Here we go: research residence in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest

By Ursa Valic

Hi there! For a few months I will be writing you from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, a city with glorious and hmm… inglorious (communist) past. A city that has been home to more than 2 million of people of different ethno-cultural backgrounds and that in the past19th and beginning of 20th century was considered the Paris of the East. Yet now, I consider it as the New York of East – without trying to much to orientalise it, the city is now the magnet that attracts western capital on one hand, but on the other, a city of quite controversial social problems from low salaries for local workers to homeless people, forced evictions of Roma to mysterious disappearance of dogs from the streets that were for many years the terror of tourists (I was bitten by one 9 years ago, when I was here on a study exchange). However, hidden by the grey and dirty city facades, Bucharest is home to several gems of creative practices from the past and present – art venues, theatre, film and concert performances, wonderful museums and historical sites and many more.

 

So, what I am actually doing here, to attract your attention on the aMUSE(U)Ment blogBy the end of last year, I was awarded with an international research residence in 2017 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest for 6 months. My proposal to the museum was a participatory project with different groups of people, especially the ones from the margins, and considered vulnerable. I was not sure they will accept me – not being an artist, nor an art historian or theoreticianbut a cultural anthropologists and ethnologist and a museum curator and a passionate photographer. However, a museum of contemporary art (as any other museum) needs a mixture of different profiles and intellectual backgrounds, to broaden the margins of knowledge and maybe to have a different view on its work and especially when we are working on the collaboration with the public. I came at the right time: the museum is in vivid flow of changes from the physical space to the content. What a great adventure and how many challenges are therefore in front of me!

 

The National Museum of Contemporary Art (Muzeul Național de Artă Contemporană) was established in 2004 in the Parliament Palace or previously calleed the People’s House, the last of the foolish projects of the communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu. The palace is one of the largest buildings in the world, but its history is a bit tormenting – it costed the leader head at least. After the earthquake in 1977, Ceauşescu wanted to reorganise and rebuild the area. The story is well known: a wast part of the city was demolished and more than 40.000 people were allocated. However, the building site gave work to many people, but is said that the costs were so high that the building impoverished the state and caused the political turmoil – the revolution of 1989. After the revolution, the building was still unfinished and under debate: either to demolish it or to transform it in something else. Today the building hosts the Parliament, the Senat, the Chamber of Deputies… and as I have already said, from 2004, the National Museum of Contemporary Art.

Photo: Iosif Király. (Photo from the MNAC web page.)

The establishment of the museum in the building that carries such a heavy historical symbolism related to vague and controversial memories and emotions, was debated since the beginning, starting with an international conference and exhibition Romanian Artists (and not only) love Ceauşescu’s Palace?! (curated by Ruxandra Balaci). One of the convenors, Ami Barak wrote in the museum/exhibition catalogue:

»When I heard the news of that quasi-Freudian choice of hosting the Museum of Contemporary Art inside the heinous People’s Palace, the fruit and symbol of former dictator Ceauşescu’s megalomania and crazy will for destructive and criminal grandeur, I said to myself, as did others, that instead of a beginning, this was rather a burial, an absolute closure enacted by the authorities. That it was, undoubtedly, a punishment and a buffling form of contempt towards contemporary art in general and Romanian creation in particular. While elsewhere the museums of contemporary art make room for daring architectural projects and devise modes of display that signal new trends in architecture, Romania has chosen a symbol of the past, with all the consequences for the collective unconscious that can be imagined. And that it was quite likely that this would contribute to the usual lack of understanding manifested by audiences anywhere towards today’s art, which the museum is called to protect and promote.” (Ami Barak, MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art, catalogue, 2004: 49)

The burdens of the past are still vivid in some sense, and can be described as a mental barrier between the museum and the community. The barrier is also materialized in the street and the wall surrounding the building with police controls that add a heavy notion of social power and inaccessibility. That is a real challenge for a project based on participation and accessibility…

 

However, the museum staff is full of fresh ideas that are reinforced by five floors of exposition space filled with a good program. On 27th April 2017, the grand Spring opening with five excellent exhibitions presenting mostly Romanian artists and also in a dialogue with the international art space (the program) was seen by quite a good number of visitors, looked like more than thousand. And one month later, on the 20th May, the Romanian Night of Museums, a broad number of people was still discovering the contemporary art in the museum half an hour before closing at 2 in the morning. The museum has also a good accompanying program with theater performances, talk shows like Artist Talk, workshops for children and a new program with music-based events is going to follow in the summer months.

So, what else can be add to the already long introductory presentation? Maybe, that I am happy to be here, to gain more knowledge and experiences in the field of the contemporary art museums and of course to add some other, different perspectives on museum work, especially in the filed of collaboration with the public.

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Etnografski muzeji se bodo bolj zavedali različnih skupnosti

Intervju s kustosom Michelom Leejem

Tina Palaić

Photo Michel Lee 2

Michel Lee

Michel Lee je kustos za kitajske in korejske zbirke v Nacionalnih muzejih kultur sveta na Švedskem. Pred zadnjo reorganizacijo ustanove je bil direktor Muzeja daljnovzhodnih antikvitet (Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities) v Stockholmu, ki je eden od muzejev – poleg Etnografskega muzeja in Muzeja Mediterana in bližnjevzhodnih antikvitet v Stockholmu ter Muzeja kultur sveta v Gothenburgu – v konzorciju Nacionalnih muzejev kultur sveta.

 

 

Diplomiral je iz antropologije na univerzi George Washington v Washingtonu, D.C. Po diplomi se je zaposlil na antropološkem oddelku ustanove Smithsonian (Smithsonian Institution) v Nacionalnem muzeju naravne zgodovine. Nato se je preselil v London, kjer je magistriral iz zgodovine umetnosti in arheologije na Šoli za orientalske in afriške študije Univerze v Londonu. V Muzeju vzhodno-azijske umetnosti v Bathu je bil kustos in tudi direktor, po tej zaposlitvi pa se je preselil na Švedsko.

Michela sem spoznala v maju 2016 v Marseillu v Franciji na enem od srečanj v sklopu projekta SWICH, kjer sem predstavila svoje sodelovanje z Rominjami, ki je potekalo v okviru projekta Dostopnost do kulturne dediščine ranljivim skupinam v Slovenskem etnografskem muzeju. Oba romska skupnost zelo zanima, zato sva takoj delila najine poglede in izkušnje s sodelovanjem z Romi pri muzejskem delu. Kmalu se je pokazalo, da naju druži še več zanimivih tem – identitetne politike, diaspore, vloga muzejev v sodobni družbi. Najini pogovori so od takrat postali precej dinamični in odločila sva se, da nekaj tem, ki naju pestijo, predstaviva v intervjuju. Pogovarjala sva se konec februarja 2017 v Stockholmu. Seveda sem pogovor začela s SWICH-em!


Tina: Začniva s projektom SWICH! Njegov namen je ponovno premisliti vlogo etnografskih muzejev v današnji družbi ter razviti inovativne in bolj inkluzivne prakse v teh muzejih. Organizacija Nacionalni muzeji kultur sveta, kjer ste zaposleni, je eden od partnerjev v projektu. Kako vidite vašo vlogo?

Michel: Menim, da je naš največji prispevek k projektu delitev izkušenj iz naše, švedske perspektive. SWICH projekt je odličen za evropske muzeje, predvsem etnografske, ki tako ostajajo na tekočem z najnovejšimi muzejskimi praksami v evropskem prostoru. Z različnimi izmenjavami in raznolikimi tipi dialoga projekt krepi muzeje, saj jim omogoča izbrati in uporabiti tiste metode, ki ustrezajo njihovim specifičnim kontekstom. Morda ni vse, kar udeleženci na teh srečanjih povedo, uporabno za švedski kontekst, a je vendarle dobro, da smo seznanjeni s tem, kaj počnejo v drugih muzejih, katere so zanje dobre prakse in kako bi nekatere od njih lahko uporabili v našem muzeju. Zame kot kustosa je to možnost, da se seznanim z različnimi praksami in načini dela z zbirkami in skupnostmi.

Tina: V okviru SWICH-a tako Nacionalni muzeji kultur sveta kot Slovenski etnografski muzej delujeta v sklopu dveh tem: kreativni dialog in digitalne prihodnosti. V sklopu prve teme ste tudi vi sodelovali z umetnico, sedaj pa pripravljate eksperimentalno razstavo. Kakšne so vaše izkušnje?

Michel: Pravzaprav je z umetnico v rezidenci sodelovala druga oseba, zato nisem najboljši sogovornik za pogovor o procesu dela v tem konkretnem primeru. Na podlagi splošnega opazovanja projektov umetnikov v rezidenci, ki sem jih videl v etnografskih muzejih, pa menim, da mnogo obiskovalcev etnografskih muzejev tja ne pride nujno iz istih razlogov in ne sprejema informacij na enake načine, kot to počno obiskovalci umetnostnih muzejev. Sporočila nekaterih umetnikov v rezidenci so pogosto posredovana na bolj abstrakten način, kar občinstvo v umetnostnih muzejih pričakuje, obiskovalci etnografskih muzejev pa ne nujno. Zato si morda ne vzamejo dovolj časa, da bi spremenili svoj miselni okvir, in si razstavljenega ne ogledajo, če je sporočilo predstavljeno na preveč abstrakten način.

workshop_JHN___17Oct_2015__Photographer_Tony_Sandin_4

Fotografija je z delavnice ’Vi ste tukaj, zato ker so bili oni tam’ (‘You are here, because they were there’), ki jo je vodila umetnica v rezidenci Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen v sklopu projekta SWICH. Potekala je v Etnografskem muzeju v Stockholmu 17. oktobra 2015. Foto: Tony Sandin.

