About the museums social commission and the museological analysis
The article begins with the question if the traditional role of the museum is to prevent the disappearance of material evidence of culture, in order to make exhibitions and visualise “culture”. The theme of material vs immaterial culture is discussed and the question of the status of the material traces on social identity and cultural meaning making is raised. In order to discuss this in a comprehensive way the starting point is the museum staff’s common identity: the museum business as “practical”. This practical identity connects to the museum’s task to collect and preserve. However, when we look at the task of conveying knowledge, with the exhibition as a venue, then it is hardly the practical competence that makes a museum successful or not. The major claim for the museum’s advantage to other institutions in society is that it represents unique resourses for knowledge and cultural identity. This self-image is sometimes reproduced without any reflections, even in museological analyses, of which I give examples. When the museums social commission is currently under negotiation, in relation to postmodern, global, multicultural and economic influence, it is important to deal with both the internal “museum culture” and external museolocial paradigmatic interpretation, in order to achieve any possibility of change. In accordance with Elaine Hooper-Greenhill, I argue that the museum indeed can be a place of cultural self knowledge and meaning making, but this presupposes that the museum staff is open for broader theoretical approaches and are willing to implement this into their exhibitions. With an example from The Museum of National Antiquities [Historiska Museet, Stockholm] exhibition Prehistories II, I argue that museums are in a state of deconstructive change, which first and foremost challenge the idea that the museum’s main task is to deal with artefact preservation. Secondly, change will also require exhibition curators that have a scientific or at least educated knowledge about the conditions behind historical interpretation.
Lund: Inst. för kulturvetenskaper , 2009. no 2, 89-99 p.