Africa 1931 in 2016

Tina Palaić

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During his travel František Foit was making sculptures of different ethnic groups.

Sculptor František Vladimir Foit and his friend, zoologist Dr. Jiři Baum started their scientific journey through Africa in 1931. These two travelers from former Czechoslovakia set off for a journey by a Tatra car and succeeded to travel from north to south of the continent, crossing the countries of Egypt, Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, today’s Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, in just eight months. They were neither looking for the adventure nor did the well-organized tourist trip. Foit was sent on a scientific travels by the Charles University in Prague to make »anthropological masks of African tribes«, says the exhibition text. During the journey Baum studied insects and sent the outcomes of his investigations to the National Museum of Prague. They were working on their commissions all the time. In addition, they took plenty of photographs as well as made a film.

530 Foit’s images, taken on his journey in 1931, are being kept in Velenje Museum. In 2012 curator Blaž Verbič prepared an exhibition entitled Africa 1931 – Foit’s photographs on glass to present the most outstanding 200 images. It is interesting that the most of Foit’s collection is in Velenje Museum in Slovenia and not in the Czech Republic – his destiny is very much connected with former Yugoslavia. In 1968 Foit wanted to return to Europe with his wife Irena. At that time they lived in Nairobi in Kenya, where he worked as a sculptor and taught on the Kennyata University. It was not possible for them to return to Czechoslovakia, their homeland, due to the Prague Spring and the Soviet occupation. Instead Yugoslav ambassador in Kenya, Ivo Pelicon, introduced Foits to Dr. Boris Kuhar, who was the director of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana. Kuhar found suitable solution for his friends in Slovenia. František and Irena Foit came to Yugoslavia in 1971 and were offered an apartment and a place for the exhibition of their objects in Velenje. Foit gave his ethnographic collection to the city of Velenje where it is still permanently exhibited in the Velenje Museum.

Design is very attractive - photographs are exhibited as slides, illuminated from behind. / Razstava je atraktivno oblikovana - fotografije so predstavljene kot diapozitivi, osvetljeni z zadnje strani.

Design is very attractive – photographs are exhibited as slides, illuminated from behind.

You can see the exhibition Africa 1931 – Foit’s photographs on glass for free in the Museum of Recent History Celje until the end of August 2016. When entering the exhibition, visitor is confronted by the low light room where photographs are exhibited as slides, illuminated from behind. Photographs are accompanied by the short commentary, written on the basis of Foit’s travel diary. The design is very attractive and leads you from one country to another following the travelers’ route. Few objects are also exhibited. There is Tiriki mask from Kenya, which was used during the initiation of boys into society, as well as Foit’s personal objects. In the last room there is an interactive computer, where visitor can read more about the travelers’ story and making of the exhibition as well as watch some additional short videos. One of them shows preservation and restoration of photographs on glass; curator was taught the procedure in Prague. It is great that he decided to present also this kind of information and thus explained some background of the exhibition.

Foit's map of Africa. / Foitov zemljevid Afrike.

Foit’s map of Africa.

There is also Foit’s map of Africa where visitor can follow travelers’ route, as well as blank map of the world where s/he can mark his/her travel destinations. The exhibition narrative is thus concluded in a nice atmosphere, which encourage a visitor to contemplate her or his travel experiences. Therefore, the smallest possibility for critical reflection about “scientific expeditions” in colonized countries is lost.

 

 

An exhibition offers several facts about the journey, and investigation of two white man, who traveled through the African continent in the first half of the 20th century. Information is presented through the main texts, Foit’s photographs and accompanying comments. However, how do we perceive this kind of expedition today? They were possible because targeted countries were colonized. European governments encouraged and financed “scientific investigations” – civilizational discourse of imagined primitive non-western communities justified European colonial project as well as defined European identity and culture. Colonial history shaped western perspective on the world and defined western identity. As Edward Said has already said in 1978: European knowledge is colonialism. If we do not critically reflect on the colonial narratives, we enable this obsolete and especially disputable discourse to survive. It is interesting how colonial discourse has expanded everywhere; it can be found also in the countries without (direct) colonial context.

