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.

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.

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.

tim – Textile and Industry Museum Augsburg

Urška Purg

European cities are facing the downfall of industry for a while now. Causing the changes in society and people’s lives, it is becoming more and more important topic also for the museums. Museums try to save and preserve some remains of the fallen or transferred industry. Although, preservation and assuring the referential point in constantly changing times is an important role for museums, who wish to compensate the loss of industry and modernisation (Marquard 2001 in Zübe 1989 po Kaiser idr. 2014, 6), that is no longer enough for them. Museums are becoming the carriers of the changes as well, as Kaiser, Krankenhagen and Poehls place museums (2014, 6). This means, museums need to face their actions also in the present society and its needs, as well as in the future. There are more and more museums, who are doing their best to leave their footprints in this process. TIM is just one example, how once leading textile industry in Augsburg has managed to cope with their vanished era.

Placed in an old complex of former textile factory, State Textile and Industry Museum Augsburg tells a story of industrial importance of Augsburg in the textile field in the history. It is a specialized history museum, which pays a tribute to the once important and todays ruined bit of local textile industry.

I had an opportunity to visit the museum already three years ago, and with a help of a really good guided tour, it charmed me completely. It was nice to come back again after three years to see, how they are proceeding. Museum is placed in an old building with a subtle and clear museum design. The concept of the museum follows the chronological order, with an introduction of the textile production from the very beginning through raw materials with silkworms and origins, and so on, followed by the machine production, textile patterns and final products through time. The main story is accompanied by the parallel story in the separate thematic cubes, introducing the development of the textile industry in Augsburg. Both stories are very intuitively and neatly arranged. Through being a very structured museum, it is very clear for the visitors to follow the proposed storylines, with interesting blue interactive DIY islands with children’s tasks and games. Although, I appreciate there is not too much text, more text in English wouldn’t hurt. They offer guided tours in five languages though. However, for individual non-German speaking visitors, who wish merely to stroll around and discover the exhibition on their own, there is a gap. In addition, the staff addressing you in German no matter your questions are in English also doesn’t help much. There is demonstration of the machines by the former factory workers, which is impressive, it adds value to the whole concept and helps clarifying the picture, however it is available three times a day – if you are not aware of this, you can easily miss it.

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tim’s main entrance.

Nevertheless, to continue with the space itself – it breathes and it is not overcrowded with objects. They have managed to keep the feeling of the former factory and transform it in to a museum at the same time. There are also a lot of remarkable design ideas, which enable the display of the more sensitive objects, placed into drawers, with sensor lighting, that turns on, when the visitor approaches the showcase. Unfortunately, all the sensors did not work anymore.

During my first visit, I admired the most the idea of making the special Augsburg textile patterns available for the public with a help of technology. Tim keeps around 550 pattern books, which span the period of 1793 to 1993, and include approximately 1.3 million textile patterns. Since the books are old and sensitive museum objects, they need to be exhibited under extremely strict conditions, which are not very friendly to the visitors. At the same time, it is impossible to enable the overview of all of the patterns through opening the books on a random page, without the possibility to browse through the books (reasonably not allowed). Therefore, they came up with an idea of a museum catwalk with three giant central female dresses, equipped with computer connection to the scanned patterns from the books and the possibility of projection of the selected patterns to one of the two completely white dresses. Genius! It offered us children to play, and more serious design students to try out their combinations and ideas. However, at my second visit this no longer existed. The first giant dress remained as it was, made out of various patches of cloth, whereas the white two are now so to say – useless. One was just there, and the other had a too bright projection of a very short video clip about something. It was excessively bright and therefore, impossible to decipher the meaning of it. Without the computer stations with patterns, these three giants lose their meaning and work only as a middle filling of the room with books of patterns on the sides, which are excessively illuminated from the bottom up, making it impossible to watch the patterns in the dark showcases anyway.

The presented textile story is very well incorporated into the important historical events, with emphasis on their influences on the industry. It rounds the dramatic rise and fall of the textile industry during the 20th century, including the First and the Second World War. For this purpose, the complementary video content is carefully incorporated in a very subtle way, blending in with the grey info islands and showcases, enriching the story flow and adding the information value.

For those of us, who do not like to read too much anyway, the final exhibition segment was the most interesting one, presenting the selected pieces of fashion clothes, including the remarkable black wedding dress from 1909. The majority of presented dresses and swimsuits is ladies-wear, although some uniforms and gentlemen’s suits were not missing. Moreover, I must say, I wouldn’t mind to have a dress or two from the exhibition in my home closet. Whether I would manage to fit in, is another question; however, some pieces are really beautiful and timeless.

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A part of the permanent exhibition I really liked – presentation of fashin pieces, including the swimwear collection.

Permanent exhibition is concluded with a quick jump into present times with probably most popular room among the children, I imagine. A special grey cube includes space-like suite for steel workers, firefighters’ protective wear, wind-stopper test, carbon fibre products and other – to me – less appealing things with interactive elements.

Overall, museum offers a rounded story and illuminates an important piece of industrial history. Some relevant contemporary issues regarding this industry remain unspoken and can still be used in the temporary exhibitions, where the wonder and usefulness of the carbon fibre was presented at my visit. The museum is fresh and made with a thought on the ones, who like to discover things. However, what truly disappointed me is the prohibition of taking photos in today’s era?! I would fully understand the limitation of photographing with prohibition of flash usage, but the full stop? Their webpage says, it’s because of protecting the copyright – what copyrights? Or better, whose? It is a state museum, devoted to the people. And anyway, prohibiting the visitors from taking any photos in nowadays times is just a manifestation of not understanding, how the social web world is turning. Because of this demand, I am using the photos from three years ago, when no one prohibited me from taking any photos.

