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.

 

#FLJacobites: an object lesson

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a nice concise three weeks from 18 September, from the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, who have an exhibition on the go. See also the Jacobite Trail.

What makes our course distinctive is its focus on material culture. That is, on the objects, clothes, images and items used or seen by those living in the period that is sometimes called the Jacobite century, from 1688 to 1788.

Now I don’t want to brag, but I won a school history prize for a BPC project, including a relief map of the Jacobite advance and retreat and transcriptions of some Jacobite songs (the hand of my father in both). I’ve also been to Culloden twice and have my own object, a BPC shortbread tin now used for storing sugar.

This MOOC is not my first nostalgia trip – see #FLRobertBurns. Both are ‘not my period’, but somehow it’s rather different when it’s _your_ heritage. Interestingly, my aunt, exiled in England, was rather more into her ‘heritage’ than my mother, living in Scotland.

What is material culture?

Material culture is a way of talking about objects – talking about them, but also their study. It brings together two otherwise quite different things – material implies something base, perhaps something earthy, whereas culture is much more abstract, lofty, intellectual, maybe. Bringing these terms together produces a sort of creative friction, enabling us to access the past in concrete, tangible ways through the objects that have survived. The past as a richly furnished landscape of objects – an objectscape.

Material culture can mean different things to different specialists, but at its heart it is about the study of objects, usually from the past. We can use these objects to access the past, even if they are behind glass – we can see is how people in the past interacted with them.

Viccy Coltman’s pictogram with the four key themes around an object:

One comment: “I have really enjoyed linking the objects to the history to bring the history alive…material culture is a great way of getting my pupils involved…anchoring the concrete to the abstract”.

For more see the Tangible Things MOOC (again). And just spotted in CPH:

According to Kathryn Hughes, objects have become the dominant way of understanding and interpreting the past. She gives A history of the world in 100 objects as an example – objects make better stories than timelines. Its sister programme, Germany: memories of a nation, Neil MacGregor’s peerless series and exhibition (ten objects), certainly worked for me.

More objects linkage: The Brontë cabinet: three lives in nine objects | People’s History Museum’s Object of the Month | teaching & object-based learning | Prime Ministers’ props | Living with the gods, Neil MacGregor’s new 30! part series | Sharing Stories. Speaking Objects (Weltmuseum Wien)

I noted my first objects exhibition at Gdansk’s Solidarity Centre, the End of War in 45 artefacts, emphatically not in any set order, an “inspiration incentive to reflect on the complexity of historic events…and the ambiguity of their outcomes”. Museums in Poland have certainly embraced the objects approach – the Museum of Warsaw’s new core exhibition is The Things of Warsaw.

But has it all gone too far? See this shot from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, a room crammed with stuff which people shuffled round without showing much interest:

Locally, 99xVSTGN similarly felt just too enthusiastically random. See Heritage Futures’ Profusion theme for more on this, and clutter generally. Instant update: just spotted, Edinburgh Alphabet, more than 300 objects grouped around a letter of the alphabet (with B for Burns), and Edinburgh’s 101 objects.

BPC in bullets: what I learned (or had forgotten I knew)

Pre-BPC:

  • the Stuarts had ruled the Kingdom of Scotland since 1371; France, and several other countries, continued to support them as claimants to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland after (Catholic) James VII & II was deposed
  • James VII established a 1000-strong court in exile at a château close to Versailles; Louis XIV, James’ cousin, was determined to do all he could to secure James’ restoration
  • not all Jacobites were Catholic, in fact the majority were Episcopalian; most Jacobite courtiers were English, but the court also included Scots, Irish, French and Italians
  • in 1701 the 13 year old James Francis Edward (aka The Old Pretender) was recognised by both Louis XIV and the Pope as James VIII & III of Scotland, England and Ireland
  • James VIII eventually settled in Rome, where his sons Charles (BPC) and Henry were born, and mounted three campaigns taking advantage of political discontent in Britain, all of which fizzled out:
    • 1708: the 1707 Act of Union proved unpopular in Scotland, where it was perceived as an unhappy marriage of unequal partners
    • 1715: on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the throne passed to the unpopular George, the Protestant Elector of Hanover; the Unionist Earl of Mar threw in his lot with the Jacobites in an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne
    • 1719: James VIII had had to leave France as a condition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and with the death of Louis XIV in September 1715 he lost the support of the French; the Jacobite court in exile had no permanent home until James was offered the Palazzo del Rei in Rome by Pope Clement XI in 1719 – support for the exiled Stuarts shifted from France to Italy and Spain

