Call for Conference Papers
National Museums in a Changing Europe
12-14 December 2012
Central European University
Conference of the Eunamus research consortium studying ‘National Museums, Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past, and the European Citizen’.
This conference is an opportunity to bring together researchers studying national museums and professionals responsible for taking these institutions forwards. It offers an opportunity to consider the past and present, but with the aim of debating the future. The conference considers holistically the role of the national museum in the context of change. Researchers, museum and cultural policy professionals, and postgraduate students, are invited to submit abstracts of maximum 300 words by 30th July 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org Please include contact details and affiliation.
The conference also welcomes delegates who do not wish to present a paper. To register your interest, please email email@example.com
Friday 14 December is designated as the project’s final conference including comments on the project’s conclusions from invited experts.
The conference will be shaped around the following questions:
- How should the institutional inheritance of national museums (purpose, culture, philosophy, etc.) shape their future role?
- How do the historical narratives and material collections of national museums contribute to division and contestation? How do they, or might they, build bridges between nations and communities?
- How have national museums been instrumentalised in government policy? How have they become socially active?
- How do national museums contribute to the values, perceptions and identities of citizens?
- In a changing Europe, how can national museums contribute to greater social cohesion? How can the stories national museums tell and the treasures they display, be mobilised to build connections across Europe?
Central to this conference is a dialogue between museum professionals, professional organisations, policy makers and university researchers. While academic researchers can operate outside of the professional and institutional constraints that shape practice, the role of national museums in building greater European cohesion can only be developed within a framework of energetic, proactive professionalism. National Museums in a Changing Europe provides a forum for debate and dialogue between those who study national museums and those who daily shape these institutions and who are charged with taking these institutions forward.
Eunamus, a European-funded research consortium, brings together participants from across Europe to consider how national museums and their uses of the past, might contribute to European cohesion. In 2010, when Eunamus began its research, the challenges to cohesion seemed to arise from population migration, demographic change and nationalism. Two years later, Europe’s democratic and economic institutions, and European cooperation more generally, are under extraordinary pressure.
As a continent, which more than any other, is composed of autonomous independent states, with a population twice that of North America, in a territorial area no larger than Canada, and with a combined GDP larger than any nation (including the USA and China), Europe’s significance in the modern world often eludes its citizens. Given its political complexity, it is inevitable that Europe is in a constant process of change. At times in its history, however, change seems overwhelming. Confidence is then replaced by uncertainty, democracy and the free market face new challenges, and a shared sense of European cultural identity becomes increasingly tested by nationalistic instincts. These periods of great uncertainty have resulted from territorial conflict, political revolution and economic catastrophe. Europe is today situated in one of these vortexes of extreme change, apparently incapable of recovering the stability of just a few years ago.
Historically, national museums have been important players in the negotiation of national and pan-European stability. In the face of mass industrialisation, urbanisation and challenges to national autonomy in the nineteenth-century, museums across Europe engaged in identifying, recording and collecting the tangible characteristics of the nation. Today these museums form a connective tissue that reveals similar modern aspirations, acts of representation, and pasts. In art and science, the global study and representation of culture was established first in Europe; these representations are inherently European. In national museums across Europe, these museums seem to speak of many things but in doing so they also seem to say something about Europe itself.
The price of these acts of negotiation and production of symbolic objects has also been the development of national competition and divisive nationalism, contestation over possession, the elevation of particular kinds of art that empowers the richer nations, and an inflexibility in the representation Europe’s changing ethnic and religious populations. If Napoleon’s acts of possession and representation became the model for Europe’s rising cultural nationalism in the nineteenth century, (which became enshrined in the building of national museums across Europe), what role might national museums have in today’s Europe where a counter aspiration of beneficial economic and social interdependency holds sway?
The Eunamus consortium is led by: Peter Aronsson, Linköping University, Sweden; Alexandra Bounia, University of the Aegean, Greece; Arne Bugge Amundsen, University of Oslo, Norway; Constantin Iordachi, Central European University, Hungary; Simon Knell, University of Leicester, UK; Kristin Kuutma, University of Tartu, Estonia; Ilaria Porciani, University of Bologna, Italy; and Dominique Poulot, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France.
Tuesday 11 December
Pre-conference museum visits and cultural programme
Wednesday 12 December
9.30 Round table: National Museums around the World
11.30 Keynotes/plenary session
14.00 Parallel sessions I
15.30 – Parallel sessions II
17.00 Plenary report back and discussion
Thursday 13 December
9.00 Keynotes/plenary session
11.30 Parallel sessions III
14.00 Is there a need for national museums? On the Hungarian National Gallery
17.00 Plenary discussion
Friday 14 December
9.00 The Cultural Force of National Museums
Plenary presentation of Eunamus’ findings including comments from museum organisations, museum directors and policy makers
14.00 Conference closes
There will be a minor conference fee to cover receptions, coffee etc. All participants (except invited speakers) must take care of accommodation and travel themselves.