Accepted Paper:

Micromuseums for big questions: collecting maritime remains as an everyday political practice  


Eliseu Carbonell (University of Girona)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents caring and collecting maritime remains as an everyday political practice. A curatorial vision of the beach crashes with other visions and uses. But a micromuseum will be used to give legitimacity to a maritime identity project for the town, in face of other interests.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on fieldwork carried out in a small town on the northeast Catalan coast of Spain, where local fishing was the main activity until the 1980s. Recently, the remains of traditional fishing -objects left on the sand- have become cultural heritage. Some towns people founded an association devoted to restoring, caring for and collecting old fishing boats and other objects, in order to preserve the town's maritime identity.

As a result of this collection, a 30 metre square museum was opened in August 2007 inside an old beach hut containing a boat pulling machine and other old fishing tackles: that is what we could call a micromuseum. However, this curatorial vision crashed with other beach uses, such as recreational fishing and other leisure uses. At the same time, the Ministry of Public Works announced the construction of a seafront promenade on the same site. This announcement caused great controversy in this apparently peaceful village. Landscape, the maritime past, and public uses of the beach were hot topics that summer.

The discussion shows how the micromuseum -and the collecting activity it implies- is used by the association who promoted it to give strength and legitimacy to their own ideas about what the beach should be like, to whom should belong its use, and finally about the village's maritime or fishing identity. We explore how collecting and caring maritime remains became an everyday political practice that people used to negotiate identity, even if that was just with a micromuseum.

Panel W099
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