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It is important what and how is told.

We can recognize it also in the exhibition Africa 1931 – through the use of language and images as well as presented topics. Several words, used in the exhibition, demand thorough consideration, for instance tribe (slo. pleme), native (slo. domorodec), and Pygmy people (slo. Pigmejci). This terminology is outdated and offensive. In addition, many photographs show semi-naked or naked women of colour – some of them with the expression of uneasiness on their faces. They create an image of primitive, sexualized women of black colour, which is defined by the perspective of a white man, the view, being shaped by the power, domination and eroticism. Hierarchical structure is emphasized also with presenting Foit and Baum as two important scientists, who carried out very important tasks during their travels, as well as the fact that the exhibition presents just their story. I also missed the current issues, connected with the story of the exhibition.

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Photographs of semi-naked women.

How can museums deal with such issues? Which are contemporary trends in exhibiting this kind of content? For this text I stumbled across some interesting cases of dealing with colonial terminology in museums and galleries as well as responses to such endeavors. Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam leads the program “Adjustment of Colonial Terminology” (starts in 2015), which seeks to remove outdated racist terminology from its artwork titles. Words that Europeans once routinely used to describe other cultures or peoples, like “negro”, “Mohammedan” (an archaic word for a Muslim) or “dwarf”, will be replaced. The same process goes on in the National Gallery of Denmark (starts in 2016), which has replaced the words “negro” and “Hottentot” (an offensive Dutch term for the Khoi people of Africa) in titles and descriptions of its artworks. Change of the terminology was met with approval, for instance the International Council of Museums – ICOM has claimed that this was a step in the right direction. With the use of colonial terminology, museums help to maintain and even strengthen colonial discourse as well as established hierarchical structures – museums have to deal with it differently to fulfill their educational role. In addition, they have to approach these contents carefully and have to avoid offensive words because there are also source communities among museum visitors, who visit such exhibitions. However, there was many criticism, too. Some people think this is an example of censorship as well as ‘whitewashing’ history, and our ancestors’ acts. Some accuse museums of revising history. Both arguments are reasonable.

What to do? In my opinion, museums should explain the colonial discourse and its use when exhibiting such contents – both in museums in colonial countries, as well as in countries with non-colonial context. When curator presents certain issue from today’s perspective, use of colonial terminology is no longer suitable. When he/ she has to use colonial narrative to maintain historical credibility, then he/ she has to offer an explanation. The point is neither in maintaining colonial terminology, nor in deleting it – we have to clarify it. With doing so, an exhibition does not only present the content, but also explains and values it – this is the interpretation. In my way of thinking, critical reflection on colonial discourse is in accordance with the contemporary trends in museology, as well as defining museums as socially responsible institutions.

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Museum of Broken Relationships

Urška Purg

Can you imagine yourself standing in front of an used toaster for more than five minutes? Or in front of one legless caterpillar toy? Or even being addressed by a broken and dusty old garden gnome without a nose?
As impossible as this may seem, in Museum of Broken Relationships you will catch yourself doing exactly that – absorbing the most unusual objects and their even more appealing stories for minutes. Some do it for hours. This is the only museum that motivated me to read almost all of the texts they have next to the objects. No matter how long. Twice. With a year brake in between. In addition, I hate reading much text in museums.

I guess it’s almost obvious to say, they nailed it with the topic selection, since broken relationships are one of the most universal topics ever. Transnational, cross-border and relatable to anyone – after all, we all have a few broken relationships in our closets. It not only evokes our emotions, but also our memories and our own experiences from the past. Despite being a company, that named themselves a museum, visitors from all over the world are coming in masses and no one minds the entrance fee. They even got the Kenneth Hudson Award for the most innovative museum in Europe.