There has been a slick article exactly on this topic: Why is taking photos banned in museums.

To wrap it up, the museum is very contemporary in its storytelling, compared to other museums Augsburg has to offer, and it is worthwhile visiting. They even have a lovely museum shop at the entrance/ exit; with live on the spot sewing corner, many tim’s products and fair supply of thematic books for adults and children. In addition, their chic café/ restaurant fits perfectly to the ambient and rounds the museum experience with a tasty refreshment. Not to forget, how great the fact is, they have managed to name the tram station after the museum and a bus line as well. However, it still holds a broad space for improvements to develop into more tourist friendly destination. Especially, loosing that leftover of hierarchical demand of visitor’s gratefulness for being able to visit the museum, which completely mismatches their friendly webpage.

Finally yet importantly, I would like to take a quick look in Slovene museums and the industry topic. In Slovenia, there have been a few examples of facing the decomposing elements of the deindustrialization; only a few will be mentioned here, since this calls for a special post on its own. Years ago, Museum of Recent History Celje prepared a participatory project “Ne meč’te piskrov stran” referring to the public call to collect the Western-Emo enamel pots and use them in art interpretations, while enriching the museum collection with these missing elements. In Bela Krajina Museum, a temporary exhibition to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Beti Textile Company – the economic miracle of Yugoslavia (Brancelj Bednaršek 2016) is on a display this year. In Maribor, The Museum of National Liberation of Maribor is actively collecting the remains of the vanishing industries, preserving their spirit and (hi)stories, recently with emphasis on the Maribor’s textile industry, known as the Yugoslav 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.

Sheikh Faisal Museum: world-class personal collection

Tina Palaić

Sheikh Faisal Museum is definitely a must-see place in Doha. This eclectic private collection contains at least one thing to fascinate any visitor. Huge halls with additional separate rooms, where you can sneak into and have a whole new world to discover offer endless sources for your imagination. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to see all the rooms – some were locked at the time of our visit. After almost two hours, when the three of us left the place, I was not sure how I was going to articulate my experience. I needed some time to put all the pieces together – and eventually I decided not to worry too much if the text is more eclectic as usual. 🙂

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Great building of the Sheikh Faisal Museum.

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In front of the museum, there is a small lagoon with a traditional dhow on it.

Sheikh Faisal Museum displays the private collection of Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, a close relative of the Father Emir. Being surrounded by more than 15.000 objects, including vintage cars, boats, archaeological material, costumes, weapons, fine and decorative art, I started to wonder about the collector, his interests and motives. In order to understand the collection, particularly private one, you definitely need to know and understand the person behind it. Sheikh Faisal Museum does not only display the Islamic heritage, but also reflects the life of Sheikh Faisal himself. Furthermore, for some objects, perhaps he is the only person who knows their meaning and value.

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Sheikh Faisal was born in Doha in 1948, and is one of the most prominent business leaders in the Middle East (Al-Faisal Holding). His collection has developed since 1960’s, the period of Qatar’s social and economic transition, and includes his personal belongings, as well as objects collected on his travels from different places in different times. A museum building was built on his farm, located 22 km from Doha, and opened to the public in 1998. The collection is private, therefore the Museum does not come under the authority of Qatar Museums Authority, the main museum organization in the country (entrance for the Museum is 15 QR, which is almost 4 €).

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A full-scale vessel, applied in transport, for fishing or in pearl diving. (Before oil, Qataris depended on fishing and diving for natural pearls.) Beside the captain, second in command, steering man, the divers, and their pull-men, the professional musicians were an important part of the crew as well.

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At the front, you can see a model of a desert camp, at the back, there is part of Sheikh Faisal’s collection of vintage cars.

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According to museum’s website the collection is organized into four themes: Islamic Art, Qatar Heritage, Vehicles, and Coins and Currency. However, many objects are not ordered within such categories. From my perspective, these are just broad categories, under which a visitor can actually find all sorts of objects. Almost all of them are without labels and there are no texts provided (except for 2 panels with the text about the boats). For that reason, when wandering around the place, I had strong feeling that I am digging into somebody’s personal life. Numerous family photographs displayed on the walls throughout the museum, made this feeling even stronger.

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Without Sheikh Faisal’s story, it is impossible to know why he put together a collection of Islamic prayer beads and the old television with a phone on the top of it.

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Miniature classroom model.

The museum shows us Sheikh Faisal’s personal collection, which can be understood also as his commentary on a rapid development and social change his country has been facing in last few decades. Certainly, the collection presents his viewpoint (and to certain level of his relatives), which reflects in particular his enormous wealth, as well as his life opportunities, experience, values and tastes. At first, due to the chaotic and coincidental display of Sheikh Faisal’s objects I was thinking about different blog title – Sheikh Faisal’s Personal Cabinet of Wonders. Then I realized that this notion derives from my understanding of heritage and museum institution, which is based on the Western notions, and that in this case I would probably be wrong. Instead, I consider these collecting and exhibiting practices as deriving from the local cultural and historical context, and which are defined in particular by the specific position of his family.

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There is a huge hall, exhibiting a fascinating collection of carpets.

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Astonishing furniture.

To conclude, the collection certainly is a source of knowledge! Visitors, students, researchers – all can spend hours investigating one particular theme after another. However, to grasp it fully, I recomend you to find a guide to take you around.

