Museums and national identities

January 18, 2012

How museums are used and can be used to create a sense of community and identity is the theme for an event as part of the EuNaMus project. The event takes place in Brussels on 25 January.

Creating new national museums is a growing trend, both globally and within Europe. The challenge is to create unity and a common understanding of the history in evolving multi-ethnic and multicultural countries. However the challenge is not new, says Peter Aronsson, professor in Cultural Heritage and the Uses of History at Linköping University and coordinator of the European research project EuNaMus on Europe's national museums.

EuNaMus is a three-year project funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme. Eight European universities are involved and the project is coordinated from Sweden.

"The issue of assembling many different ethnic groups within one nation is not a new concept, just think about the great multicultural states Germany's and Italy's unification during the 1800s. National museums have long been used to create a binding element, a sense that "we belong together" in a national community, this despite their differences."

Aronsson claims that the current challenge for multicultural Europe can be addressed in two ways: either that diversity is affirmed, rendered harmless and culturally useful, or that it is seen as a threat that must be encountered by stronger integration.

Parallel to the issue of a national community is the one what Europeans actually have in common. Several other initiatives are also underway to create European museums.

These initiatives and trends will be discussed at an outreach event of the EuNaMus project in Brussels on 25 January. This will be followed by a more scientific conference on 26 and 27 January that will address how a conflict-ridden history is to be handled at national museums. One example that will be brought to the fore is Europe's dark colonial history.
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Linköping University

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