Museum is placed in a quite suitable building in Zagreb that once was an apartment. Some leftovers are still visible throughout the exhibition. To make as much emphasis on the objects as possible, entire interior is in white. By everything being white, it appeared to me that the objects come out of space. I find that perfect, since they launched me directly into another world. While strolling around the museum, this is exactly how I felt like – being in a parallel universe, or buried deep in the collection of one very diverse novel. It’s like going on an ultra-short roller coasters of emotional stories. In short, the personal stories behind the most random objects achieve luring out your emotions. You feel the pain, the happiness, the sorrow/ … of the people, who have sent their memories of their broken relationship to the museum. Moreover, easily, one of these objects could be yours. I caught myself repeatedly playing in my thoughts, what I would have done in a similar situation.

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One of the most quiet museums I’ve ever been to./ Najbolj tih muzej od vseh, v katerih sem bila.

Some stories are sad, some filled with anger, some witty and in need of a conclusion, and some truly painful. Some stories – no matter how short, even give you goose pops. From time to time, it feels like peeking through the private house’s window and pressing fast forward button to be able to follow the most exciting parts. This is where the smartness of the idea behind this museum pop-ups – this is a museum of all of us. Of all of us, who, while cycling to work on mornings try to come up with an excuse for being late. It’s a museum of people like you and me, who while steering the babbling pumpkin soup, are thinking about this and that. It’s a museum of people who used to loved and love.

The objects, as various as they are, seem to be following an invisible order – firstly you meet the stories of young(er) love’s ends. Then more serious follow through cheating and adult dispersals, to painful family broken relationships. The walk concludes with mature (if one could name them so) brake-ups and ended marriages. The darkest stories are placed into the most shattered part of the house, where the bathroom used to be, I imagen. Some find this annoying however; I like the setting and the atmosphere it creates. Those old damaged bathroom tiles are perfect for the weight of the stories the objects presented there reveal. They could even be placed into basement, if there would be one, since those are the stories majority wish to hide from the world. Yet, here they can be told here – from strangers for strangers.

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The heaviest stories in matching scenographic atmosphere./ Najtežje zgodbe v ujemajočem prostorskem predelu muzeja.

I would say this is not merely a museum. It allows people anonymously reaching a conclusion of their bonds in hope of moving on. I also found this museum one of the quietest ones, with everyone reading the texts, no matter how long. Everyone is trying to grasp the stories and after the visit, when leaving the museum, feel better about themselves. It almost gives a similar uplifting feeling like watching Keeping up with the Kardashians, or Big Brother show, where you feel normal after that.

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A confession room in the end of the museum for visitors’ inputs./ Spovednica na koncu muzeja je namenjena doprinosom obiskovalcev na temo razhajanj ali zgolj vtisov o muzeju in videnem.

I have been very happy with my second visit in Museum of Broken Relationships; however, I have stumbled upon some things that were slightly irritating. Despite all of its informality, which is warmly welcome because of the personal stories, English could be a bit better and according to the English grammar rules. I was also curious to watch the videos they have decided to include on a display. Despite being very interested, I could not bear watching them – the sound was disturbed and crumbly, which made it impossible to listen. That particular element could, or should really be improved. Alternatively, it should not be there at all. Finally, having more chairs around the place would not hurt. After stepping out of this special emotional zone, your spine and legs hurt. Fortunately, a cute museum cafe is there, where you can finally rest right after having a quick stop in a well thought through museum shop on your way out.

Overall, museum theme, and the fact they have constantly on-going travelling and temporary exhibitions, dealing with the most current social issues, is just so perfect I can only wish I had thought of it myself. And they even have a twin-brother in L.A.!

 

Cooperation with artist Bianca Baldi in SEM

Tina Palaić

Museums of Ethnography and World Cultures are – due to their contents – in the forefront of ongoing discussions about new trends regarding the obtaining and interpreting museum collections. For some time now increased migration in and within the European Union and connectedness of different social groups through Internet motivate museums to develop inclusive practices and fulfil concept of multivocality. Representing other social groups without their participation is outdated for a long time – at least in theory. Especially museums should encourage and perform the practices of co-creation of museum knowledge in cooperation with different individuals and groups. They can invite museum experts from other museum institutions, scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds, contemporary artists, students, museum visitors, interested in the issue, and also representatives from different ethnic groups and other communities – especially if museum has collections originating from them or it aims to include in the museums presentations those groups which were overlooked until then.