#I have entered: turning points and passages of the youth

A review of an exhibition created by students of ethnology and cultural anthropology in cooperation with Slovene Ethnographic Museum

*the title of the exhibition is a pun: SEM = Slovene Ethnographic Museum AND I have

Tina Palaić

A few weeks ago I attended Družabnice, an event, organized as the accompanying programme of the personal exhibition entitled #I have entered: turning points and passages of the youth (#vstopilSEM: mejniki in prehodi mladih). It was prepared in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum by the young authors of the exhibition. Participants talked about different experiences we had during the passage from our youth to adulthood. I was so inspired by the event that after one week I participated in another one – with different guests and on different topic. The idea of Družabnice, which establishes museum as a safe and confidential space for exchange of participants’ personal experiences as well as conversation about their dilemmas, decisions and reflections, encouraged me to do the research about the background of exhibition making. This is particularly interesting, because exhibition #I have entered is made by the young, who do not get such an opportunity in museums on a regular basis.

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Družabnice, accompanying programme of the exhibition #I have entered. At the beginning we were strolling through the exhibition and authors shared selected stories with us. Image: Pija Japelj

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Družabnice establishes a museum as safe and confidential space for conversations about different themes. Image: Pija Japelj

An exhibition about their turning points and passages was created by students in the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana; faculty department proposed the cooperation to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Within the second permanent exhibition, entitled I, We and Others: Images of My World, the Museum enables individuals or groups to introduce their personal heritage through the creation of their own exhibitions. Such cooperation with visitors allows the museum institution to present different perspectives as well as include unrecognized heritage stories. However it is always different and demands exhaustive professional considerations. It was the same in collaboration with students of the 2nd grade of the first cycle degree, who attended the practical class Ethnology of Slovenes under the supervision of professor Miha Kozorog, PhD, and museum curator Polona Sketelj, MSc. Professor Miha Kozorog introduced the concept of rites of passage and students made connections with their passages from youth to adulthood. Museum curator Polona Sketelj presented them the exhibition Doors. Spatial and Symbolic Passageways of life, which is the basis for students’ exhibition in terms of content and design. Furthermore she explained processes of musealization and guided them through the exhibition making. Eventually the exhibition was created by a group of 12 students, who thus also did their obligatory student practice.

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An exhibition opening. Image: Luka Rener

Museums can include individuals or groups as merely consultants, as interlocutors in museum research, or they invite them to participate in all phases of museum work. I spoke with great interest with museum curator Polona Sketelj and some authors of the exhibition about their cooperation and the level of students’ inclusion in the museum work. Polona Sketelj emphasized the double role of the students in that case – as ethnologists they practiced self-observation and self-reflection. Therefore, they collected their personal adolescent experiences and in the process of musealization transformed them into exhibition narrative. It was of extreme importance, said Polona Sketelj, that students were respectful and gained understanding, that there are no right or wrong passages, but only different stories, only nuances of the same passages. Since the young investigated their own experiences, the display does not allow generalizations about young people. For this reason she directed students to reflect and exhibit their own personal development. However, she did not want to interfere in the concept of the exhibition too much; it was of great importance for her that students made it by themselves. She directed them to in-depth consideration about the exhibition content with several questions: what is the purpose of the exhibition, what message do they want to communicate to the audience, and how will they do it. She emphasized their responsibility – as exhibition authors students are responsible for the correct use of anthropological theory, adequate language, sensible visual elements. Some exhibition content demanded more ethical consideration. In these cases, museum curator guided students with directional conversation as well.

One of their dilemmas was the level of authors’ personal data protection. Students exhibited some of the documents, where such information are clearly visible. Each author decided to display them on the basis of her/his own consideration. According to Polona Sketelj, an argument for doing so is also the nature of such personal exhibitions, which display personal stories.

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This certificate proves that its owner has passed the hunting exam. It was very important passage for him, which has brought the feeling of belonging to one of the hunting associations in Slovenia. Image: Luka Rener

The intimacy of authors’ stories is indicated also in the display of several poems depicting emotional distress and searching for the meaning of life, written by one of the students. Some of them also described different ways young people use to get out of everyday or occasional anxieties. One of them is committing suicide, which they wanted to present with a puppet, hanging in the museum lobby. However at the end they did not decide for the puppet, because no one has had that kind of experience by themselves. They followed the principle to show only the content connected personally with them.

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Poems depict one of the student’s search for the meaning of life. Image: Luka Rener

Authors included one student’s personal drug collection as well, to show experimenting with drugs as one of the important passages from the youth to adulthood. This is another level of intimacy visitors might experience strolling through the exhibition. Students asked themselves how to display drugs and what effect may this small collection have on the audience. They decided to represent drugs as one of the challenges they are confronted with, and they included also authorial images to show the consequences of taking drugs.

Exhibition #I have entered is based on students’ personal stories. They present their turning points and passages within two chapters, which show us their attitude towards adulthood. The chapter #with you (#z vami) includes official passages, which are often proven by the government and clearly seen in the society, for instance: adulthood, driving licence, matura examination, enrollment in faculty, first job. The chapter #alone (#sami) includes those passages, that are hidden and often on the edge, and young people can get punished for their activity – however they are essential for them in the process of becoming adults. Within this chapter authors speak about the perceptions and changing of their bodies, first sexual experience, drug experimentation, entertainment, adrenaline sports, and – interestingly – they included the passage into motherhood in this chapter as well. In addition, there is a small part of the exhibition between these two, which shows us the processes of the exhibition making through the selected images. From my perspective this part of the display is very important, since the authors had to reflect the process of exhibition making in order to present it, as well as the audience can get information about it and thus might develop more complex understanding of the exhibition.