V pripravo eksperimentalne razstave pa sem zelo vključen. Ta projekt je osvobajajoč v več vidikih, saj ga določa malo vnaprej zastavljenih idej, kaj naj bi bil njegov končni rezultat ali kako do njega priti. Sodelujemo s šolo, ki se nahaja v na Švedskem morda najbolj kulturno raznolikem mestu. Z učenci bomo imeli delavnice, na katerih jih bomo pripravili, da bodo skozi predmete govorili o svojih identitetah. Učenci bodo imeli ključno vlogo pri pripravi razstave, ki bo nekaj časa na ogled na njihovi šoli. To je zame prva razstava, pri kateri imam zgolj minimalen nadzor nad predstavitvijo predmetov. Ja, uokviril bom razstavo z na primer uvodnim tekstom, moja odgovornost bo tudi urejanje, predvsem pa bomo v muzeju zagotovili, da bodo učenci imeli pravilne informacije o predmetih, zato da bodo njihove odločitve o delu z izbranimi predmeti temeljile na znanju in dejstvih. Vendar pa bodo učenci tisti, ki bodo izrazili svoj odnos do predmetov ali zagovarjali svoja stališča. Z izbiro te metode je sam proces dela z učenci ob sodelovanju z ekipo muzejskih pedagogov prav tako pomemben kot končni rezultat tega projekta. Sodelovali bomo tudi s starejšimi in na ta način spodbujali medgeneracijski dialog. Zame je bil ta proces priprave razstave doslej odlična izkušnja, saj delam s predmeti na drugačen način.

Tina: Dekolonizacija, globalizacija in migracije – to so trije ključni procesi, ki v zadnjih nekaj desetletjih korenito spreminjajo evropsko družbo. Kako so po vašem mnenju vplivali na etnografske muzeje kot kulturne institucije in kako na njihove muzejske prakse?

Michel: Etnografski muzeji so bili prvotno izložbe drugih kultur, vendar so te večinoma prikazovali, kot da so v vakuumu. Obiskovalec je zlahka dobil občutek, da so te kulture obstajale same zase – skoraj tako, kot da bi bile čiste kulture. Danes pa s temami migracij in dekolonizacije, ki so v mnogih muzejih postavljene v ospredje dela, muzeje usmerjajo k večjemu vključevanju manjšin in zatiranih glasov, kar jim pomaga prepoznati, da nobena kultura, nobena družbena skupina nikoli ni bila tako izolirana. Med ljudmi je vedno potekala komunikacija, širili so se vplivi, ljudje so se selili. Morda se to ni dogajalo tako hitro ali v tako velikem obsegu kot danes, ampak zagotovo so potekale selitve, bila je komunikacija, delitev informacij, tehnologije … Menim, da je v nekaterih muzejih trenutni poudarek bolj na tematskih kot pa na kulturno ali geografsko zasnovanih razstavah rezultat tega prepoznanja. Kljub temu pa mislim, da kulturno ali geografsko zasnovanih razstav ne smemo opustiti v celoti, saj nam še vedno pomagajo razumeti, od kod prihajamo in kako smo postali, kar danes smo. Pomembno pa je, da razumemo in prepoznamo kompleksnosti in zgodovinske kontekste, ko govorimo o kulturah znotraj specifičnih geografskih lokacij.

Tina: Muzeji se na zahteve sodobnega časa odzivajo z različnimi praksami: digitalizirajo in omogočajo dostop do svojih vsebin na svetovnem spletu; sodelujejo z umetniki, ki v muzejsko prakso prinesejo drugačne perspektive ali muzejske vsebine ustvarjalno interpretirajo; nekateri poskušajo razviti sodelovanje s skupnostmi in ustvarjati razstave skupaj z njimi. Katera muzejska praksa bo po vašem mnenju definirala prihodnost etnografskih muzejev?

Michel: Mislim, da se bodo etnografski muzeji v prihodnosti bolj zavedali skupnosti, ki so povezane z njihovimi zbirkami. Ne bo pa šlo samo za zbirke, temveč tudi za skupnosti, pa naj govorimo o izvornih skupnostih (kjer so bili predmeti zbrani, op. p.)  ali diaspori. Sam vidim veliko dela s skupnostmi v smislu, kako interpretirati predmete in pri odločanju, kaj naj bo reprezentirano za različne ljudi, za različne skupine.

Tina: Dr. Vázquez, ki sva ga poslušala v Leidenu v novembru 2016, je v svojem predavanju razlikoval med ‘kolonizacijo’ in ‘kolonialnostjo’. Čeprav se je kolonizacija tehnično končala v večini držav sveta, pa je kolonialnost danes še prisotna. Izraz se nanaša na preostale učinke kolonizacije, kot so rasizem, diskriminacija, dominacija zahodne perspektive. Kako lahko etnografski muzeji, ki so kot institucije utemeljeni v kolonialni zgodovini, pomagajo razdreti oziroma preseči kolonialnost in v svoje predstavitve vključijo tudi nezahodne perspektive?

Michel: Menim, da je dober način, s katerim lahko pripomoremo k razdiranju kolonialnosti, vključevanje glasov ali različnih mnenj s strani v muzeju predstavljenih skupnosti, katerih perspektive sicer niso vedno predstavljene. Zelo pomembno je priznati, da obstajajo različna mnenja, in jih tudi predstaviti, mislim pa, da ni nujno, da eno mnenje prevlada nad drugim. Zame je pomembno, da različni pogledi, ki jih v muzeju predstavimo, temeljijo na znanju ali dejstvih, če pa ne, jih je treba ustrezno kontekstualizirati. Konflikta ali dane situacije ne moremo zares razumeti, če poznamo le en pogled; poznavanje več mnenj pomeni bolj holistično razumevanje določene situacije. Discipline, kot so zgodovina, umetnostna zgodovina, antropologija, samo poglejmo njihove zgodovine – te vede izhajajo iz perspektive dominantne družbe. Ampak ali to pomeni, da je to narobe, slabo ali sramotno? Mislim, da ne nujno. Seveda muzeji ne smejo promovirati rasizma, diskriminacije ali dominacije, pri pripravi razstav pa morajo biti občutljivi za ta vprašanja. Vendar pa samo zato, ker gre za prevladujoče mnenje, to še ne pomeni nujno, da to mnenje avtomatično pade v eno od teh kategorij. Če ponovim, mislim, da je odpiranje muzejske interpretacije več glasovom dobro. Prepoznavanje in razumevanje, da obstajajo različna mnenja, posamezniku omogoči boljše razumevanje situacije. Nekatera mnenja si morda nasprotujejo in kažejo na izvor konflikta, kar samo razkriva kompleksnosti življenja! Vendar pa so različna mnenja lahko tudi komplementarna in ponujajo boljše, bolj niansirano razumevanje situacije.

Tina: Kako lahko opisano dosežemo v muzejih?

Michel: Danes je zelo pogosto, da muzeji sodelujejo z diasporo ali z izvornimi skupnostmi. Evropski muzeji tradicionalno temeljijo na zahodni akademski perspektivi. Morda nam ni potrebno zavreči vsega, poleg slabega odvreči tudi marsikaj, kar je dobro. Morda lahko še vedno priznavamo muzejsko perspektivo, mogoče jo bo kdo imenoval tradicionalni akademski glas. Ta glas lahko ali pa ne nasprotuje perspektivi skupnosti. Ampak če delamo odprto in spoštljivo z različnimi skupnostmi, se bodo različni glasovi naravno pojavili. Muzeji morajo biti zelo transparentni glede procesa dela s skupnostmi. Na primer, pojasniti morajo, kaj je glas kustosa in zakaj ima on / muzej to perspektivo, kaj je glas skupnosti in zakaj ima ta določeno perspektivo.

Ker Evropa postaja z vsako generacijo bolj raznolika družba, je povsem logično, da ljudje, zaposleni v evropskih muzejih, ta trend odslikavajo. Zaposleni v muzejih v Evropi so verjetno bolj raznoliki, kot so bili kadarkoli doslej. Včasih dobim občutek, da diskusije o reprezentaciji znotraj muzejev izražajo mnenje, da je muzej en in ‘skupnost’ drugi igralec. Včasih pa so glasovi iz skupnosti že prisotni v muzeju v smislu tam zaposlenega. Seveda pa ni samoumevno, da se bodo spremembe zgodile avtomatično. Ljudje morajo delati za spremembo. Vendar pa je raznolikost zaposlenih v muzejih zagotovo tista, ki bo muzejem pomagala, da bodo bolj inkluzivni in da bodo razdirali kolonialnost.

Tina: Lahko z bralci delite vašo dobro prakso sodelovanja s skupnostmi?

Michel: Kar pogosto sodelujem s skupnostmi v naši Dvorani skulptur. Znotraj švedskega konteksta je pogost odpor do tem, povezanih z religijo. Jaz pa mislim, da moramo pri delu s predmeti, ki so bili ustvarjeni kot religiozni predmeti, razumeti vsaj osnove religije. Šele tako lahko razumemo, kako te predmete brati in razumeti – v tem primeru skulpture – na globljem nivoju. Povabili smo budistične menihe in nune iz različnih tradicij, da so izvedli obrede z in okoli kipov v Dvorani skulptur. Na ta način so obiskovalci bolje razumeli, da ti kipi niso samo predmeti. Imajo obredni in družbeni kontekst. Bili naj bi videni skupaj z daritvami. Tisti, ki verujejo, so v interakciji s kipi. Teh stvari obiskovalec običajno v muzejih ne vidi. Muzej so obiskali tudi menihi, ki ustvarjajo skulpture iz masla kot daritev določenim kipom ali božanstvom, ki jih ti kipi predstavljajo. Na ta način smo predstavili tudi vrsto materialne kulture, ki je znotraj muzejskih zbirk zaradi minljive narave materiala ne hranimo. Seveda je konservator pri teh projektih izjemno pomemben, saj pomaga pri pogajanjih, kaj se okoli kipov lahko odvije. Poskušamo kar najbolje ugoditi potrebam verujočih, obenem pa zagotavljamo, da se z vidika konzervatorstva ustrezno poskrbi za predmete.

Posvetitveni obred za kipe iz masla, ki so jih izdelali menihi iz samostana Drikung iz Ladakha v Indiji.  Muzej daljnovzhodnih antikvitet, 2016.

Kadarkoli delam s skupnostmi, je samo-predstavitev izjemno pomembna. Dober dialog je bistven, saj zagotavlja, da obe strani poznata pričakovanja drugega. S strani muzeja je pri sprejemanju te vrste sodelovanja glavni pogoj inkluzivnost. To pomeni, da obred oziroma dogodek ne sme izključiti nikogar. Muzej vedno zagotovi, da skupnosti, s katerimi sodelujemo, razumejo, da je muzej javni prostor in da večina udeležencev dogodka verjetno niso verujoči; ti muzej obiščejo predvsem zato, da obred opazujejo. Še nikoli nisem imel izkušnje s skupino, ki tega ne bi sprejela. In seveda, dogodka se lahko udeležijo tudi verujoči, in ti so dobrodošli, da ga izkusijo kot religiozni dogodek. Čeprav je na Švedskem lahko včasih religija občutljiva tema, so ti budistični dogodki med našimi najbolj obiskanimi. Mislim, da je glavni razlog za to ta, da je budizem v splošnem zamišljanju Zahoda viden v precej pozitivni luči.

Tina: Za zaključek nam razkrijte še, kaj bo vaš naslednji projekt.

Michel: Trenutno že delam na projektu, s katerim želimo v naših elektronskih podatkovnih bazah v celoti posodobiti informacije in fotografije za našo korejsko zbirko. Kot je to danes v mnogih evropskih muzejih, je dostopnost tudi v naši organizaciji pomembna tema. Digitalno nam omogoča doseči občinstvo iz vsega sveta. Informacije pa bodo dostopne tudi v korejščini, tako da bodo lahko tudi raziskovalci v Koreji dostopali do njih.

Ethnographic museums will be more conscious of the communities

An Interview with Curator Michel Lee

Tina Palaić

Photo Michel Lee 2

Michel Lee

Michel Lee is curator for China and Korea at the Swedish National Museums of World Culture. Before its last reorganization, he was the director of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, which is one of the museums – in addition to the Ethnographic Museum and Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, and Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg – in the consortium of the National Museums of World Culture.

 

 

Michel Lee received his Bachelor of Arts in anthropology at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. After his studies, he worked for the Smithsonian Institution’s Anthropology department at the National Museum of Natural History. Then he moved to London, where he earned his Master of Arts in the history of art and archeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Before moving to Sweden, he also worked as the director and curator of the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, U.K.

Michel and I met in May 2016 in Marseille, France, within the SWICH project. On that occasion, I presented my collaboration with Roma women within the Accessibility project in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Since we share an interest in the Roma community, we had a lively conversation about our experiences and perspectives regarding collaboration with Roma within museums. Eventually, it brought up a lot of other common interests – identity politics, diaspora communities, and the role of museums in contemporary society. From then on, our discussions became more and more vibrant, so we decided to present some of the topics in the form of an interview. We spoke at the end of February 2017 in Stockholm. Of course, I started the conversation with a question about the SWICH project.


Tina: Let’s start with the SWICH project! It aims to rethink the role of ethnographic museums today, as well as develop innovative and more inclusive ethnographic museum practice. The National Museums of World Culture, where you work, is one of the SWICH partners. How do you see the role of Swedish partner in the project?

Michel: I think one of our main contributions to the SWICH project is sharing experiences from our Swedish perspective. The SWICH project is a great resource for European museums to keep each other up-to-date with current museum practice within Europe, especially ethnographic museums. Through different exchanges and different types of dialogue, it makes the museums stronger by allowing them to pick and choose what methods work for their specific countries, their specific contexts. Maybe not everything we hear from other participants works, for instance, within Sweden. However, it is good to hear what other museums are doing, what they see as best practice and how we can apply some of these very good practices to our museums. As a curator, it is a way for me to be exposed to different practices and different ways of working with collections and communities.

Tina: Within SWICH, both National Museums of World Culture and Slovene Ethnographic Museum work on two themes: creative dialogue and digital futures. Within the former theme, you also collaborated with an artist, and now you are working on experimental exhibition. What are your experiences?

Michel: To be honest, it was my colleague that worked on our artist-in-residence exhibition, so I’m not the best person to talk to about the process of working with that artist. But just as a general observation about some of the artist-in-residence projects I have seen in ethnographic museums, I think that most people who visit ethnographic museums do not necessarily go for the same reasons and digest information in the same ways as people who visit art museums. The messages from some artists-in-residence are often communicated in a more abstract way that art museum audiences expect, but not always for an ethnographic museum visitor. Visitors may not take the time to switch mind sets, and walk away from the display if the message is presented in too abstract a way.

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Image is from the public workshop ’You are here, because they were there’ led by SWICH Artist in residence Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen and held at Museum of Ethnography, 17 October 2015. Photographer: Tony Sandin.

With regard to the experimental exhibition, I am very much involved with that. In many ways, this project has been liberating in that there are few preconceived ideas of what the final product should be or how we get to the final product. We’re working with a school in what is perhaps Sweden’s most culturally diverse city. We will have workshops with the students to help prepare them to talk about their identities through objects.  They play a key role in creating the exhibition and the exhibition will stay in their school for a period of time. This is the first exhibition that I have worked on where I have only minimal control of the presentation of the objects. Yes, I will frame the exhibition with things like an introduction text, have the responsibility of editing, and we will make sure that the students have accurate information about the objects, so that their decisions to work with particular objects are based on knowledge and facts. But it will be the students that have the voice when it comes to their relationship to the objects or what they stand for. With this type of method, the process of working with the students, through our education officers, becomes just as important as the final product. We will also be working with the elderly in this project in a way that encourages intergenerational dialogue. I feel like this exhibition process has, so far, been a great experience for me working with objects in a different way.

Tina: Decolonization, globalization and migration – those are three crucial processes that are profoundly changing European society in the last few decades. How do you feel they have affected ethnographic museums as cultural institutions as well as ethnographic museum practices?

Michel: Ethnographic museums were originally showcases of other cultures but almost within a vacuum. It was easy to get the sense that these cultures existed within themselves, almost as if there could be pure cultures. Now, with more issues about migration and decolonization being brought to the forefront of the work of many museums, pushing museums to become more inclusive of minority and suppressed voices, this has helped museums to acknowledge that no culture, no groups of people have ever been that isolated. There has always been communication, influences, movements of people. Maybe it did not happen as fast or on as large a scale as today, but certainly there was movement, there was communication, there was sharing of information, technology and so forth. I think the current emphasis in some museums on themed exhibitions, rather than culturally or geographically-based exhibitions, may be a result of this acknowledgement. However, I feel that it is important to not completely abandon culturally-based and geographically-based exhibitions, because they still help us to understand where we came from and how we got to be the way we are today.  We just need to understand and acknowledge the complexities and historical contexts when we talk about cultures within specific geographic locations.

Tina: Museums respond to today’s demands with various practices: they digitize and make all the content available on-line, they invite artists to bring a different perspective into museum practice or make creative interpretation of the museum content, some try to develop collaboration with source communities and create exhibitions together with them. In your opinion, which museum practice will define the future of ethnographic museums?

Michel: I think ethnographic museums in the future will be much more conscious of the communities out there that have a stake in their collections. And it will not be only about the collections, it will also be about the communities, whether we’re talking about source or diaspora communities. I see a lot more of work with communities in terms of how to interpret objects and what should be represented for different peoples, different groups.

Tina: Dr. Vázquez, whom we listened to in Leiden in November 2016, made a distinction between ‘colonization’ and ‘coloniality’. Although colonization has technically ended for much of the world, coloniality is still present today. The term refers to residual effects of colonization such as racism, discrimination, and the dominance of the Western perspective. How can ethnographic museums, which are institutions embedded in colonial history, help to dismantle coloniality and include also non-Western perspectives into their presentations?