Within the SWICH project the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM) has invited visual artist Bianca Baldi (b. 1985, Johannesburg) to intervene in its African collections. The objective of her stay in the museum is to provide new perspective on selected material. An artist came in April and in one month stay in Ljubljana she started to discover artistic and museum sphere in Slovenia. She visited Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and International Centre of Graphic Arts. In addition she mainly investigated numerous artifacts and photographs from African collections in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, which have been obtained since the mid-nineteenth century. Those collections were introduced to her by Marko Frelih, PhD, curator for Africa and Americas.

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Bianca Baldi in the Museum of Modern Art with curator Martina Vovk, PhD. One part of the permanent exhibition was presented by curator Marko Jenko, PhD. / Bianca Baldi v Moderni galeriji s kustosinjo dr. Martino Vovk. Del razstave je umetnici predstavil tudi kustos dr. Marko Jenko.

Bianca Baldi became enthusiastic about the story of Slovene expedition in Togo. Two Slovenes, Anton Codelli – engineer and inventor, and his friend Leo Poljanec, joined German company Telefunken and between 1911 and 1914 helped to construct radiotelegraph station in the village of Kamina. First wireless radiotelegraph connection was established in 1913 between Kamina in Togo and station in Nauen near Berlin in Germany. This was an extraordinary technical achievement at that time. However, at the beginning of the First World War Berlin ordered to destroy the station, which was ruined in five hours. Many parts of the station – construction material as well as steam boilers – are still in situ. In order to present this heritage, the museum prepared photographic exhibition entitled Togo album 1911-1914.

Vir Spletna stran SEM

Catalogue Togo album 1911-1914, Slovene  Ethnographic Museum, 2007. Author: Marko Frelih, PhD. / Katalog Togo album 1911-1914, Slovenski etnografski muzej, 2007. Avtor: dr. Marko Frelih.

Bianca Baldi is interested in the collection of technical photographs showing the construction of radiotelegraph station in Kamina and also in the collection of talismans, which were found in Leo Poljanec’s bag. She is enthusiastic especially about talismans with mythological structure in the shape of labyrinth. Evil forces are trapped in the maze and they are unable to escape. As a consequence, they vanished and therefore cannot harm the owner of the talisman. Bianca Baldi wants to connect these two completely diverse collections and through them reconsider communication as one of the powerful tools of imperialism. She will present her work in autumn 2016 after the second phase of her residency in museum.

During her residency Bianca Baldi gave an interesting artist talk, which took place at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. She talked about her last projects – Livro de Todo o Universo (2015), following a residency at AIR Antwerp in collaboration with the Museum Plantin Moretus Antwerpen, and Zero Latitude (2014), commissioned and co-produced by the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art with the support of Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg and the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC). She also presented the project she develops within the SWICH project in the museum.

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Bianca Baldi gave an artist talk in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. / Muzejski večer z umetnico Bianco Baldi.

You can get more information about her stay in Ljubljana, her impressions about the cooperation with the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and also her common research methods in the radio show My life, my music on the Radio SI. With this radio show journalist Chris Wherry aims to introduce the stories of interesting people and their favourite music pieces. In addition to other themes Bianca speaks also about her homeland, the Republic of South Africa, and offers some parallels between SA and Slovenia.

Cooperation between the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and an artist, Bianca Baldi brings us a lot of challenges – at least for the museum. It opens many questions: a role of an artists in the interpretation of collections in non-art museums; cooperation between an artist and targeted social groups within the artistic projects in museums; possibility of developing new audiences with the inclusion of artistic interpretation; ethical dilemmas regarding the relationship between artist and museum collections. I will reconsider these questions – and perhaps some more – at the end of Bianca Baldi’s residency in the museum.

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Bianca Baldi in the International Centre of Graphic Arts with curator Božidar Zrinski. / Bianca Baldi v Mednarodnem grafičnem likovnem centru s kustosom Božidarjem Zrinskim.

 

 

Chocolate. Who doesn’t like chocolate?

Urška Purg

But do you know, where it comes from? OK, but do you know, when did this sweet, pamperish brown thing come to Europe? And do you know, there is also a bitter side of chocolate?