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A poem, which reflects the job of a museum curator, was written by one of the exhibition authors on the basis of his own experience in the museum. Image: Pija Japelj

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Demonstration of the exhibition making – an opportunity to reflect the process. Image: Luka Rener

Through an exhibition design, which is quite expressive, authors emphasized very important dimension of their everyday life: social networks. They communicate most of the news through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. That was the basis for the use of #hashtag sign (for instance with the title of an exhibition as well as titles of both exhibition chapters), and for narration of their personal stories in the form of Facebook posts. However, more intimate and personal texts written by the hand are still important for them therefore, they included texts on the walls, poems, and several drawings with different motifs as the second level of information.

A visitor is confronted with a series of passages, and this is why the exhibition can appear as chaotic as well as superficial. However this atmosphere created by – perhaps at first sight accidental – embedment of objects and stories in the space, shows us another feature of authors’ world. It depicts the seeking of their own, individual pathways in the series of passages into adulthood, some of which are obligatory and other they simply wished to pass, in the often very complex reality. On one hand, this reality is not easy to understand, and on the other, it is even less easy to live it to the full.

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The youth reflect on their bodies a lot – how they change and mature. Their experiences and thoughts are presented in the form of Facebook posts. Image: Luka Rener

Through the exhibition the youth speak very openly about themselves. They perceive museum as their own space, as confidential environment, where they can safely share their personal stories. This feeling was even more present on Družabnice, an event, proposed and organized by them. One of the students shared her opinion about cooperation with the museum:

»Cooperation with the museum has special value, because it allows students to get to know the museum work in practice. Personally it means a lot to me, since through the work here I have realized, what I am interested in in my life and in which direction I want to build my career. I am also very lucky, that this kind of work is connected to my leisure time as well, because I have been encountering with the cultural heritage all the time.

After the opening of the exhibition #I have entered there were a lot of questions. What to do with the exhibition? Will people come to the museum to see it? Will our message reach them? At the end we have found a great solution – Družabnice. We combined guided tour through the exhibition and conversation with invited guests. Visitors’ response was absolutely positive and I hope, that we will continue with Družabnice in the museum, because we all need a safe place to share our moments, thoughts, and stories.«

Pija Japelj

You can see the exhibition #I have entered in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum until November 2016. Due to the outstanding feedback young authors want to develop Družabnice also in connection with other exhibitions. You just need to check all the inspiring events they have prepared for us!

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Adulthood is one of the official passages. The text on the wall says: “Finally 18, I am finally an adult and free! What a lie!” Image: Luka Rener

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One of the important official passages is also graduation dance. There is an interesting story behind this dress. You can read it on the exhibition. 🙂 Image: Luka Rener

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Authors of the exhibition included a depiction of their the most personal space – their room. Image: Luka Rener

New trends in museology II.

A book review

Tina Palaić

As a young museologist, I try to educate myself constantly in the field of museums – both practically and theoretically. Recently I have read a very useful book, which aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice. It is a book written by renowned museologists and practitioners Peter van Mensch and Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, who call for development of new, up-to-date museum practices to establish and maintain museums as essential institutions in our society. New Trends in Museology II (2015) is the second edition of their book New Trends in Museology (2011), but very much upgraded. They presented it on the international workshop with the same title in April 2016 in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana, where I first met them in person and was fascinated by their broad knowledge, as well as deep understanding of contemporary ideas about museology. From their perspective, museum professionalism rests on three pillars: theory, practice, and ethics. These three pillars are the underlying theme of the book whether they speak about museum collections, educational design and programmes, importance of inclusion and participation, integrated heritage perspectives, as well as evaluation and ethics.

Authors start their book with a core of the museum’s identity – a collection. They consider it not as an end but as a means to achieve museum’s social role. They write:

“A collection creates an idea of the past (and the present) in order to make it a possible entity for discussion in the present. It is also a gift to the generations to come, and in this respect we may speak of transfer of culture to contemporary publics as well as to future societies.” (p. 17)

They emphasize two things: first, the heritage is about transfer of culture (for instance between generations), and second, the relationship with the heritage is always active – there are selected elements, which support the accepted idea of the past, which are considered as a heritage. We can understand heritage as a contemporary cultural product, which refers to the past. With this in mind, museum experts should consider the dynamic nature of collections whose values change with the changes in society, and in addition to documentation, registration, conservation and restoration understand both collecting and deaccessioning as two strategies for collection development. Authors define deaccessioning as an instrument of a dynamic collecting policy; for instance, parts of the collection can be exchanged for objects of a higher value. For doing so authors suggest stronger cooperation between museums in order to achieve museums’ more distinctive profiles.

Furthermore they introduce two very important concepts: guardianship and shared responsibility. They define guardianship as shared ownership:

“Guardianship would [than] prioritize forms of shared ownership where museums and creator/user communities share responsibility for the preservation of objects as living heritage i.e. a form of the preservation where heritage value does not exclude use outside of the museum context.” (p. 20)

Who is in the position to decide what is heritage and what should be preserved? Whose stories are heard and whose voices subordinated? In addition to guardianship, the idea of shared responsibility also aims to cross the gap between authorized and subordinated heritage discourses, as well as liberate the process of signification and selection of heritage from the authoritative heritage discourse.

