Europeanization and transnational memories: of scale and the museums of Europe
Chiara De Cesari (University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper reflects on the Europeanization of museums by examining the ways in which older museums are transformed into museums of Europe and the geopolitical imaginaries (re)produced in their exhibitions.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I investigate the making of two new museums of Europe, Marseille’s Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations and Berlin’s Museum of European Cultures. In particular, I focus on the kinds of “Europe” envisioned in their exhibitions. I argue that these museums represent an important site—beyond the institutional contours of the EU—where the geopolitical imaginary of a bounded Europe, and ideas about the proper place of its borders, are produced, even if by default. I also investigate the creeping Europeanization of museums by exploring how these two older national museums of folklore tap into circulating institutional narratives of Europe and mobilize a transnational memory and heritage in a strategic way so as to remake themselves and their dusty displays. National competition and cooperation as well as national memory projects play an important role in such memorial Europeanization, which is often championed by local and national actors in the pursuit of their agendas, for example, to have their museums survive at a time of generalized cuts in state budgets for culture. This insight complicates taken-for-granted understandings of scale in memory and museum studies.