Michel: I think including voices, or points of views, from communities that are represented in the museum, but whose perspectives are not always represented, is a very good way to help dismantle coloniality. It is very important to acknowledge that there are different points of views and to bring them out, but I do not think one point of view should necessarily take over another. I feel it is important that the different points of views that are presented are based on fact or knowledge, or at least to contextualize them if they are not. I don’t think we can have a good understanding of a conflict or situation if we only know one point of view. To know the different points of views is to have a more holistic understanding of a certain situation. Disciplines, such as history, art history, anthropology, look at their histories – they come of the point of view of the dominant society.  But, does that mean that it is wrong, bad or shameful? I think not necessarily. Of course museums should not promote racism, discrimination, or domination, and museums need to be sensitive of these issues when creating exhibitions. But just because there is a dominant point of view does not necessarily mean it automatically falls into one of those categories. Again, I think opening up museum interpretation to more voices is a good thing. Recognizing and understanding that there are different points of views will give one a better understanding of a situation. Some points of views may contradict each other and show where conflicts arise, exposing the complexities of life! But different points of views can also be complementary and give a fuller, more nuanced understanding of a situation.

Tina: How can we achieve this within museums?

Michel: It is very common now to work with diaspora groups, with source communities. European museums have traditionally had a foundation within a Western, academic perspective. Perhaps we do not need to, as they say, throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maybe we can still acknowledge a museum point of view, perhaps some might call this the traditional academic voice. This voice may or may not contradict a community’s perspective. But by working openly and respectfully with source and diaspora communities, different voices will naturally come out. Museums should be very transparent about the process of working with communities. For instance: what is the voice of the curator, why do they have this perspective, what is the voice of the community and why do they have a certain perspective.

As Europe becomes a more diverse society with each generation, it is also natural that people working within many European museums reflect this trend. Museum workforces in Europe are probably more diverse than they have ever been. I sometimes feel that discussions about representation within museums have the point of view that the museum is one player and the “community” is another player. Sometimes, there are already voices from within the community working within the museum. We should not take for granted that change will automatically happen. People need to work towards change. But having a diverse workforce will help museums to be more inclusive of other voices and help with the process of dismantling coloniality.

Tina: Can you share your good practice of collaborating with communities?

Michel: I quite often work with communities in our Sculpture Hall. Within the Swedish context, there is often reluctance to talk about religion. But I feel that when working with objects which were created as religious objects, we must understand at least the basics of the religion in order to understand how to read and understand the objects – sculptures in this case – on a deeper level. We have invited Buddhist monks and nuns from different traditions to perform ceremonies with and around the sculptures in the Sculpture Hall. This way, the visitor will have a better understanding that these sculptures are not just objects. They have a ceremonial and social context. They are meant to be seen with offerings. Those that believe in the religion interact with the statues. These are things a visitor usually does not see within a museum setting. We have also had monks create butter sculptures as offerings to specific statues, or the deities that are represented by the statues. This was also a way to present a type of material culture that is not preserved within museum collections due to the ephemeral nature of the material. Of course, the conservator is also a very important part of these projects to help negotiate what can be done around the objects. We do our best to accommodate the needs of the devout, while still making sure that the objects are well cared for from a conservation point of view.

The consecration ceremony for butter sculptures made by the monks of Drikung Monastery, Ladakh, India. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 2016

Whenever I work with communities, self-representation is very important. A good dialogue is important to have to make sure that both parties know what each other’s expectations are. From the museum side, the main requirement when accepting this type of cooperation is inclusivity. The ceremony or event must not exclude anyone. We make sure the communities we work with understand that the museum is a public place, and most people attending the event will probably not be of the religion and will be there mainly to observe. I have never had an experience with a group that does not accept this. And of course, there could be people attending who are of that faith, and they are welcome to experience the event as a religious event. Although religion can sometimes be a touchy subject in Sweden, these Buddhist events are some of our most well-attended events. I think the main reason for this is because Buddhism is seen in quite a positive light in Western popular imagination.

Tina: For the conclusion – what will be your next project?

Michel: I’m currently working on a project to completely update the information and photography for our Korea collection in our electronic database. As with so many museums in Europe now, accessibility is a big topic in our organization. Working with the digital allows us to reach audiences around the world. The information will also be available in Korean language, so researchers in Korea will also have access.

Umetnost in krščanstvo v Centralni Afriki

Tina Palaić

Božič bi namesto decembra morali praznovati 25. maja. Tako vsaj verjamejo – in ga takrat tudi praznujejo – pripadniki Kimbanguistične cerkve (moj prevod). Kimbanguizem je religijsko gibanje, ki ga je ustanovil Simon Kimbangu v Belgijskem Kongu leta 1921. Kimbanguistična cerkev je z več milijoni vernikov ena od vej krščanstva.


Simon Kimbangu je interpretiral Biblijo in napovedal zaton kolonializma. Belgijci so ga obtožili spodbujanja rasizma, neustreznega vedenja in kršitve javnega reda. Obsodili so ga na smrt, a je ostal v ujetništvu do svoje smrti leta 1951. Kljub poskusom, da bi gibanje zatrli, ta cerkev še vedno deluje. Bori se proti poligamiji, magiji in čarovništvu, prav tako pa tudi proti uporabi nasilja in uživanju alkohola ter tobaka.


Kimbanguistična cerkev je le eden od pojavov, ki so rezultat srečanja kongovskih ljudstev iz Centralne Afrike s krščansko religijo. Majhna, a izjemno zanimiva začasna razstava v pariškem Musee du Quai Branly z naslovom ‘Od reke Jordan do reke Kongo: umetnost in krščanstvo v Centralni Afriki’ nam pripoveduje o vplivih 500-letnega pokristjanjevanja ljudstev na obsežnem ozemlju današnjega Gabona, Angole, Demokratične republike Kongo in Konga. Pokaže nam, kako so kongovski vladarji in umetniki interpretirali in uporabljali krščansko ikonografijo. Večina predmetov na razstavi priča o povezovanju krščanskih podob z močjo – na primer, predmete s krščansko simboliko so uporabljali za legitimizacijo moči vladarjev, v sodnih zadevah, pri klicanju dežja in tudi kot talismane, ki naj bi zagotovili uspešnost različnih aktivnosti, med drugim potovanj, lova in spočetja.

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Kopija ‘Santo Agostinho Padrão’, kamnitega stebra, ki ga je postavil portugalski pomorščak Diogo Cão leta 1482, ko je prispel do Kraljestva Kongo.

Kustos razstave je opredelil tri obdobja pokristjanjevanja Centralne Afrike:

  • med 15. in 18. stoletjem: Portugalci so dosegli ozemlje Kraljestva Kongo leta 1482. Čeprav so tudi Nizozemci in Francozi okupirali določena področja, je bilo do pričetka kolonializma Portugalcev v Centralni Afriki največ. Glavni razlog za vzpostavitev stikov je bilo trgovanje, Portugalska pa je poleg tega podpirala tudi različne misijonske redove, ki so na tem ozemlju širili krščanstvo. Spreobrnitev se je v Kraljestvu Kongo zgodila izjemno hitro. Eden od razlogov za to je bila odločitev političnih voditeljev, da bodo sprejeli novo vero, saj so v njej videli vir za povečanje svoje politične moči. Ker je bila spreobrnitev predvsem strategija vladajočega razreda, ki je služila uresničevanju njihovih političnih in verskih ciljev, ni nikoli izpodrinila lokalnih verovanj.
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Nkangi kiditu, razpelo kongovskega vladarja, okrašeno s sekundarnimi figurami, ki imajo sklenjene roke. Razpela so legitimirala moč njihovih lastnikov v družbi. 17. stoletje.

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V začetku 18. stoletja se je mlada kongovska princesa Kimpa Vita zavzemala za novo obliko krščanstva. Vzpostavila je religiozno in politično gibanje, kasneje imenovano Antonianizem. Podobne skulpture, kot je ta na sliki, so dopolnjevale vlogo Kimpa Vite pri spodbujanju ponovne združitve in krepitve Konga. Ta kipec je sicer iz 20. stoletja.

  • kolonialno obdobje: svoj vrh je kolonializem dosegel z Berlinsko konferenco (1884-1885). Različna kongovska ljudstva so takrat postala odvisna od Portugalske, Francije in Kraljevine Belgije. Mnogo predmetov na razstavi prikazuje umetnost iz tega obdobja, ki so jo navdihnili elementi krščanske vere. Ko se je pričelo to drugo obdobje pokristjanjevanja, seveda v tesni povezavi s kolonialnim redom, so iz prvotnega obdobja evangelizacije ostale predvsem materialne, formalne in jezikovne sledi, manj je bilo duhovnih.
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Ženska ogrlica z razpelom, prva četrtina 20. stoletja.

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Ntadi, pogrebni kipec s križem okoli vratu in kapo z leopardjimi kremplji, atributom vladarjev. 20. stoletje.

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Križ Santu iz vzhodnega Konga, pozno 19. – zgodnje 20. stoletje. Tovrstni križi so bili prvenstveno namenjeni zagotavljanju uspešnega lova.