Another inspiring concept is heritage community, which was introduced by the Council of Europe in its Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society in 2005. A heritage community is defined as a group of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations. Authors wrote:

“Interestingly, no reference is made to space and territory and there is no reference to local, regional or global importance. Also noteworthy is the absence of predefined societal parameters, national, ethnic, religious, professional or based on class. A heritage community can thus be built up across territories and social groups.” (p. 55)

There is a clear relation between the concept of heritage community and the concept of Heritage 3.0/Museum 3.0, which is also described in the book. The idea of Heritage 3.0 is based on the term Web 3.0 (third generation of Internet-based services) and means that databases of heritage institutions are connected. It also refers to the collaboration in general, which can be thematic or place-related – I immediately connected the Heritage 3.0 with the process of deaccessioning. Furthermore, the idea of Heritage 3.0 is important because the traces of history and the stories are recorded by many different heritage institutions: museums, archives, libraries, and organizations of built heritage and nature and landscape protection, but also organizations concerned with intangible heritage. Together these institutions constitute the memory of »the place«. If connected through the idea of Heritage 3.0 visitors have an opportunity to understand heritage in all its complexity better.

Another enrichment, which is the result of interdisciplinarity, is evident in authors’ discussion about learning and experience design. When talking about educational turn in museums they cite several authors who use theories from education studies. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and David Kolb’s theory of experiental learning are both very useful for the development of museum education. What is really valuable is the understanding that visitors make their own meanings and construct their narratives based on their previous knowledge, experience, interests, expectation, intention, and not least their physical and mental condition. Authors introduce the experience as one of the most influential concepts in developing museum practice today and encourage curators to personalize experience.

“… visitor wants a meaningful personal experience. Customized experience design is not enough. Customers want to be in control of their own experiences in a way that the experience is relevant.” (p. 45)

Museums should be socially responsible by facilitating civic engagement, acting as an agent of social change or moderating sensitive social issues – which museum-specific products will make this possible? Moreover, how can we measure product’s quality and value? A whole chapter is dedicated to this question where authors offer several approaches and methods for evaluating different elements of museum work. They also describe their own model: a systems approach to the museum phenomenon. They see the museum as a system of connected subsystems: preservation, research, and communication, which can be divided into smaller subsystems. The aim of the model is to identify what is needed in processes and how that relates to the needs of society. Evaluation of museum work and its products is a necessary step following the implementation of ethical principles in museum work. Authors elaborate professional ethics of museum workers and introduce several important concepts: transparencysocial responsibility, and moral agency.

The book provides an exhausting introduction into variety of contemporary ideas about museums’ role in today’s society.  As they write themselves:

“In Internet terms, our book might be considered as a portal. It was our intention to point at practices and ideas that are relevant to contemporary developments, and to make connections between tendencies, in order to guide you towards a multitude of resources reflecting the present-day professional discourse.” (p. 10)

If a reader wants to gain in-depth understanding of described concepts and ideas it is necessary to read some other works. Fortunately, authors include rich bibliography, which can serve as a source for further research about contemporary museum practices. There is plenty of good museology literature out there – therefore, do not wait too long! 🙂

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The book cover.

Nove težnje v muzeologiji II.

Recenzija

Tina Palaić

Kot mlada muzealka na začetku svoje karierne poti se poskušam tako na področju teorije kot tudi strokovnega muzejskega dela ves čas izobraževati. Pred kratkim sem prebrala zelo uporabno knjigo, ki poskuša prečiti vrzel med teorijo in prakso v muzejih. Napisala sta jo priznana muzeologa in tudi praktika Peter van Mensch in Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, ki bralce pozivata k razvoju novih muzejskih praks, ki bodo vzpostavile in ohranjale muzeje v vlogi pomembnih družbenih institucij. Nove težnje v muzeologiji II (New Trends in Museology II, 2015) je druga izdaja njune knjige Nove težnje v muzeologiji (2011), vendar precej dopolnjena. Predstavila sta jo na mednarodni delavnici z istim naslovom v aprilu 2016 v Slovenskem etnografskem muzeju. Takrat sem ju tudi prvič osebno spoznala in bila navdušena nad njunim obsežnim znanjem ter poglobljenim razumevanjem sodobnih muzeoloških idej. Njuno izhodišče so trije stebri muzejskega profesionalizma: teorija, praksa in etika. Ti trije pojmi so rdeča nit knjige; prisotni so, ko govorita o muzejskih zbirkah, izobraževanju v muzejih, inkluziji in participaciji, perspektivah celostne / integrirane dediščine, evalvaciji in muzejski etiki.

Avtorja pričneta diskusijo z jedrom muzejske identitete – zbirko. Zanju ne predstavlja končnega rezultata muzejskega dela, temveč sredstvo, s katerim muzeji uresničujejo svojo družbeno vlogo. Zapišeta:

“Zbirka ustvarja idejo preteklosti (in sedanjosti) z namenom, da omogoči razpravo o njej v sedanjosti. Prav tako je darilo prihodnjim generacijam in v tem smislu lahko govorimo o transferju kulture tako sodobnim javnostim kot tudi prihodnjim družbam.” (str. 17)

Poudarjata, da gre pri dediščini za prenos kulture (na primer med generacijami) in da je odnos do dediščine vedno aktiven. Kot dediščino namreč razumemo tiste izbrane elemente kulture, ki podpirajo idejo o preteklosti, kot jo želimo oblikovati. Tako lahko dediščino razumemo kot sodoben kulturni produkt, ki se nanaša na preteklost. Ob razumevanju teh predpostavk je treba upoštevati dinamično naravo zbirk, katerih vrednotenja se spreminjajo s spremembami v družbi. Poleg inventarizacije, dokumentacije, konzerviranja in restavriranja sta strategiji razvoja zbirk tako zbiranje kot deakcesija – izločitev predmeta oziroma primerka iz zbirke. Avtorja deakcesijo definirata kot instrument strategije dinamičnega zbiranja; muzeji med sabo lahko na primer izmenjajo dele zbirk s predmeti višje vrednosti. Avtorja tako predlagata tesnejše sodelovanje med muzeji, s čimer lahko ti izgradijo bolj razločevalne profile.

