(RE)VISUALIZING NATIONAL HISTORY:
March 3-5, 2004
Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility
The coming apart or re-combining of countries in Europe in the late twentieth century made urgent the reconfiguring of national discourses, the dissemination of new national values, and the development of languages and images to reflect changed realities. In the new millennium, the visual representation of new identities has become a central issue for European politics and culture. Museums, as national institutions charged with the task of displaying and representing national identities, are a critical site for examining the changes of the last quarter-century.
The eruption of identity politics poses new challenges to museums at a time when their position in the political and cultural landscape is shifting. We are witnessing the building of new museums, from Bilboa to Warsaw and beyond; the reorganization of existing museums (particularly in Central and Eastern Europe); and the reclaiming of national treasures. These important developments are occurring even as museums, responding to new ways of thinking about representation, are developing new display strategies to reach national and international publics. In Canada, too, these issues are live. Debates have emerged around a broad range of projects--the War Museum in Ottawa and the representation of aboriginal identity in Canadian museums.
The conference on “(RE)VISUALIZING NATIONAL HISTORY” addresses these new dilemmas and challenges in three ways. There will be two pivotal public events . The conference will open with a lecture given by the cultural theorist and specialist on representation, Dr. Mieke Bal (University of Amsterdam), on the subject of “Museums, Viewing and Memory in Europe Today.” On the second evening, Dr. Jolene Rickard (State University of New York) and Dr. Ruth Phillips (Canada Research Chair, Carleton University), specialists on the issue of representing Aboriginal identity in North American museums, will share the podium in a joint public forum. These events will be targeted at a broad audience.
In the centre of the conference will be an academic symposium on the problems of showcasing national and parallel histories in museums. The symposium is deliberately interdisciplinary. Invited speakers, drawn from countries in Europe and from North America, will present original research on relations among museums, the state, and diverse publics in such countries as Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the United States and Canada. Participants will speak from the perspectives of museum studies, art history, ethnology and anthropology, European history, and semiotics. The group includes senior scholars of international standing, as well as younger scholars and museum directors.
The conference will conclude on the final day with a student-focused roundtable which will afford graduate students working in the Museum Studies Program and in the Department of History the opportunity for sustained dialogue with the panelists and other invited guests—curators and museum specialists—from Europe and North America.
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