  • od 1960, 1970 naprej: širitev novih, tako imenovanih cerkev preporoda, ki so jih spodbudile ekonomske in politične krize na območju današnje Demokratične republike Kongo. Njihova značilnost je, da prekinjajo povezave s preteklostjo in tradicijo. Kimbanguistična cerkev, ki sem jo predstavila na začetku, spada mednje. Na razstavi je zadnja soba namenjena prikazu fenomenov iz tega obdobja, razstavljene pa so tudi umetniške interpretacije Pierra Bodoja.
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Kongovski slikar Pierre Bodo (1953-2015), La Possession Demoniaque, 2000. Bodo je bil župnik v Binkoštni cerkvi, kar je vplivalo na njegovo izbiro likovnih elementov.

Mislim, da je kustos razstave Julien Volper, specialist za podsaharsko Afriko v Royal Museum of Central Africa v Tervurnu, odlično poudaril njeno bistveno sporočilo – prilagoditev krščanstva posebnostim lokalnih kultur.


Krščanske ikonografije in praks kongovska ljudstva niso zgolj prevzela. Razstavljeni predmeti nam kažejo, kako so lokalni umetniki reinterpretirali krščansko ikonografijo, prav tako pa tudi katoliške prakse niso ostale nespremenjene, temveč so bile transformirane v religiozni sinkretizem. Kot je zapisano na spletni strani muzeja, lahko kongovsko kulturno interpretacijo krščanstva razumemo kot “enega od simbolov emancipacije navkljub evropski nadvladi”.


Z razkrivanjem vidikov tvornosti oziroma lastnega delovanja (agency) kongovskih ljudstev ob njihovem stiku s krščansko religijo nam kustos omogoča preizpraševati imperialistične in rasistične elemente evolucionarnega diskurza oziroma tako imenovanega narativa napredka, ki je še danes močno prisoten. Po mojem mnenju ta razstava uspešno prikaže, kako lahko stiki med različnimi religioznimi in kulturnimi koncepti prinesejo nekaj novega, spodbujajo kreativnost in ustvarijo nove poglede na svet, v katerem živimo. To je pomembno sporočilo za današnji čas. Na srečo je za tiste med nami, ki ne govorimo francosko – samo glavni panoji so prevedeni v angleščino – na voljo katalog razstave tako v francoščini kot angleščini.

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Očitno je razstava navdušila obiskovalca, ki je v knjigo gostov narisal tole risbo.

Ko sem se sprehajala po razstavi, sem se spomnila na zelo posebno izkušnjo, ki sem jo doživela z mojo dobro prijateljico na potovanju v Gani. Naključno sva naleteli na krščansko cerkev v mestu Tamale, kjer so naju povabili k maši. Zelo prijazno so naju sprejeli in naju prosili, da se predstaviva. Po tem sva lahko pri maši tudi aktivno sodelovali. Njihova Biblija me je najbolj presenetila, saj je bila zelo drugačna od meni poznane. Zgodbe so bile glede na njihovo sporočilo razvrščene v več poglavij: zdravje, družina, ljubezen, moč, skušnjava … Poskušala sem brati poglavje o skušnjavi, a mi je gospa, ki je sedela ob meni, ves čas obračala strani, da bi sledila branju na maši …

 

Art and Christianity in Central Africa

Tina Palaić

Christmas should be celebrated on 25 May instead of December. At least that is what members of the Kimbanguist Church believe – and also practice. Kimbanguism is a religious movement founded by Simon Kimbangu in the Belgian Congo in 1921. With several millions of believers, Kimbanguist Church is considered a branch of Christianity.


Simon Kimbangu interpreted the Bible and prophesied the end of the colonial order. Belgian colonialists accused him of encouraging racism, uncivil behavior and offending public order, as well as condemned him to death. However, he stayed in captivity until his death in 1951. Despite attempts to suppress the movement, Kimbanguism has survived. Kimbanguist Church fights against the polygamy, magic and witchcraft, as well as use of violence, alcohol and tobacco.


Kimbanguist Church is merely one of the consequences of the encounter of the Kongo peoples of the Central Africa with Christian religion. Small, but very exciting temporary exhibition at the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, entitled ‘From the Jordan River to the Congo River: Art and Christianity in Central Africa’, tells us about the influences of 500 years of Christianization of the vast territory of today’s Gabon, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo. We can see how Christian iconography was interpreted and used by Kongo rulers and artists – many of the objects connected Christian imagery with the power. For instance, cruciform objects were used to legitimize the power of leaders, in judicial decisions, rainmaking, and as talismans to assure successful activities – traveling, hunting, and conception. 

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A copy of Santo Agostinho Padrão, stone pillar, erected by Portuguese Diogo Cão in 1482, when he reached the Kingdom of Congo.

Curator defines three evangelisation periods of Central Africa:

  • between the 15th and the 18th centuries: the Portuguese reached the Kingdom of Kongo in 1482 and remained the main European population (also the Dutch and the French occupied certain areas) in the area until the beginning of colonial era. The main reason for contacts was trading however, Portugal also supported different missionary orders to spread Christianity. The conversion of the Kingdom of Congo happened quickly – one of the reasons is that political leadership decided to embrace the new religion, as they saw it as a source of their greater political power. Conversion was mainly a ruling classes’ strategy to serve their political and religious ends, therefore it never eradicated local beliefs.
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Nkangi kiditu, a crucifix of the Congo chief, with secondary figures with joined hands. Crucifixes legitimized the power of their owners. 17th century.

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In the early years of the 18th century, a young Kongo princess named Kimpa Vita promoted a new form of Christianity. She began a religious and political movement, later called Antonianism. Sculptures like this one complement the role of Kimpa Vita in promoting the reunification and strengthening of the Kongo. 20th century.

  • colonial era: it reached its climax with the Berlin conference (1884-1885) when different Kongo groups became dependent on the Portuguese and French powers as well as on the Belgian crown. There are many objects on the exhibition showing Catholic-inspired art from this period. When the second period of evangelism began, of course in an alliance with the colonial order, there were more material, formal and linguistic than spiritual traces left after the initial wave of Christianity.
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Female necklace with crucifix, first quarter of the 20th century.

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Ntadi, funerary statue, with a cross around its neck and a hat with leopard claws, an attribute of a Chief. 20th century.

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Santu cross, eastern Kongo, late 19th-early 20th century. These crosses were used primarily to assure successful hunts.

  • from 1960, 1970 onwards: proliferation of new, so-called ‘revival churches’, was encouraged by the acute economic and political crisis in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. These churches seek to break with the past and tradition. One of them is Kimbanguist Church, introduced at the beginning of this text. There is one room of the exhibition dedicated only to this period which shows also Pierre Bodo’s artistic interpretations.
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Congolese painter Pierre Bodo (1953-2015), La Possession Demoniaque, 2000. Bodo served as a pastor of a Pentecostal church, which influenced his iconographic choices.

From my perspective, curator of the exhibition, Julien Volper, specialist curator for the Sub-Saharan Africa at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, very well emphasized the crucial point of the exhibition – the adaptation of Christianity to the particularities of local cultures.


Christian iconography and practices were not adapted unaltered. On the one hand, exhibited objects reflect the reinterpretation of Christian iconography by the local artists, and on the other, Catholic practices were transformed into a religious syncretism. As it is written on the museum’s website, we can understand Congolese cultural interpretation of  Catholicism as “one of the symbols of emancipation in the face of European domination”.


With revealing the aspects of agency of Kongo peoples when encountered with Christian religion, the curator enables us to question imperialist and racist elements of an evolutionary discourse, or of the so-called narrative of progress, which is still present nowadays. From my perspective, this exhibition succeeds in presenting how contacts between different religious as well as cultural concepts can result in something new, stimulate creativity and thus provide new perspectives on the world we live in. This is an extremely important message for today. Fortunately, for those of us, who do not understand French – only the main panels are translated in English – there is an exhibition catalogue available in both, French and English languages.

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Obviously, the exhibition also inspired a visitor, who drew this wonderful picture in a guest book.

Strolling through the exhibition, I was reminded of the very special experience I had while traveling / volunteering in Ghana with a very good friend of mine. We accidentally came across Christian church in the city of Tamale, and were invited to join the Holy Mass. They welcomed us very kindly, and we were asked to introduce ourselves. Afterwards we were invited to actively participate at the Mass. Their Holy Book surprised me the most – I am familiar with biblical parables quite well, however this book was very different. Stories were categorized within several chapters, namely health, family, love, strength, temptation … depending on their message. I tried to read a chapter about temptation, but my neighbor never stopped to show me the right page we were reading at the moment …

 

 

Out to Sea?

Urška Purg

On the way from work, I stop by at the market. I crave some bananas and I need a few lemons. Before weighing them and getting a price, I neatly place them in those see-through plastic bags. Quickly, I also grab my favourite yogurt in a cup and a bottle of water, since I forgot to drink all day. The last thing I need is a piece of cheese, packed in a stretch foil. There, I’m done. Since I’m always in a hurry, I rush to the self-cashier’s and stuff my purchase in their handy plastic bags. Once I’m home, placing my yield on the spots, where it belongs, I realize, I made it home with three new plastic bags, plastic cup and a bottle, and a plastic foil. Ok, it’s not that bad. It gets worse though, when thinking this happens nearly every second day. And not only in my case. However, what has this to do with museums? More than we think.

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A mass of plastic waste, which every 20 – 30 secunds ends up in the sea.

