Accepted Paper:

Materialities made testimony. Objects as a way to organize the past in the narratives of the National History Museum of Chile.  

Author:

Hugo Rueda (Concordia University )

Paper short abstract:

This proposal seeks to problematize the construction of different logics of history in a set of material pieces exhibited by the National History Museum of Chile. For this, I propose an approach to the objects understood as testimonial relics, able to create a national historical memory.

Paper long abstract:

This proposal seeks to examine and problematize the construction of different logics of history in a set of material pieces exhibited by the National History Museum of Chile, from its formation in 1911 until the present day. In line with the work of American historian David Lowenthal, who describes three distinct modes of constructing and constituting the past -namely: stories, memories, and relics- I propose an analysis of those discourses, statements, and practices which have allowed the entry of an important set of pieces to the museum's collections under a justification that, I suggest, works under the logic of the Christian idea of the relic.

This proposal takes a useful look on a set of material objects who, I consider, operates as a synecdoche, representing via a fragmentary part, a whole of historical and testimonial characteristics. Th justification of the presentation, exhibition, and sacralisation of objects at the museum centres on the fact that they "belonged to", were "in contact with", or were "touched by" historical figures, witnesses of Chilean history. This is indicative of a group of political strategies to build and organize a unique, single, and shared national past, and the museum plays a fundamental role in the public presentation of this time.

The main problem to analyze is both objects and the social and discursive framework that turns them into historical relics, able to organize, offer, and testify a program of national history through their exhibition in the museum's galleries.

Panel P091
Anthropologies of witnessing: imaginaries, technologies, practices