V nadaljevanju predstavita dva izjemno pomembna koncepta: skrbništvo in delitev odgovornosti. Skrbništvo definirata kot deljeno lastništvo:

“Skrbništvo [potemtakem] daje prednost oblikam deljenega lastništva, pri čemer muzeji in izvorne / uporabniške skupnosti delijo odgovornost za ohranjanje predmetov kot žive dediščine, gre torej za obliko ohranjanja, pri kateri vrednost dediščine ne izključuje njene uporabe izven muzejskega konteksta.” (str. 20)

Kdo je tisti, ki odloča, kaj je dediščina in kaj naj bi ohranili? Katere zgodbe so slišane in kateri glasovi podrejeni, izključeni? Tako kot koncept skrbništva je tudi ideja delitve odgovornosti poskus prečenja vrzeli med avtoriziranim in podrejenimi dediščinskimi diskurzi. Procese vrednotenja in izbire dediščine osvobaja avtoritativnega diskurza dediščinskih strokovnjakov.

Naslednji navdihujoč koncept je dediščinska skupnost, ki ga je predstavil Svet Evrope v okviru Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society leta 2005. Dediščinska skupnost je skupina ljudi, ki vrednoti specifične aspekte kulturne dediščine, ki jo želi v okviru javnega delovanja ohraniti in prenašati na naslednje generacije. Avtorja sta zapisala:

“Zanimivo je, da (pri opredelitvi dediščinske skupnosti, op.p.) ni nobene reference v zvezi s prostorom in teritorijem in ni reference v zvezi z lokalnim, regionalnim ali globalnim pomenom. Pozornosti vredna je prav tako odsotnost vnaprej definiranih družbenih parametrov, nacionalnih, etničnih, religioznih, profesionalnih ali razrednih. Dediščinska skupnost je tako lahko vzpostavljena onkraj teritorijev in družbenih skupin.” (str. 55)

Med konceptom dediščinske skupnosti in konceptom Dediščina 3.0 / Muzej 3.0 je jasna povezava. Ideja Dediščina 3.0 izhaja iz izraza Splet 3.0 (gre za tretjo generacijo spletnih storitev) in pomeni, da so podatkovne zbirke dediščinskih institucij med seboj povezane. Prav tako se ideja nanaša na sodelovanje na splošno, ki je lahko tematsko ali povezano s prostorom. Sama sem idejo Dediščina 3.0 takoj povezala s procesom deakcesije. Nadaljnje je ideja Dediščina 3.0 pomembna, saj se sledovi zgodovine in pripovedi hranijo v različnih dediščinskih ustanovah: muzejih, arhivih, knjižnicah, organizacijah za varovanje nepremične dediščine in varovanja narave, prav tako pa tudi v tistih, ki se ukvarjajo z nesnovno dediščino. Te institucije skupaj tvorijo spomin “prostora”. Če bi bile vse povezane s pomočjo ideje Dediščina 3.0, bi obiskovalci imeli priložnost bolje razumeti dediščino v vsej njeni kompleksnosti.

Nadaljnja obogatitev, ki izhaja iz interdisciplinarnosti, je razvidna iz diskusije avtorjev o izobraževanju in učenju v muzejih. Ko govorita o izobraževalnem obratu v muzejih, navajata številne avtorje, ki se naslanjajo na pedagoške teorije. Teoriji raznoterih inteligentnosti Howarda Gardnerja in izkustvenega učenja Davida Kolba sta izjemno uporabni pri razvoju muzejskih izobraževalnih / pedagoških programov. Resnično pomembno pa je razumevanje, da obiskovalci v muzeju ustvarjajo svoje lastne pomene in narative na podlagi svojih prejšnjih izkušenj, znanja, interesov, pričakovanj, namenov in ne nazadnje tudi njihovega fizičnega in duševnega stanja. Avtorja predstavita izkušnjo kot enega od vplivnejših konceptov v razvijanju sodobne muzejske prakse in spodbujata kustose, da izkušnjo personalizirajo.

 “… obiskovalec želi smiselno osebno izkušnjo. Oblikovanje standardizirane izkušnje ni dovolj. Uporabniki želijo nadzorovati svojo lastno izkušnjo na način, da je ta zanje relevantna.” (str. 45)

Muzeji naj bi bili družbeno odgovorni z omogočanjem vključevanja posameznikov, delovanjem kot agenti družbene spremembe in moderiranjem občutljivih družbenih vprašanj. Kateri je tisti za muzeje specifičen način / produkt, ki družbeno odgovornost omogoča? Še več, kako pa lahko merimo kvaliteto in pomen tega produkta? Temu vprašanju je posvečeno celotno poglavje njune knjige in avtorja navedeta več pristopov in metod za evalvacijo različnih elementov muzejskega dela. Predstavita tudi model, ki sta ga razvila sama: gre za sistemski pristop k analizi muzejskega fenomena. Muzej razumeta kot sistem povezanih podsistemov: ohranjanje, raziskovanje, komunikacija so podsistemi, ki se delijo na še manjše podsisteme. Namen njunega modela je prepoznati elemente posameznega procesa in kaj je zanje potrebno ter identificirati, kako se ti elementi povezujejo s potrebami družbe. Evalvacija muzejskega dela in njegovih produktov je nujna posledica vpeljevanja etičnih principov v muzejsko delo. Avtorja predstavita profesionalno etiko muzejskih delavcev in številne pomembne etične koncepte: transparentnost, družbena odgovornost, moralno delovanje.