Out to Sea? Is an exhibition telling a story about a phenomenal material – plastic. Plastic is amazing, since it can have any characteristic we want. It is cheap, light… practically it is perfect. It even contributed to the development of the daily appliances. Plastic is so to say almighty. Moreover, it is very badly degradable. It proves its almightiness also in the sea, the final station where it ends up in large masses every 20 to 30 seconds.

To decompose, plastic needs UV rays.

Would you like to take a look of what size of a mass am I talking about? Take a walk through the travelling exhibition, currently hosted in The Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). Already during the visit, your brain will start to ruminate on this. Exhibition from The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, which travels around the world in environment-friendly way, is set to be easily understood and introduced to the children. The visitor is introduced to an afterlife of plastic, once it served its purpose for the humans. The exhibition plays with a thought, what archaeological diggings will our successors find. It offers an insight on how much plastic waste we produce; it illustrates the different ways of recycling. It enables us to discover on our own, how much and how small plastic bits are hiding in the sea sand. It serves us with facts about the plastic and visual enrichments, among which also a mockumentary – depicting a plastic bag’s struggle to reach the bags’ afterlife paradise – gets its place.

Poisons, hiding in the plastic bits, are accumulated in the organism’s fat tissue, rounding the food chain with us: the fish eats the bits, and we eat the fish. And the poisons along with the fish.

Despite seeing this exhibition already in Graz in 2015, which stunned me already then, it took MAO’s localized Slovene plastic waste input to really strike me. Besides, being greeted by a monthly catch of domestic plastic waste, collected by the museum staff, when entering the exhibition also did its part on my emotional involvement. Most visible and unique host’s input on the travelling exhibition is an analysis of the materials of the plastic national heritage, kept in MAO’s collections. Through that, they expose the overlooked fact; there is more than just one type of plastic, as it is often perceived. Moreover, the restorers being unable to define the types with their bare eyes, this everyday material becomes unfamiliar, diverse and puzzling. What type of plastic we have is important not only for its decomposition – since not all types last the same amount of time – but also for its storage. The last is clearly stressed in MAO’s input at the exhibition with an analyse of selected design objects, opening an often overlooked chapter of object-keeping in museums, while warning about the issue; possibly causing a few grey hair to restorers and keepers of museum collections.

An exhibition that gives you chills and convinces you to make a fresh new year’s resolution.

The exhibition does not pretend to offer any aesthetic pleasures to the visitors. It plays a role of something greater. It reminds us of what we do on regular basis, and how effective we do it. If museums are supposed to take on a more active role in the society, influencing and co-shaping the society, this exhibition is a way, how this can be done. This is an exhibition not only all the children and schools need to see, but also we – adults should not miss out on it.

Končna postaja: morje?

Urška Purg

Na poti iz službe se ustavim v trgovini. Kupim nekaj limon in banan. Oboje zbašem vsako v svojo vrečko in skrbno odtipkam pravilne kode, da dobim še ceno. Skočim po jogurt – moj najljubši v lončku, plastenko vode, ker bom umrla od žeje in samo še po kos sira, zavitega v stretch folijo na drugem koncu trgovine. Ker se mi mudi (kot vedno), zavijem na hitro blagajno in v njihovo priročno vrečko natrpam svoj izplen. Ko doma vse skrbno raztovorim in pospravim, ugotovim, da sem iz trgovine prišla s tremi vrečkami, plastičnim lončkom in plastenko ter plastično folijo. Saj ni tako hudo. Hudo pa postane, ker je skoraj vsak drug dan tako. In ne samo pri meni. Ampak, kaj ima vse to veze z muzeji? Več kot si mislimo.

Končna postaja: morje? je razstava, ki pripoveduje zgodbo o fenomenalnem materialu – plastiki. Plastika je krasna, ker ima lahko kakršnokoli lastnost, ki jo želimo.  Poceni je, lahka, … skratka perfektna. Pripomogla je tudi k razvoju aparatov za dnevno uporabo. Plastika je vsemogočna. In hudičevo težko razgradljiva. Svojo vsemogočnost dokazuje tudi v morju, kjer v nepredstavljivo veliki gmoti konča vsakih 20 do 30 sekund.

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Gmota plastičnih odpadkov, ki vsake 20 – 30 sekund pristane v morju.

Za razgradnjo plastike so potrebni UV žarki.

Bi radi videli v živo, o kako veliki gmoti govorim? Sprehodite se čez gostujočo razstavo, ki jo pravkar gosti Muzej za arhitekturo in oblikovanje (MAO). Že med obiskom, občutno pa tudi po njem vaše male sive celice v glavi začnejo mleti. Razstava Muzeja za oblikovanje iz Zuricha, ki po svetu potuje čim bolj okolju prijazno, je nastavljena tako, da jo je lahko razumeti in predstaviti tudi otrokom. Obiskovalce odpelje v življenje plastike po smrti, ali ko odsluži svoje za človeške namene. Poigra se z mislijo, kaj bodo arheološke izkopanine naših zanamcev, postavi pred dejstvo, koliko plastičnih odpadkov pridelamo navadni sleherniki, oprijemljivo prikaže načine reciklaže, dovoli, da sami preverimo, koliko in kako majhnih koščkov plastike se skriva v obalnem pesku, postreže s podatki, razlago in vizualnimi obogatitvami, med njimi tudi s tako imenovanim mockumentary prikazom boja vrečke za dosego vrečkarskega raja in še več.

Strupi, ki jih nosijo peleti in ki jih naspužvajo nase, se akumulirajo v maščobnih tkivih organizmov – in veriga se hitro pripelje do nas: riba poje pelete, mi pojemo ribo. In strupe skupaj z njo.

Četudi sem razstavo videla že v Gradcu leta 2015, kjer me je prav tako hipno osupnila, se me je šele tukaj trajno dotaknila, saj so jo v MAO-tu skrbno dopolnili in lokalizirali s slovenskimi ostanki plastičnih vrečk in embalaž in nenadoma zgodbo usmerili name – na vsakdanjo uporabnico. Med zaposlenimi v muzeju so mesec pred prihodom razstave prav tako zbirali svoje plastične odpadke, ki so se nabrali v pošten ribiški izplen, ki te pozdravi takoj ob vhodu na razstavo. Doprinos gostiteljev je tudi analiza materialov plastične nacionalne dediščine, ki jih hranijo v zbirkah MAO. Izpostavijo dejstvo, da ni samo ene plastike, kakor pogosto mislimo, temveč je plastik več. In glede na to, da restavrator/ka niti na oko ne more določiti, kakšna plastika je, je še tako vsakdanji in običajen material tuj, raznolik in ena velika uganka. Kakšna plastika je, ni pomembno zgolj pri njenem procesu razgradnje. Ker vse vrste plastike ne trajajo enako dolgo, je isti podatek pomemben tudi pri njeni hrambi. V MAO-tu to z analizo izbora oblikovalskih predmetov še kako dokažejo in s tem odprejo novo poglavje za hrambo nacionalne dediščine in javno opozorijo morebiti tudi nove vzroke za posivele lase prenekaterih restavratorjev in skrbnikov zbirk.

Razstava, ki te zmrazi in te pripravi do nove novoletne zaobljube.

Razstava ni mišljena in se niti ne pretvarja, da bo obiskovalcem prinesla estetski užitek. Je v vlogi nečesa večjega – opomnika, kaj počnemo in kako učinkovito to počnemo. Če naj bi muzeji prevzemali bolj aktivno vlogo v družbi, vplivali na družbo in jo pomagali sooblikovati, je gotovo tak način razstav ena od dobrih poti k temu. Gre za razstavo, ki je ne rabijo videti le vsi otroci in šole, ampak jo moramo videti mi – odrasli. Še posebej, ker je tik pred nosom, tukaj v Sloveniji. Zraven bližine pa je njen plus tudi to, da po njej ob nedeljah vodijo zmeraj zanimivi gostje iz raznovrstnih branž in profesij.

Dunajski MAK

Urška Purg

Oh, Dunaj in muzeji! To je zmeraj posebno veselje in užitek. Obisk Dunaja si rada razporedim v zaporedja postankov v muzejih in kavarnicah. Zmeraj odkrijem nekaj novega na obeh področjih. In zapolnitev dunajskih dni z dvema ali tremi muzeji in dvema kavama na dan se je izkazala za krasno kombinacijo, ki poskrbi, da se ne prenasitim niti muzejev niti kave.

Čeprav je bilo mesto že povsem odeto v mesec oddaljene praznične barve, sem se ignorirajoč to vzdušje podala v muzeje iz tokratnega seznama vseh, ki jih moram obiskati. Še posebej navdušena sem bila nad Muzejem uporabnih umetnosti – MAK (Museum of Applied Arts). Je lahko dostopen in je muzej, ki vzbuja občutek dobrodošlosti, četudi v muzeju ne boste srečali nikogar od zaposlenih, razen receptorke in čuvajev na razstavah. Kljub temu jim je z dodatnimi participatornimi in k aktivnostim usmerjujočimi vsebinami za obiskovalce ter s poštenim številom raznolikih kavčev in mizami, ob katerih so nekateri mirno klepetali in malicali, uspelo priklicati sproščeno in prijetno vzdušje. Cenim tudi to, da so kljub njihovim dragocenim zbirkam pohištva in na prvi pogled dolgočasnim predmetom v pritličju, utegnili pristriči krila vzvišenemu odnosu – na kar bi sicer lahko igrali z željo očaranja elitnih gostov. Raje kot to, so se z vnosom elementov presenečenja in prej omenjenih participatornih elementov z nagovori obiskovalcev, odločili za ljudem prijazen muzej. Ko sem že pričakovala še eno sobo z novo vrsto razstavljenih stolov s pedigrejem, so me prijetno presenetili z načinom, kako so te stole predstavili. Raje kot njih, so izpostavili njihove sence in s tem nemudoma ustvarili povsem drugačno izkušnjo od pričakovane, osvobojeno vse vzvišenosti. Za povrh je tudi Dunaj 1900, njihov secesijski del na prvem nadstropju prav zanimiv, četudi malce staromoden, vendar saj veste – nekaj čarobnega je na tem obdobju in zraven tega imajo tudi Klimta. In kdo prav za prav ne mara Klimta?

