network (Hub 2: Society, Culture, Heritage) for the activities in 2022
PIs Dr. Judith Dehail (Aix-Marseille Université)
Prof. Dr. Marlen Mouliou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Prof. Dr. Thomas Thiemeyer (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen)
Duration 2022 - 2023

For a long time, museum collections served the construction and legitimization of scientific disciplines such as anthropology, but also medicine, biology or history, without their constitution being really questioned. From the 1980s and 1990s, the emerging perspectives of the "New Museology" began to question collecting practices themselves. These questions necessarily led to others concerning the construction of scientific knowledge and collective memory. The practice of scientific collection (notably in the framework of ethnographic fieldwork in a “colonial situation") and its political role began to be questioned. The practice of selection of narratives operated by the exhibition became an object of study, as well as the conservation practices at work in museums, that began to be analyzed through the prism of the relationships between power and knowledge.

The first summer school in Marseille (in July 2022) is on “Colonial Legacies” in the City. It will thus focus on the highly political role of heritage collections in the construction of so-called "legitimate" knowledge and collective memory, as well as on the ways in which the constitution and use of these collections are questioned today. This trace will be followed by the subsequent summer schools in Athens and Tübingen as well. They focus on the societal role of museums in political settings that are highly contested currently (refugee legacies) and on different epistemological framings that become more and more visible and contested in the context of global encounters (e. g. with regard to the role of collections from colonial contexts or with reference to power relations within and outside museums). The general aim of the project Challenging Museums is therefore to address the question of the (political) engagement of museums and museum workers regarding current social and societal crisis and to take into account that museum work and museum theory depend always on specific world views and standpoints.