BPC:

  • born in December 1720, an event commemorated in the medallic record as the great hope for the continuation of the Jacobite cause and the longed-for Stuart restoration
  • in the late 1730s and early 1740s the Jacobite court in exile became a brilliant social centre, optimistic that BPC would finally recover the thrones of his father and grandfather
  • James VIII knew that a restoration attempt would need French military assistance; with war between France and Hanoverian Britain renewed in 1743 and BPC coming of age, James named him Prince Regent, with authority to act in his name
  • BPC obtained the support of Louis XV, who supported a botched campaign in 1744
  • BPC landed on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 5 July 1745; thousands of Jacobites rallied to the cause
  • BPC raised the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan, near Fort William, on 19 August; since 1815 the Glenfinnan Monument has provided a poignant reminder
  • the Jacobite army marched south unopposed and by 17 September was in control of Edinburgh; at noon James VIII was proclaimed King, with BPC confirmed as Prince Regent
  • on 21 September BPC led the Jacobites to victory in the first major battle of the campaign, the Battle of Prestonpans; Sir John Cope, leading the government forces at this time, was forced to retreat to Berwick on Tweed, as immortalised in song
  • for the next six months BPC rode or marched with his supporters from Scotland through England, taking Carlisle and Manchester, reaching as far south as Derby
  • the Jacobite forces numbered just under 6000 men and included French and Irish troops; four French ships had been despatched with weapons and supplies, although the expected support from English Jacobites and promised French reinforcements failed to materialise
  • the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II, and like BPC just 24, was recalled from the war in Flanders to take command of the Hanoverian forces at Lichfield, just south of Derby, forming a three-way threat with General Wade approaching from the north and an army gathering on Finchley Common to defend London
  • on Friday, 6 December, a day known to Jacobites as Black Friday, BPC’s commanders advised him to retreat north
  • at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 January a Hanoverian force commanded by General Henry Hawley was subjected to the Highland charge, previously successful at the battle of Prestonpans – the last Jacobite victory
  • by 14 April the Jacobite army was camped at Culloden, outside Inverness; their numbers were depleted, in part by dispirited and hungry men returning to their homes in the Highlands
  • the moor was flat and open, good for the Duke of Cumberland’s forces with their regular cavalry and artillery and very different from Prestonpans, where the Jacobites had been able to use their swords and targes for up-close, one-to-one armed combat…it didn’t end well

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Maps above from the MOOC. See also Escape Penrith, who includes the escape from Culloden. All very handy, although a relief map in plaster of Paris can do the job too.

After BPC:

  • after Culloden BPC spent five months evading capture in the Highlands before sailing to the safety of France; enter (briefly) Flora MacDonald, a dominant part of the Jacobite legend
  • the British army pursued the Jacobites who had been scattered after Culloden with little mercy, the beginning of a campaign of reprisals intended to ensure that the Highlands would never again provide military support for the Jacobite cause
  • a series of measures was designed to attack the power structures and martial culture of the Highland clans, with the carrying of weapons and the wearing of highland dress in Scotland banned and clan chiefs stripped of their powers of justice; the Highlands was brought under the full control of the Hanoverian state
  • BPC finally returned to France in September 1746; he continued to be driven by his dynastic ambitions for a Stuart restoration but over the next three decades faced a series of setbacks and disappointments
  • France recognised the Hanoverian succession, and by the end of 1748 BPC was exiled to Avignon
  • James VIII died in 1766 in Rome; BPC ‘inherited’ the right to become Charles III, but without recognition from the Pope and Europe’s Catholic monarchs this claim had no authority
  • in 1747 BPC’s brother Henry became a cardinal and was ordained as a priest (in that order)
  • BPC died in 1788 leaving no legitimate offspring; hence Henry became Henry I and IX, changing his arms to have them surmounted with a crown representing his royal status, but not pressing his claim (although there are still some keepers of the flame)
  • as a popular Bishop of Frascati Henry rose to some of the highest positions in the Vatican, dying in 1807

Romanticising Jacobitism

Some of the most iconic images and songs associated with BPC are posthumous. He particularly flourished in the creative imaginations of 19th century authors, painters, poets and musicians, but his story continues to inspire. The 19th century romantic imagery of BPC has also been re-used countless times as a marketing tool, printed on souvenirs and absorbed into the iconography of Bonnie Scotland.