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Dunaj 1900 s sodobnejšo, umetniško nadgradnjo na vrhu.

Vseeno pa mi je bil najbolj ljub njihov oblikovalski laboratorij, kjer sem vijugala naokrog in dovolila očem, da so se napajale na bistroumnih kuhinjah in t.i. mami vseh vgradnih kuhinj iz leta 1926; na izvrstni zbirki starih in sodobnih stolov; v sobi vzorcev, ki so jih digitalizirali in kot CC dali na voljo ljudem; v sobi, kjer se skupaj z nami presprašujejo o trajnosti … Všeč mi je bila ideja o prepletanju starega in novega kot so to storili pri večini stvari in na tak način aktualizirali na prvi pogled banalne ali spregledane predmete brez nepotrebnega utemeljevanja. Zelo nevsiljivo so dodajali tudi umetniške interpretacije nekaterih zbirk in s tem obogatili njihovo razlago, npr. pri kuhinjah in pri pogrinjkih ter prehranjevanju. Nedvomno mi je bila všeč tudi rešitev, kako so se na razstavah izognili tekstovnemu napadu na obiskovalce, še zmeraj pa omogočali ta radovednim, da so lahko izvedeli več. S preprosto umestitvijo “kotičkov za prenosne tekstovne vodiče” na začetku vsakega razstavnega prostora in s poudarjenimi temeljnimi trditvami in vprašanji na stenah tako v nemščini kot v angleščini, so dosegli izjemen učinek in zadostili potrebam večine obiskovalcev brez nepotrebnih velikih stroškov in odvečnega truda.

Tudi izbor začasnih razstav kaže na stopnjo drznosti in kreativnosti. Ob mojem obisku so gostili razstavo Shunga, japonske erotične umetnosti in 100 najboljših plakatov 15 iz Nemčije, Avstrije in Švice. Obe razstavi sta služili kot popestritev in dober prerez med nadstropji in različnimi temami.

Ker je muzej kar velik, imajo na ogled še veliko več, kot sem opisala, pogosto pa vnašajo igro med preteklostjo in sedanjostjo, ali ustvarjajo posebno razstavno sceno in prostor. S slednjim so se poigrali na razstavi kitajskega porcelana, kjer so predmete umestili v enormne leseno-steklene zabojnike, na katere so razstavni tekst zapisali kar z roko. Kot sem poskušala prikazati, znajo osvežiti in začiniti predstavljanje dediščine, zraven tega pa imajo tudi trgovino z na prste lepljivimi izdelki in prikupno kavarno, oboje le nekaj korakov stran od recepcije. Če seštejem vse, je MAK vreden obiska, še posebej ob torkih, ko so odprti vse do 22. ure in je vstop prost.

MAK Vienna

Urška Purg

Oh, Vienna and museums – it’s always a pleasure! Actually, I like my Vienna with sequences of museum and coffee stops. In addition, eventually a lunch and dinner, of course. However, really – squeezing two to three museums and two coffee stops in a day in Vienna is a perfect combination, which makes sure that I don’t gorge myself with culture (or coffee).

This time around, when the streets were reflecting month away holiday spirit, I decided to fully ignore the too early Christmassy atmosphere and stroll around the museums I’ve placed on my list To visit. I must say, I was really impressed by The Museum of Applied Arts – MAK. It is easy to reach, and it has that welcoming atmosphere, even though the staff you meet is in general at the reception desk and later on the guardians of the artefacts. However, the additional – let’s say – contemporary participatory and educational visitor inputs on the exhibitions with many various sofas in the ground floor and tables, where some visitors calmly had their snack/talk brakes made sure I felt fully relaxed and nice. Despite having a collection of Vienna’s pedigree furniture and on first glimpse boring artefacts in the ground floor, they’ve managed to cut the haughty spirit of the exhibits through adding the elements of surprise. When you already expect you will find a row of important chairs from their furniture collection in the next room, they pleasantly surprise you with an installation of those important chairs presented through their shadows – instantly creating a new experience, freed from the possible superiority. In addition, the art nuoveau Wien 1900 in the first floor is remarkable, a bit old-fashioned, but you know – there is something about that period, and they have Klimt’s artworks as well. And who doesn’t like Klimt?

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Vienna 1900 with more contemporary artistic addition on the top.

My favourite though, was the MAK Design Labor, where I zigzagged around, feasting my eyes on incredible contemporary kitchen ideas (next to the Mother of the Fitted Kitchen from 1926), incredible chair collection, a room of patterns, which are also digitalized and ready for you to use, Helmut Lang room and a room, where the question of sustainability is in the forefront. I really appreciated, how they intertwined the old and the new, enabling the self-explanatory environment without the unnecessary elaborations, and very subtle artistic inputs on the topics, such as the kitchen, the table setting and eating… Foremost, I liked the solution on reducing the text on the exhibitions, yet enabling the curious ones to learn more. They took the simple and effective way, by inserting the ‘text guides corners’ just before every exhibition topic began, and by exposing the most important points or questions for the visitors to chew on, placed on the walls in German and English.

Their decision on the temporary exhibitions was also an interesting one, displaying the Shunga, erotic art from Japan and 100 BEST POSTERS 15. Germany Austria Switzerland. Both were great for creating a cut between the floors and various topics. There is many more on display, always playing with the past and the present, or creating a special environment and exhibition space, as they did in the exhibition on china, placing it in the enormous wooden-glass see-through crates with handwritten object presentations. As I said, they know how to refresh and spice things up and they have a lovely museum shop with a café just next to the reception.


All in all, it’s a place worth visiting, especially on Tuesdays, when they are open till 10 p.m. with free entry.

tim -Muzej tekstilne industrije Augsburg

Urška Purg

Evropska mesta se že nekaj časa soočajo s propadanjem industrije, kar povzroča spremembe v družbi in življenju ljudi, zaradi česar to postaja vse bolj in bolj pomembna tema tudi za muzeje. Veliko muzejev zato poskuša rešiti in ohraniti nekatere ostanke neobstoječe ali prenesene industrije. Čeprav je ohranjanje in zagotavljanje referenčne točke v nenehno spreminjajočih se časih pomembna vloga muzejev, ki želijo nadomestiti izgube industrije in modernizacije (Marquard 2001 Zübe 1989 PO Kaiser idr. 2014, 6), to ni več njihova zadostna funkcija. Muzeji niso le skrbniki dediščine, temveč postajajo tudi nosilci sprememb, kakor jih umeščajo Kaiser, Krankenhagen in Poehls (2014, 6). To pomeni, da morajo muzeji usmeriti svoje delovanje tudi v obstoječo sodobno družbo in njene potrebe, ter vzdrževati to držo tudi v prihodnosti. Obstaja vedno več muzejev, ki po svojih najboljših močeh delajo v smeri, da pustijo svoje odtise v tem procesu. Muzej tekstilne industrije – TIM je samo en primer, kako so pristopili k izginjanju nekoč vodilne tekstilne industrije v Augsburgu.

Nahajajoč se v starem kompleksu nekdanje tekstilne tovarne, državni Muzej tekstila in industrije Augsburg pripoveduje zgodbo o industrijskem pomen Augsburga na področju tekstila v zgodovini. Gre za specializirani muzej, ki se s svojim delom in obstojem klanja nekoč pomembnemu in danes neobstoječemu delu lokalne tekstilne industrije.

Muzej sem obiskala že pred tremi leti, ko me je s pomočjo resnično dobrega vodenega ogleda povsem očaral. Zato sem bila še posebej vesela vrnitve po treh letih, da vidim, kako nadaljujejo s svojim poslanstvom. Muzej se nahaja v nekdanjem tekstilnem kompleksu, v eni izmed industrijskih stavb, v katero so zaradi potreb muzeja posegli s prefinjenim in jasnim oblikovanjem, ki si nekdanjega izgleda industrijske arhitekture ni brezglavo podredilo. Koncept muzeja sledi kronološkemu vrstnemu redu, s predstavitvijo tekstilne proizvodnje od samega začetka preko surovin in njihovega izvora. Temu sledi strojna proizvodnja, tekstilni vzorci in pregled končnih izdelkov skozi čas. Glavna zgodba, ki jo muzej pripoveduje, je opremljena z vzporedno zgodbo v ločenih tematskih kotičkih, ki predstavljajo razvoj tekstilne industrije v Augsburgu. Obe zgodbi sta zelo intuitivno in jasno speljani. Prednost tega, da je muzej zelo strukturiran, je v jasnosti za obiskovalce, ki brez težav sledijo predlaganim zgodbam, z zanimivimi modrimi interaktivnimi DIY otoki, kjer so misije, naloge in igre za otroke (in igrive odrasle). Čeprav zelo cenim, da ni preveč besedil in teksta, več vsebine v angleščini ne bi škodovalo. Sicer nudijo vodene oglede v petih jezikih, vendar ostaja rahla vrzel in pomanjkljivost na tem področju predvsem za posamezne ne-nemško govoreče obiskovalce, ki imajo željo po samostojnem ogledu in odkrivanju razstave. Tudi vztrajanje osebja pri nemškem jeziku ne glede na nagovore v angleščini ne pomaga veliko. Dodana vrednost muzeja je v predstavitev delovanja strojev, ki jo opravljajo nekdanji zaposleni v tovarni. Demonstracija strojev je impresivna in neverjetno pomaga pri ilustraciji nekdanjega poteka dela, vendar je na voljo samo trikrat na dan – zato se je pred obiskom vredno pozanimati za ure demonstracij, da jih ne zamudite.