There is a cute little temporary exhibition – coming to an end – in Museum of Recent History Celje exactly on this – chocolate! It covers the where from’s and how’s, also the first beginnings in Europe, the history of the cocoa tree, the first producers and products, and much more, neatly spiced up with history. They did not overlook the dark side of the chocolate industry over the years and the environmental and social questions it raises either.

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Milk chocolate wrapping produced by the Trappist monks, who first started to produce chocolate in Slovenia in Rajhenburg castle./ Ovitek rajhenburške mlečne čokolade izpod rok trapistov, ki so prvi v Sloveniji pričeli s proizvajanjem čokolade.

Smartly divided into four parts, it offers a light walk through, or a more detailed and educational impact, if desired. First part is slightly more dedicated to theory and informational part, nicely wrapped into giant packets of chocolates, which makes it pleasant to an eye. As a matter of fact, the entire exhibition design is pleasant to an eye and nose – the scent of chocolate surrounds you as entering the exhibition. Beware – it might awake the desire and cravings for … chocolate!
However, to continue with the exhibition division – the next part presents some national and local chocolate producers, nostalgic commercials and a large photo wall, which is supposed to invite the visitors to take selfies. Of course, also the selfie stick is there and some printed photos of smiling selfies, posted on museum’s Facebook – unfortunately not many. Maybe a photo wall with a hint of silliness would do the trick, but still it harms no one by being there.
I was particularly interested in the third part, where invited artists have interpreted chocolate in their own way. My attention was raised by Sweet dilemma by Suzana Švent – a set of figurines made out of chocolate with a help of balloons, placed on a mirror and there for the visitors to decide, whether they would like to enjoy the art, or rather the taste, while seeing themselves eating it. Apparently, there was no dilemma at all – the sculptures were long gone before I came.

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Sweet dilemma – solved./ Razrešena Sladka dilema.

The exhibition is concluded with a recipe room, where pre-gathered popular people’s recipes greeted me from the walls. Gathering the recipes was also used as a dissemination tool before the exhibition, which worked very well. Smart. The exhibition space unfortunately dictates the visitor to return the same way as coming in, and usually this is slightly inconvenient – especially, if the visitors are not motivated by any extra planned and placed scenographical nudges. However, in this case I realised how many things have I missed on my way in – the sayings, the UNRA package, which also contained chocolate, all those little details. Therefore, going in and out on the same path represents no problem at all.

It is a sweet, easy and pleasant exhibition for a nice afternoon leisure walk and a good introduction and motivation to stop for a cup of hot chocolate later in the nearest café. And since it’s closing in three days – the ones, who have not seen it yet – hurry up.

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UNRA package next to the legendary children’s chocolate Animal Kingdom – firstly made with only 2% cocoa, the rest was starch, sugar and butter./ UNRA paket, ob njem pa legendarno Živalsko kraljestvo, ki je na začetku vsebovalo zgolj 2% kakava, ostalo je bil škrob, sladkor in maslo.

SWICH – Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage: Project in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum

Tina Palaić

How should we collect, present and interpret non-European collections in museums in the colonial countries? What are the implications of the non-colonial context for museum practice? How can the perspectives and experience of Others depicted in museum collections be integrated into museum interpretations? These are some of the questions Slovene Ethnographic Museum would like to reconsider during the SWICH project. Ten European partner museums work together in the EU-cooperation project which runs from November 2014 to September 2018 and is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme. In a series of events and activities the museums work on strategies for 21st century museum practice and especially reconsider the role and the vision of ethnographic museums for the future. There is a need to develop adequate museum practice in response to the increased migration and also trans-border movements within the European Union, which change the demography in EU states. Museums will try to increase the role of ethnographic museums as places of cultural encounters, open discourse, creative innovation and knowledge production based on international collaborations.

