Accepted Paper:

The Israel Museum as a place of belonging  
Thomas Richard (Université Clermont-Auvergne Centre Michel de l'Hospital)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims at understanding how the Israel Museum takes part in the creation of the Israeli identity according to the Zionist narrative, and establishes a link between Israel and the Diaspora.

Paper long abstract:

Opened in 1965 and rehabilitated in 2010, the Israel Museum is the core museum institution of Israel. Built near the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court, its aim is to embody the Israeli national project, while establishing a link between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

It harbors archeological collections, some of which originates in the ancient Rockefeller museum, built during the Palestinian mandate, but differs from this institution as these collections are reinterpreted through their inclusion in the Israeli narrative with the aim of creating a sense of continuity.

It also welcomes pieces from the Jewish Diaspora, including whole synagogues, and present these artefacts as preserved remnants of an endangered life, against which Israel is a safe haven, in order to deepen the solidarity and the sense of belonging that unite Israel to the Diaspora.

These two dimensions are mixed in the art galleries that present art donated by diasporic collectors, and contemporary Israeli art, as the two dimensions of the Jewish artistic identity.

Through the study of the organization of the museum and its public, we aim to uderstand how this institution has helped in creating a patrimonial Israeli identity in the modern state, that can appeal to Israelis and diasporic visitors, as well as to tourists and pilgrims. Inspired by European and American models, the Israeli museum is also an original creation of the Israeli narrative, an educative institution, and even, through the Dead Sea scrolls sanctuary, a religious institution understood in a secular way.

Panel P030
Art and History Museums in the Middle East as places of social and political production