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Glavni vhod v tim.

Dajmo se vrniti nazaj k prostoru samemu – diha in ni prenatrpan s predmeti. Uspeli so ohraniti občutek bivše tovarne in ga obenem preoblikovati v polno funkcionalen muzej. Vnesli so tudi veliko izjemnih oblikovalskih rešitev, ki omogočajo prikaz bolj občutljivih predmetov. Delikatnejše predmete so tako pospravili na varno v predalnike, opremljene z zaznavno razsvetljavo, ki se vklopi, ko obiskovalci predale odprejo, ali se približajo vitrini s pomembnim, a krhkim predmetom. Kljub zelo domiselnemu oblikovanju, na žalost vsi senzorji ob mojem drugem obisku niso več delovali.

Med svojim prvim obiskom sem najbolj občudovala, posebne tekstilne vzorce, po čemer je Augsburg slovel, ki so jih s pomočjo tehnologije dali na voljo ljudem. Tim hrani okoli 550 knjig vzorcev od leta 1793 do leta 1993, ki vključujejo približno 1,3 milijona tekstilnih vzorcev. Ker so te knjige že pošteno priletne in obenem občutljivi muzejski predmeti, so razstavljene pod zelo strogimi pogoji, ki niso najbolj prijazni za obiskovalce. Hkrati je onemogočen pregled vzorcev z listanjem knjig, kar je zaradi krhkosti povsem razumljivo. Zato so prišli na idejo o postavitvi muzejske modne piste s tremi velikanskimi osrednjimi ženskimi oblekami, ki so opremljene z računalniško povezavo do skeniranih vzorcev iz knjig in možnostjo projekcije izbranih vzorcev na eno od dveh popolnoma belih oblek. Genialno! To je omogočilo nam otrokom, da smo se igrali, bolj resnim študentom oblikovanja pa, da preizkusijo svoje kombinacije in zamisli. Vendar pa ob mojem drugem obisku to ni več delovalo. Prva velikanska obleka je ostala kot je bila, izdelana iz različnih kosov blaga, medtem ko sta bili beli dve zdaj tako rekoč – neuporabni. Ena je bila pač tam (brez omogočene individualne projekcije vzorcev), na drugi pa se je predvajal zelo kratek video posnetek o nečem nerazločnem, saj je bil preveč svetel, da bi lahko razvozlala njegov pomen. Brez računalniških postaj z vzorci ti trije velikani izgubijo svoj pomen in delujejo zgolj kot osrednje polnilo prostora s knjigami vzorcev v temnih vitrinah ob straneh, ki so pa preveč osvetljene od zunaj, zaradi česar je vzorce nemogoče občudovati.

Sicer pa je predstavljena tekstilna zgodba zelo dobro vključena v pomembne zgodovinske dogodke, s poudarkom na njihovih vplivih na industrijo. Zaokroži dramatičen vzpon in padec tekstilne industrije v času 20. stoletja, vključno s prvo in drugo svetovno vojno. V ta namen so dopolnjujoče video vsebine skrbno umestili v razstavo na zelo subtilen način, da se zlijejo z sivimi informacijskimi otočki in vitrinami, ter izboljšajo tok zgodbe in še povečajo informacijsko vrednost.

Za tiste, ki ne maramo preveč branja, je najbolj zanimiv zadnji razstavni segment, kjer predstavljajo izbrane kose modnih oblačil, vključno z nenavadno črno poročno obleko iz leta 1909. Večina predstavljenih oblek in kopalk so ženska oblačila, čeprav nekatere pomembne uniforme in obleke za gospode niso manjkale. Poleg tega moram reči, da ne bi imela prav nič proti, če bi kakšna razstavljena obleka ali dve končali v moji omari. Če bi se mi uspelo stisniti vanje, je drugo vprašanje, so pa nekateri kosi resnično lepi in brezčasni.

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Del stalne razstave, ki mi je zelo všeč – predstavitev modnih kosov, vključno s kolekcijo kopalk.

Stalna razstava se zaključi s hitrim skokom v sedanjost z verjetno najbolj priljubljenim prostorom za otroke. Poseben siv razstavni kotiček vključuje astronavtom sorodno oblačilo za železarje, zaščitna oblačila za gasilce, preizkus oblačil, ki naj bi bila odporna na veter, izdelke iz ogljikovih vlaken in drugih, zame manj privlačnih stvari.

Na splošno muzej ponuja zaokroženo zgodbo in osvetljuje pomemben del industrijske zgodovine. Nekatera pomembna sodobna vprašanja v zvezi s to industrijo ostajajo sicer neizpostavljena, so pa uporabna podlaga za začasne razstave, kjer so ob mojem obisku predstavljali posebnost in uporabnost karbonskih vlaken. Muzej je svež in narejen z mislijo na tiste, ki radi odkrivajo in so aktivni. Resnično razočaranje zame je bila zgolj popolna prepoved fotografiranja – v današnjem času?! Povsem bi razumela omejitev fotografiranja na prepoved uporabe bliskavice, ampak popolno prepoved? Njihova spletna stran pravi, da je prepoved zaradi varstva avtorskih pravic – katerih avtorskih pravic? Ali bolje, čigavih? Gre za državni muzej, posvečen ljudem. Zatorej prepoved fotografiranja obiskovalcem dandanes razumem kot manifestacijo nerazumevanja, kako se vrti svet družbenih omrežij. Zaradi te zahteve uporabljam fotografije izpred treh let, ko mi fotografiranja nihče ni prepovedal.

Ravno pred kratkim je bil objavljen pronicljiv članek na temo, zakaj nekateri muzeji prepovedujejo fotografiranje.

Da zaključim s Timom: muzej je v svojem pripovedovanju zelo sodoben, v primerjavi z drugimi muzeji, ki jih ponuja Augsburg, in je nedvomno vreden ogleda. Imajo tudi krasno muzejsko trgovino na vhodu / izhodu s šivalnim kotičkom in prikazom šivanja v živo, na prodaj je veliko muzejskih izdelkov in poštena zaloga tematskih knjig za odrasle in otroke. Poleg tega se njihova šik kavarna – restavracija popolnoma prilega ambientu in zaokroži muzejsko izkušnjo z okusnim krepčilom. Ne smemo pozabiti, kako imenitno je, da so uspeli po muzeju poimenovati tramvaj postajališče in avtobusno linijo. Še zmeraj pa je veliko prostora za izboljšave, da se razvijejo v bolj turistično prijazno destinacijo. Še posebej bi priporočila izgubo preostanka hierarhično obarvanega pričakovanja od obiskovalcev, da naj bodo hvaležni za obisk muzeja, ki se v celoti ne ujema z njihovo simpatično in prijazno spletno stranjo.

Ob koncu pa še na hitro poglejmo, kaj se na temo industrije dogaja v slovenskih muzejih. V Sloveniji je kar nekaj primerov, ki se soočajo z razkrajajočimi elementi propadle ali propadajoče industrije. Tukaj bom izpostavila le nekatere, saj bi si ta tema zaslužila kar svojo objavo. Pred leti je Muzej novejše zgodovine Celje pripravil participativni projekt »Ne meč’te piskrov stran«, javno akcijo zbiranja emajliranih loncev Western-Emo, ki so jih uporabili v umetniški interpretaciji, in obenem z namenom bogatenja muzejske zbirke s temi manjkajočimi elementi. V Belokranjskem muzeju letos predstavljajo »gospodarski čudež Jugoslavije« (Brancelj Bednaršek 2016), začasno razstavo v počastitev 60-letnice delovanja tekstilnega podjetja Beti. Muzej narodne osvoboditve Maribor pa že leta aktivno zbira ostanke padlih industrij, s tem ohranja njihov duh in zgodovino ter zgodbe; v decembru pa odpirajo razstavo tekstilne industrije v Mariboru, znano kot Jugoslovanski Manchester.


Kaiser, Wolfram, Krankenhagen, Stefan in Poehls, Kerstin: Exhibiting Europe in Museums. Transnational Networks, Collections, Narratives, and Representations. New York in Oxford: Berghahn, 2014. (Volume 6, Museums and Collections).

Brancelj Bednaršek, Andreja: Predgovor/ Foreword. Beti: 60 let spominov. Beti (Metlika). Metlika: Belokranjski muzej, 2016. 10-13.