Slovene Ethnographic Museum works within two themes of the project: creative dialogue and digital contact zones. Within the creative dialogue the museum will host an artist in residence who will stay in Ljubljana for two months. The residency is split in two phases. The first phase will start on 11 April 2016 and will end on 11 May 2016; the second phase will start in September 2016. Soon we will be able to meet up with Bianca Baldi (1985), visual artist based between South Africa and the EU. Her video installations bring to the fore overlooked narrative strands and the hidden structures of power. In her work, through the focus on specific cultural or sociological artefacts, historical plots reveal complex webs of political, economic and cultural influences. At the Slovene Ethnographic Museum she will work with the African collection. In the cooperation with museum curators and members of African community she is expected to develop artwork, which will be presented at the end of the residency in autumn 2016. During the residency the museum is going to organize several events with her. Come and meet Bianca. You are warmly welcome!

4. Zero Latitude (Panthère naturalisée) 2014 Bianca Baldi

Zero Latitude (Panthère naturalisée), 2014, Bianca Baldi

The place of the mad, the bad and the dead… which is no longer that at all

Urška Purg

Whenever in London, I’m sure you treat yourself with at least a sneak peek into some of their exquisite museums, right? How not to? They have those massive, impressive and amazing cultural houses, which attract millions for their objects and artifacts, architecture or promised experiences. Sometimes also because of the name itself – admit it.

Well, next time in London, consider taking yourself for another, this time slightly different museum adventure, only 30 minutes away from London by train – to Woking. Why? Because it is a home of not so large and not so famous however, appealing mixture of gallery and museum – The Lightbox. Smaller, but from a museum geek’s perspective extremely interesting because of its tight connection to the surrounding society and their feeling of responsibility to the local area. Marvelous.

It’s an institution, where everything just simply functions while breathing with its society. A place that could be called a plus museum – museum with added value, or as they are saying: “More than just a gallery” and could easily be an example of good practice for museums who cannot build their reputation by Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Egyptian riches, or any other buzz-museum objects. Sure, you won’t run into masses of tourists, which is liberating at some point, instead, you will be welcomed by a friendly greeting by one of their staff at the entrance. You will be surrounded by the sounds of live music from their café, or will be flirting with local products in their shop. You will pass by a curious family, a few local visitors, a group of children on their exploratory mission … and a lot of things that will steal an hour – or better two – from you just like that.

For an introduction of this area and building of a local identity and a sense of belonging, the permanent exhibition takes care under slogan: Once known as the place of the mad, the bad and the dead, even though it is much more than just that. However, merely by this well-chosen slogan, a fair share of Woking’s history remains in your mind, when leaving The Lightbox. The exhibition works perfectly, it guides you through all you need to know by neatly intertwined technology, so you don’t even realize you have been tackling with it and it does not compete for the attention over the displayed objects.

For a break from history, or just for inspiration, you can take a walk down their art exhibition, where they take great care for exhibiting their permanent collection as widely as possible with always fresh artifacts. If you really feel like pampering, you can hire the place for a lovely dinner among the arts. Besides this, they keep up with the offer by bringing the hosting temporary exhibitions, or preparing their own. To my great pleasure, while I was there, an exhibition on Quentin Blake’s illustrations was on. The child in me was happy and satisfied.

What I cherish most about them is the fact, they never, never forget about the relevant topics, participation, accessibility, and involvement of the locals, and thus they really put their effort into being a relevant cultural building of that area. In a way, they’ve managed to become Woking’s cultural core in their nearly a decade of existence. Just a small illustration of that: when I arrived from the train, of course I had no idea where to go, because I forgot to print screen the map on my phone or check for directions from their useful website. Instead I just asked the first person, who walked by, if she could direct me to the Lightbox. “Oh, no problem love, I was just heading that way.” a lovely elderly lady replied, while a man next to us heard my question and interfered: “It’s just down there and then a bit to the left, see.” So, absolutely no map needed and you’ll reach it anyway.

To wrap it up – it’s a lovely experience, it has a little bit of everything and a good cup of coffee as well. I absolutely wouldn’t mind having a Lightbox a bit closer to me. Well, see you next time, when I’ll be in that parts of Europe.

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Well, I wouldn’t quite be myself, if I wouldn’t come from the back side of the building, now would I./ Nedvomno jaz ne bi bila jaz, če ne bi prišla iz hrbtne strani stavbe.

