A beacon for science? The soft power of regional research museums in a post-fact era
Holly Alexa Hasted (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)
Paper short abstract:
By situating Tromsø University Museum (TMU) within North Norwegian and circumpolar contexts, and exploring its role in the production and dissemination of scientific research, I argue that TMU reinforces Norwegian soft power in the Arctic.
Paper long abstract:
Using Tromsø University Museum (TMU) as a case study, this paper explores new ways in which academic museums can be imagined as soft power institutions. Soft power institutions have the capacity to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction, and function as a tool in the field of public diplomacy. The literature on museums and soft power locates museums primarily within national and municipal settings, focusing on exhibitions and urban development respectively. By situating TMU within North Norwegian and circumpolar contexts, and exploring its role in the production and dissemination of scientific research, I argue that TMU reinforces Norwegian soft power in the Arctic, a multilateral region of considerable institutional thickness. Drawing on thirty-five semi-structured interviews with researchers, technicians, administrators and communication officers, I explore the everyday geopolitics, intellectual creativity and public entanglements involved in 'doing science', and demonstrate how these practices invigorate the institutional soft power of academic museums. I suggest that soft power can be used as a conceptual tool for museums conducting scientific research to re-think and re-define their relevance in a regional world and increasingly post-fact era.
- Discovery, discussion and decision