Local Histories and New Museological Approaches in China
(Minzu University of China, Beijing)
Paper short abstract:
398 new museums were born in China in 2011, half of which represent the recent trend in new museology in China. This paper introduces these new local museums that offer traditionally unrepresented and unofficial local histories through the display of oral histories and collective memories.
Paper long abstract:
We are becoming increasingly aware of museum boom and new trends of museum movement in China, yet a theoretically informed and methodologically systematic study assessing the meaning of new museum practices is still lacking. This paper investigates China new museum movement by diachronic and synchronic approaches, and tells what is happening in China right now within the development of new museological approaches. In 2011, 398 museums were established in China making the list now come to approximately 3700 nation-wide. Almost half of these new museums are about local village history. They represent a foundation upon which the construction of new interpretations and expressions of local histories are made and displayed, specifically rooted in oral history and collective memory. These local history museums are a new approach to museology in China in that they offer an unofficial history of local place and society, unlike traditional museums that promote national history narratives. From these local history museums, we can learn the multiple histories and life of local villages and villagers that have historically been unrepresented in Chinese museums. Looking at specific practices among these new museums, this paper introduces the change in museological approaches in China, specifically reviewing the shift in museological philosophy in the evaluation of objects, museology, technological practices, and curatorial methods recently introducing the protection of intangible cultural heritage. This paper will also address how the focus of local exhibitions has changed from displaying a macro history to now local stories and memories, providing a living history.
Living heritage in China today