 

 

Museum Tea Party: The future of museums with the young museologists

Video

On Tuesday, 17 November 2015, we performed our third museum tea party at the National Museum of Contemporary History in the framework of projects of the EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups. The third museum tea party was dedicated to the views, thoughts and experiences of the young museum professionals and museologists. We chitchatted with PhD Saša Starec, Meta Kordiš, Neja Tomšič (MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art) and Sebastian Weber (Museum of Recent History Celje).

Our guests have presented their experiences in working in museums or the research they have been conducting on the museums. Saša Starec talked about her doctoral research, which was carried out in two museums, in Celje and Berlin, and explained the differences in their operation. She defined the concept of post-museum (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000) that advocates the public participation in the creation of museum content. It enables the creation of polyphony in museums, which allows the stories of those who have so far been overlooked or ignored in museums to be heard. Neja Tomšič presented the MoTA status for their placement in a museum world. It is a multidisciplinary platform, released from what at first was a society, dedicated to the research and presentation of transient, experimental and live art practices. Naming themselves as a museum, was a decision they came upon, because they want – through their practices – question the role of the museum today, introduce new work processes and create different collections. Meta Kordiš spoke about her cooperation with the Maribor Art Gallery, where she co-curated an exhibition US, YOU, THEY. Fragments of 80’s alternative practices in Maribor. Her efforts have coincided with the social developments in Maribor in 2013, as she investigated social changes and alternatives that have taken place in Maribor in the 80’s. She approached the matter by researching this heritage, in cooperation with its most prominent representatives, while every inhabitant of Maribor was invited to supplement the exhibition. Sebastian Weber has described his love for work on the field and working with people, both of which he is trying to – as much as possible –implement in all of his projects. Upon his arrival at work at the museum, almost a decade ago, he has noticed the lack of the younger generation in museums, who in his opinion do not come, either because of lack of interest, or lack of time. Therefore, he tried to get closer to this generation by usage of social networks and its integration in the creation of exhibition called Virtual Spaces.
You are invited to listen the museum tea party (unfortunately only in Slovene language).

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 1/2

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 2/2

Ethical issues in anthropological research and ethics in museology

Tina Palaić
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Before we started to study their perinatal customs, practices and experiences, I have visited Roma women to determine the research issue and project activities together. All women, to whom I spoke to in two Roma communities and at the society which one of them leads, were willing to talk about maternity. They recognize the identity of being a mother crucial for them and they immediately started to talk about their different experiences. It was extremely important for me to plan the activities together and to give them the opportunity to express their fears and possible obstacles and also to suggest some changes in the process of cooperation. With my colleagues – Nika Rudež and Anja Božič, performers of the theatre of oppressed – we discussed a lot about how to do the research into such a demanding and complex issue with the group of women, being often discriminated both – in contact with the wider community and within their own group. Ethical considerations were also necessary when we were curating the exhibition.

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Mosaic of our realities – creator of the exhibition, Jasmina Ahmetaj’s dress / Mozaik naših realnosti – obleka Jasmine Ahmetaj, ustvarjalke razstave

A lot has been written about the research ethics in anthropology. Additionally, I also used the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. As a starting point, we decided to conduct all the project activities together with Roma women; they actively participated in all stages of the project. To avoid causing any harm to them either inside their group or inside the majority community, we had to get acquainted with their needs and habits and of course respect them. Several factors had to be considered when preparing the activities: Slovene language skills, household, business and study obligations of the women, presence of children at the workshops in one of the groups, group dynamics and willingness to cooperate. We adapted the intensity of the research process to all of these factors. It was also important that we were focused on the process and not on the end results of the project, which empowered Roma women and gave them the feeling of control over the collaboration process. In my opinion, this was the crucial decision, since it enabled them with the power and security to stop the process at any time, due to the voluntary basis of the collaboration.

