Accepted Paper:

The Gods are (sort of) Returning: Experimenting Exhibition-Making  


Ulrik Johnsen (Moesgaard Museum)

Paper short abstract:

What is the value of ethnographic museum artifacts? What is the value for the museum? And what is the (potential) value in the 'originating communities'? A Danish PhD project seeks the answers through an experimenting exhibition approach, which tries to bring old gods back to their place of birth.

Paper long abstract:

Through a collection of objects collected in Nepal in the late 1950s, a Danish PhD student is reassessing the value(s) of an ethnographic collection. The project is carried out in collaboration with Nepalese MA students at the Lumbini Buddhist University, and the outcome is an exhibition, planned to open in Nepal in January 2018. It will visit 5 local communities, and the group behind the exhibition will seek a dialogue with the members of the communities.

Central to the definition of an experiment is that you don't know what the outcome is. It may fail. In that sense the project has already taken many turns and twists, as the reality of contemporary Nepal is continously 'talking back'. In the many gaps that the so-called 'failures' open, interesting data are hiding - about heritage, the role(s) of museum, about cultural continuity and change, and about the potential (risk) of collections in Western Museums.

So - are the gods (in the form of religious objects) welcome back, where they were once powerful? Do they want to return at all? What is the value of a museum collection - collected 60 years ago - in contemporary Nepal? And how does an experimenting approach to exhibition making open up for an understanding of heritage, culture, religion, continuity and change today - if it does at all?

Panel P032
Museum Affordances: Collections, Interventions, Exhibitions