Since the 1990s "world culture" museums have been organized across Europe, as a reaction to globalization. Many museums were re-conceptualized, re-organized or rebuilt. This panel will promote anthropological perspectives on what happened with the concept and practice of "world culture museums."
Since the late 1990s, several countries and museums across Europe have struggled with the idea of world culture, which arose in the current wave of globalization. In Sweden, for example, plans to abolish and pool all of Sweden's older government-owned museums with exotic non-European collections into a single museum sparked widespread misgivings, even street protests, in Stockholm. The end result was a compromise: to build the new World Culture Museum in Gothenburg, but retain the three targeted Stockholm museums under a shared umbrella, as Sweden's National World Culture Museums. In France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Britain and other countries, similar debates, developments and reorganizations have taken place. But the once-fierce debate over just what the idea of World Culture would, should, or could mean for all the museums involved, by now seems to have been largely set aside. It is time to take stock, from an anthropological perspective and in a European and global context, of the idea of world culture and world culture museums. We welcome papers that promote anthropological perspectives on the conception and the practice of "world culture museums," either in different countries or comparatively. What happened to world culture and why, did this idea fail, and why, and, where do we go from here.