While curating the exhibition, we had to combine professional competence of museum curator and the needs and wishes of Roma women – as the holders of their heritage. Roma communities understand their heritage variously and the fear of the possible discrimination inside their community and in contact with majority population impacted the selection of presented content. Thus, the exhibition was the result of negotiations and compromises between the museum curator and Roma women and also between the participant Roma women themselves. They are experts in their heritage however, we cannot expect that they are familiar with the museum mission and the museology. Therefore, it is not ethical to enable them an entirely free creative expression, but it is the duty of the curator to create the exhibition in a proper way together with them. This means he or she has to include only accurate and valid information and be aware of the purpose of the museum interpretation. While curating the exhibition, we discussed about contents and images, which could possibly harm the Roma community and especially women and even strengthen stereotypes about Roma in the wider society. We had to avoid some presentations that could do harm also to other groups, for example majority community or some groups of Roma people inside Slovenian Roma community. We also turned the perspective and rather than presenting the Roma women in the position of victims, we presented them as active creators of their own lives. With the mosaic of their stories, we emphasized the differences between Roma groups and especially between women in a particular group. Therefore, we tried to overcome the image of homogeneous Roma culture and, what is more important, of powerless individual determined by it.

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Prenatal customs/ Šege v času nosečnosti

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Child protection against evil / Zaščita otroka pred zlom

 

Museum Tea Party: Social Responsibility of Museums

Video

On Wednesday, 11 November 2015 we have gathered once again at the National Museum of Contemporary History in the framework of projects of the EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups to perform the second museum tea party. This time we invited for a chat the three representatives of the main Slovenian museum organizations: president of the Slovenian Committee of the International Council of Museums ICOM, Tanja Roženbergar M.A., president of Slovene Museum Association (SMS), Aleksandra Berberih Slana Ph.D. and president of the Slovenian Museum Society (SMD), Flavio Bonin Ph.D.

At first, all three guests have presented their professional organizations to which they preside. ICOM is committed to the development of museums and museum professionals, whereas it connects the Slovenian museums and museology with the international space. SMS represents and promotes the museums and galleries and links them with the aim of solving professional problems and statuses, while the SMD is a professional association of Slovenian museum workers, which also aims for the development of Slovenian museum profession. Further on, they continued with evaluation of Slovene museums and a museum profession from the organizations’ point of view; and have in this manner highlighted the strengths and the gaps in the functioning of the Slovenian museums. They presented some good examples of museum operation and projects, which show that Slovene museums implement the modern museological directions: accessibility, public participation, responsiveness to current events. In this context, they also discussed the museums responding to the current refugee situation and thus combined the two features of contemporary museum: responsibility and involvement.

Our lovely guests also spoke of the importance and power of heritage and museums in our space and pointed to their weak strength in comparison to the situation abroad.

You are invited to listen and watch the video (this time unfortunately only in Slovene language) from the tea party.

Part 1:

Part 2:

In a gallery after dark. With a smartphone.

Urška Purg

Imagine a bunch of smartphone and SocWeb lovers placed in a national gallery, where you are greeted with Please, turn off your cell mobile phones and other such requests at the entrance. It’s just like Wacky Races with a hint of sophistication – alive, loud, fun, perhaps a bit messy, however no competition against one another, but rather a search for the best and favourite museum piece and the before unseen.

This is exactly what happened on Tuesday evening in freshly renovated National Gallery of Slovenia, when it closed its doors for the public. We had a remarkable opportunity to walk around the gallery with lovely hosts, take photos on every corner and also see every bit of the gallery, although the grand after-renovation opening follows in a week.

They took great care of us, once all gathered, had quite some surprises up their sleeves, and they even prepared a sweet testing of their new cake Luiza, named after its inspiration – Stroj’s Luiza Pesjak. I greet their hospitality and boldness in allowing a rather large group of people to walk around the still not completely finished gallery with pleasure. It was interesting and appealing, even for someone, who used to know the entire permanent collection by hard.

All I can say is – I wish there were more such events around museums and galleries.

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The feeling is slightly surreal, yet comfortable. / Kar nežno čuden, ampak udoben občutek.

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And my favourite – the one, who outgrew the frame (Vavpotič’s wife). / In še moja najljubša – tista, ki je uspela prerasti okvir (Vavpotičeva žena).