Knjiga nam ponudi izčrpen uvod v raznolike sodobne ideje o vlogi muzejev v današnji družbi. Kot zapišeta avtorja sama:

“Glede na internetno terminologijo je lahko najina knjiga razumljena kot portal. Najin namen je bil pokazati prakse in ideje, ki so relevantne za sodobni razvoj, in povezati tendence z namenom usmeriti vas k množici virov, ki reflektirajo današnji strokovni diskurz.” (str. 10)

Če želi bralec globlje razumeti opisane koncepte in ideje, mora poseči po drugih delih. K sreči sta avtorja pripravila tudi obsežno bibliografijo, ki lahko služi kot vir za nadaljnje raziskovanje sodobnih muzejskih praks. Veliko je dobre muzeološke literature – torej, ne odlašajte predolgo z branjem! 🙂

new trends

The book cover.

Afrika 1931 v 2016

Tina Palaić

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Razstavni pano s podatki o kiparju Františku Foitu.

Leta 1931 sta znanstveno odpravo od severa do juga afriškega kontinenta pričela akademski kipar František Vladimir Foit in njegov prijatelj, biolog dr. Jiři Baum. Češkoslovaška popotnika in raziskovalca sta v osmih mesecih z avtomobilom Tatra prepotovala države od Egipta preko Sudana, Konga, Ugande, Kenije, današnjih Tanzanije, Zambije in Zimbabveja do Južne Afrike. Na pot se nista odpravila v maniri današnjih iskalcev avantur ali organiziranih turističnih izletov. Foita je na študijsko pot poslala Karlova univerza iz Prage in mu naročila izdelavo »antropoloških mask afriških plemen«, nam pove razstavni tekst, biolog Baum pa je med drugim raziskoval in zbiral insekte ter rezultate svojega dela posredoval v praški Narodni muzej. Med potjo sta fotografirala in posnela tudi film.

 

V Muzeju Velenje hranijo 530 Foitovih fotografij s tega potovanja. 200 najzanimivejših je leta 2012 kustos Blaž Verbič iz Muzeja Velenje predstavil na razstavi Afrika 1931 – Foitovi fotografski zapisi na steklu. Te razstave ne bi bi bilo, če ne bi bila Foitova usoda tesno povezana z našim prostorom. Večino njegove zbirke namreč ne hranijo na Češkem, temveč v Muzeju Velenje. Stike s takratno Jugoslavijo je Foit vzpostavil leta 1968, ko se je s svojo ženo Ireno želel vrniti v Evropo. Živela sta v Nairobiju v Keniji, kjer je Foit delal kot kipar in učil na univerzi Kennyata. Jugoslovanski veleposlanik v Keniji Ivo Pelicon ju je predstavil direktorju Slovenskega etnografskega muzeja v Ljubljani dr. Borisu Kuharju, ki je takoj začel urejati potrebne dokumente za njuno vrnitev v Evropo. Zaradi praške pomladi in sovjetske zasedbe Češkoslovaške je bila njuna vrnitev v domovino nemogoča. Leta 1971 sta František in Irena Foit prišla v Jugoslavijo in se nastanila v Velenju, kjer so jima priskrbeli stanovanje in ponudili prostor za razstavitev njunih predmetov. Foit je Velenju odstopil svojo etnografsko zbirko, ki je še danes razstavljena v Muzeju Velenje.

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Maska iz skupnosti Tiriki iz Kenije.

Razstava Afrika 1931 – Foitovi fotografski zapisi na steklu gostuje v Muzeju novejše zgodovine Celje, kjer si jo je mogoče ogledati brezplačno. Če boste poleti obiskali štajerske konce, si jo lahko ogledate do konca avgusta 2016. Ob vstopu na razstavo obiskovalca pričaka zatemnjen prostor, v katerem so fotografije postavljene kot diapozitivi, osvetljeni z zadnje strani. Vizualna podoba visokih črnih kubusov z izstopajočimi fotografijami in pripadajočimi kratkimi komentarji, ki so napisani na podlagi zapisov v Foitovem popotnem dnevniku, obiskovalca pritegne in vodi od države do države, ki sta jo Foit in Baum obiskala. Fotografije dopolnjuje nekaj predmetov, na primer maska iz skupnosti Tiriki iz Kenije, ki je služila pokrivanju dečkov med obredom iniciacije, ter tudi Foitovi osebni predmeti.

