Accepted Paper:

Manufacturing nostalgia: the case study of an industrial museum in New England  
Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the functioning of an industrial museum, located in New Britain, Connecticut. It inquires to what extent the museum facilitates the accommodation of post-industrial changes and to what extent it reinforces nostalgia for old times.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the functioning of an industrial museum, located in New Britain, Connecticut. In the early 20th century, New Britain was known as the "Hardware Capital of the World". The city's factories exported their goods and influenced hardware manufacturers worldwide. Thriving industries attracted immigrants from Europe; Irish, Italians as well as Eastern Europeans who eventually became the majority in the city. The factories brought their owners great fortunes, while their employees - stability, descent income and a variety of community-building and social practices. The curtailing and shutting down of factories affected workers' professional trajectories and social ties, and it also led to an ethnic reconfiguration of the urban realm: "white" middle class migration to the suburbs and "black" working class move downtown.

Conceived in the early 1990s, the New Britain Industrial Museum collects and exhibits photos, maps, and items which used or continue to be produced in the city. Documenting the changing landscape of the industry and, through that, of the city itself, it emphasizes the city's and its inhabitants potential. In so doing, it strives to serve as a bridge between the city's past, present and future. Attending to the employees' and volunteers' (ex-factory workers') narratives, museum exhibits and special events, this paper asks to what extent the museum facilitates the accommodation of post-industrial changes and to what extent it reinforces nostalgia for old times? How does it respond to the new challenges faced by the city? And how does it address new ethnic and class distinctions?

Panel P097
Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes