Accepted Paper:

Curating the Future Looking into the Past: A Museum in Twenty-First Century Argentina  


Florencia Malbran (New York University Buenos Aires)

Paper short abstract:

The Ingeniero White Harbor Museum, in Argentina, confronts a euro-centric worldview and embraces a politics of difference crucial to citizenship now. Through a groundbreaking curatorial approach, this museum encourages spectators to deconstruct objects, inviting a revision of the idea of progress.

Paper long abstract:

This paper studies the exhibitions of the Museo del Puerto de Ingeniero White in Argentina (Ingeniero White Harbor Museum), an institution directed by renowned poet Sergio Raimondi. I argue that Raimondi's groundbreaking curatorial practice allows us to confront an entrenched euro-centric worldview and embrace a politics of difference crucial to citizenship today, as I analyze how this museum encourages spectators to deconstruct objects, favoring powerful historical reflections, and making the past present. Indeed, the Harbor Museum is a new model of museum, one which affirms its role in the construction of a democracy. Its collections assign significance to objects rooted in the history of the city in which it is located, Ingeniero White, which port was central to the intense export dynamism that impacted on the social and cultural fabric of the country. Argentina, in the period from its independence in 1916 to the First World War, became one of the main exporters of primary products and so one of the fastest growing countries in the world. The museum's exhibitions portray to the country's role as an exporter of agricultural products—a role linked first to trade with Britain and then, towards the turn of the millennium, to the operations of multinational corporations. Rather than simply preserving the past, the museum invites visitors to revise the idea of "progress," showing how change in markets translates into new cultural patterns, sometimes negative. Artifacts and objects are displayed in such a way so as to test categories like "nation," "community," and "identity."

Panel P033
Curating futures