 

V zadnji sobi je na interaktivnem ekranu mogoče prebrati dodatne tekste in si ogledati kratke posnetke. Zelo zanimiv je del, v katerem kustos razstave predstavi konserviranje in restavriranje dispozitivov na steklu, ki se ga je naučil v Pragi. Tovrstna kontekstualizacija ponavadi umanjka, zato je pohvalno, da je opis nastajanja razstave vključil v samo postavitev. V tej sobi je razstavljen tudi Foitov zemljevid Afrike z vrisano potjo. Na drugi strani sobe pa je tako imenovan interaktivni kotiček, kjer lahko obiskovalci na listke napišejo, kam so že potovali, in jih prilepijo na ustrezna mesta na temu namenjen zemljevid. Tako se razstavna pripoved zaokroži v prijetni atmosferi, v kateri vsak od nas pomisli na svoja popotniška doživetja. S tem pa je najmanjša možnost kritičnega razmisleka v zvezi z raziskovalnimi ekspedicijami v kolonializirane države v tem prostoru izgubljena.

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Zgodba o radiu – za ljudi, s katerimi sta se srečevala, naj bi bil ta pravi čudež.

Razstava nam ponuja številna dejstva o potovanju in raziskovanju dveh belopoltih mož, ki sta si v prvi polovici 20. stoletja za svoj podvig izbrala afriški kontinent. Informacije nam posredujejo glavni teksti, Foitove fotografije in komentarji k fotografijam. Kakšen pa je današnji pogled na tovrstne odprave? Te so bile mogoče predvsem zato, ker so bile ciljne države kolonializirane. Evropske države so takšna »znanstvena raziskovanja« podpirale – civilizacijski diskurz o zamišljenem »primitivnem« nezahodnem svetu je namreč upravičeval kolonialni projekt, obenem pa je pomenil tudi vir identifikacij za zahodni svet. Kolonialna zgodovina je oblikovala naše dojemanje sveta in oblikovanje lastne identitete. Tako kot je že leta 1978 rekel Edward Said: evropsko znanje je kolonializem. Bistvena je ugotovitev, da če kolonialističnih naracij ne preizprašujemo, omogočamo preživetje zastarelega, predvsem pa spornega diskurza.

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Za fotografiranje so zahtevali vsaj plačilo – kako bo fotograf uporabil fotografije, niso mogli ne vedeti ne nadzorovati.

Zanimivo je, da se je ta diskurz razširil povsod, tudi v države, ki v kolonialno tekmo niso bile neposredno vključene. Viden je tudi na razstavi Afrika 1931 – preko uporabe jezika in podob ter izpostavljanja izbranih tem. Med besedami, o uporabi katerih bi bilo vredno temeljiteje razmisliti, je na razstavi mogoče najti vsaj izraze pleme, domorodec, Pigmejci. Ta terminologija je zastarela in predvsem žaljiva. Prav tako je razstavljenih več fotografij, ki prikazujejo pomanjkljivo oblečene ženske – največkrat so od pasu navzgor gole, nekatere tudi z opaznim izrazom nelagodja na obrazu. Te fotografije ustvarjajo podobo primitivne, seksualizirane temnopolte ženske. Gre za pogled belopoltega moškega, ki ga določajo moč, dominacija in erotiziranje. Hierahična razmerja poudarja tudi prikazovanje Foita in Bauma kot dveh znanstvenikov, ki sta na potovanju opravljala pomembno delo, ter dejstvo, da razstava predstavlja le njuno zgodbo, brez aktualizacije.

Kako razstavljati tovrstne vsebine? Kakšni so sodobni pristopi? Tokrat sem preverila primere spreminjanja uporabe kolonialistične terminologije in odzive nanje. Amsterdamski Rijksmuseum na primer izvaja program z naslovom Prilagoditev kolonialne terminologije, v okviru katerega spreminja zastarelo terminologijo v naslovih umetniških del, ki jih razstavljajo. Spreminjajo izraze, kot so črnec, Mohamedanci (arhaičen izraz za muslimane), pritlikavci. Prav to počne tudi Danska narodna galerija, ki je iz naslovov umetniških del izbrisala besedi črnec in Hottentot (slabšalno ime za etnično skupino Khoikhoi). Odločitev obeh institucij je po eni strani izzvala odobravanje, ta prizadevanja na primer podpira tudi ICOM, mednarodna muzejska organizacija. Po drugi strani je izzvala tudi številne kritike. Z ohranjanjem te terminologije se kolonialistični diskurz in z njim vzpostavljena razmerja ohranjajo in pravzaprav še krepijo. To ni v skladu z izobraževalno vlogo muzeja, drugače pa je k tem vsebinam treba pristopati tudi zato, ker poleg drugih muzeje obiskujejo tudi skupine, o katerih razstave govorijo. Če pa to terminologijo brišemo in jo nadomeščamo s politično korektno, gre po mnenju nekaterih za cenzuro, za čiščenje zgodovine, za olepševanje dejanj naših prednikov. Oba argumenta imata svojo težo.

Kaj torej narediti? Moje mnenje je, da je treba v teh primerih kolonialistični diskurz – čeprav uporabljen v državah, kjer ni bilo neposrednih kolonialističnih prizadevanj – razložiti. Ko kustos piše o določeni temi iz današnjega zornega kota, uporaba kolonialistične terminologije ni ustrezna; ko je uporaba te naracije neizbežna, ker gre za zgodovinsko verodostojnost, potem pa je te izraze in kontekst njihove uporabe treba natančno razložiti. Ne gre torej ne za ohranjanje terminologije ne za njeno brisanje, temveč za pojasnjevanje. Na ta način razstava ne samo prikazuje določene vsebine, temveč jih tudi pojasnjuje in vrednoti. Po mojem mnenju je kritična  refleksija kolonialističnega diskurza skladna s cilji sodobne muzeologije in razumevanjem muzeja kot družbeno odgovorne institucije.