CAMOC: city museums and migration

Updates: How can museums stay relevant to the UK’s rapidly changing population? (a growing theme); The Exhibitionist has some thoughts…meanwhile in Denmark we have Ranes Museum, an entertaining look at the arrival of a new director at the National Museum, firmly in hyggelig history corner (TBF, the critical is there, plus a conference on Changing global hierarchies of value, exploring “how the world is imagined and classified through the presentation, interpretation and classification of artifacts”, part of KU’s Global Europe project)…

In der Asphalstadt bin ich daheim (Bertolt Brecht)

Came across CAMOC, ICOM’s city museum committee, which held its annual conference in Frankfurt on 4-5 June. CAMOC was set up in 2005 in recognition of changing attitudes to city museums, perhaps as part of our old friend the spatial turn. In the past city museums were mainly “museums of city history and guardians of city treasures”, but now they “reflect the living city around them” (more).

CAMOC’s key themes are migration and city museums and cities in conflict. Other areas of interest include city streets (inc the flâneur), city memories and the city in literature. Social: Facebook | Twitter (dormant) | YouTube. Jnl: CAMOC Review.

My earlier post on The urban museum (includes local museums) is worth revisiting.

Different but related:

  • ICAM: International Confederation of Architectural Museums; ICAM19 at DAC
  • ICLCM: International Committee for Literary and Composers’ Museums
  • ICR: International Committee for Regional Museums

Migration and the museum

Prior to the conference a workshop on migration was held on 2 June, with the title Migration:Cities (im)migration and arrival cities. Three previous workshops have been held, and there is an accompanying website, Migration:Cities.

CAMOC approaches the topic from the intercultural angle: “Museums are places of and for migrants and the fresh perspectives, ideas, questions and skills that they bring”, with a proposed common strategy and platform under development. Papers at the workshop covered the movement of people and ideas, community museums in diverse neighbourhoods, superdiversity and the rise of new narratives of belonging, and creating dialogues.

CAMOC notwithstanding, migration museums have become a thing, with the Migration Museum Project (article) underway in the UK. On our 2016 trip to Hamburg we lunched in BallinStadt, Hamburg’s emigration museum (review | another | Politiken), beneath the inevitable suitcase display. In Gdynia in 2015 we spent rather more time in the new Emigration Museum, where I was moved to leave a lengthy comment in the visitors book. How far do both address contemporary migration issues as opposed to cataloguing their history?

A recent exhibition which did address both was found rather unexpectedly in Ballerup, a Copenhagen(ish) suburb. The local museum has an extensive collection of paintings and objects from Grand Duchess Olga, the sister of Tsar Nicholas II, who lived in the area for 18 years. Vejen til Ballerup, an exhibition commemorating her arrival in Denmark after 1917, brought things up to date with stories of local immigration (Ballerup has a high proportion of nydanskere) – and some suitcases.

Nearby suburb Farum even hosts an Immigration Museum (reviewed by Eithne Nightingale), a prime exemplar of a “community museum in a diverse neighbourhood”. Brainchild of controversial mayor Peter Brixtofte, the initiative received state recognition as part of Furesø Museer in 2007, opening with a permanent exhibition in 2012. The museum maintains several databases and is a partner in the MiClue project, but its events programme and public facing initiatives look a little thin. I’ll need to swing by and take a closer look.

Several other museums focus to an extent on migration to Denmark: Dansk Jødisk Museum, Amagermuseet (Dutch settlers invited by Christian II to grow veg in the 16th century), Museum Lolland-Falster (sugar beet picking Poles around the turn of the 20th century).

Most city museums I have visited have conformed to the treasures from history trope, rather than exploring the contemporary. An exception is Copenhagen, however their Being a Copenhagener exhibit (reviewed by Eithne Nightingale), while well-meaning and superficially inclusive, tried to mask difference. After over a decade here I can easily spot the subtext in Official Denmark’s continued attempts to make foreigners into Danes, homegenising rather than celebrating diversity (Nightingale: “the Museum did not consult with communities, fearing this might contribute to a more segregated, rather than integrated, exhibition”) and the fresh ideas migration might offer to an increasingly ingrown nation. In this context a dedicated museum makes more sense.

Superflex’s evergreen poster from 2002 now hangs in the national gallery

It will be interesting to see how the new Museum of Copenhagen, due to open in 2019, tackles this subject.

Postscript: Den Gamle By in Aarhus, an open air museum with lots of dressing-up, took on the responsibilities of city museum in 2010. Exhibits include a Turkish guestworkers flat (anno 1974; more) and a contemporary Somali home (temporary installation). The museum also works/has worked with residents of the ‘ghetto’ Gellerup estate, which had its own museum from 2010 until January 2018.

 

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