The BBC has a handy debunking post.

my shortbread tin, showing BPC aged 16

Allan Ramsay (1713-84) painted both BPC and Flora MacDonald from life; his ‘lost’ portrait, painted in late October 1745 at Holyrood Palace, was found in 2014 and saved for the nation in 2016. Which was handy, as a portrait in a suit of armour was shown to be of Henry, rather than his older brother, in 2009.

The Ramsay portrait shows BPC wearing court dress and a wig, ie as a member of the European social and political élite. Mainly though BPC adopted Highland dress during this period to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry and display his allegiance to the clans. Note to self: check the image on the aforementioned shortbread tin.

In the early 19th century, after Henry’s death ended the Jacobite claim to the throne and emotions were less raw, the romantic Jacobite legend really kicked in. Walter Scott (1771–1832; Abbotsford) wrote three novels drawing on the Jacobite campaigns; Waverley (1814), Rob Roy (1817) and Redgauntlet (1824). He also amassed a diverse and quirky collection of associated objects and organised the visit of George IV to Scotland in August 1822, the first reigning British monarch to visit Scotland in nearly two centuries. Ample tartan pageantry was included, elevating the kilt (not literally) to a key component in Scotland’s national identity.

Of the songs, both Will Ye No’ Come Back Again, attributed to Lady Nairne, Carolina Oliphant (1766-1845), and Burns’ Charlie Is My Darling date from the 1790s. The Skye Boat Song, perhaps the most popular song associated with BPC, was first published almost 150 years after the events, in 1884, with lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton. An 1892 poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone, has been set to the same music, and was recently adapted (ahem) as the theme tune for Outlander.

The Outlander series of novels and associated television series by Diana Gabaldon (blog) is the latest reinterpretation of the period, generating huge interest; I’ll stick with DK Broster, thanks.

#FLCulturalCities: cultural heritage and the city

Update: I also audited the European University Institute’s second MOOC, Cultures and identities in Europe (#FLeuropeans), which ran for three weeks from 16 October and was presented in the same textbooky style, with far too many rambling vids hampered by English-as-an-academic lingua-franca serving to obfuscate; copious notes made

Cultural heritage and the city from the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (@RobSchuCentre) at the European University Institute in Florence, three weeks from 4 September.

Cultural heritage is usually conceived in national or religious terms….today, however, large urban centres emerge as hubs of heritage creation and consumption. Cities brand their own cultural heritage as hubs of artistic creation through museums, galleries, markets of artistic goods, and urban-to-urban networks. They also develop their own policies and brand their cultural institutions.

We shall locate cities as a special type of actor, ‘owners’ of their own heritage, but situated in a multi-level field between international organisations and national actors, as well as practitioners.

The course will discuss how heritage can become a lever for growth, how it contributes to processes of socio-economic transformation. We also discuss the role of special events located in cities such as Olympic Games or programmes such as the European Capitals of Culture in valorising the heritage of a city.

Very wordy and content-crammed MOOC, more like a textbook than a course. There follows some lengthy notes.

Week 1: cultural heritage in an urbanising world

What is cultural heritage?

  • something that belongs to the past? something inherited? archaeological sites, historical buildings, statues, but also festivals, songs and storytelling
  • traditional view: material sites like archaeological monuments, palaces, or churches and places of worship, paintings and sculptures (tangible heritage)
  • now expanded to include:
    • artistic practices (dancing, music, rituals, traditional medicine, cooking traditions, sports)
    • festivals and carnivals
    • ideas, rituals and ways of doing things (intangible or immaterial heritage)
  • further expanded to include:
    • natural sites, specific plants or animal species – the natural heritage of a country or a place
    • intangible practices embedded in physical relationships with concrete things (objects, places, people); even ‘intangible’ heritage is tightly entwined with the material world
  • official heritage: sites, objects, and practices that have been officially catalogued and recognised by national and/or international authorities
  • unofficial heritage: practices and sites developed by groups of citizens not yet officially recognized as ‘heritage’ (the terms ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ do not express judgements of value or quality but rather realities of labelling and recognition)
  • increasing democratisation of heritage creation, with a closer focus on what communities feel is their heritage and the need to recognise new unofficial forms of heritage

Heritage is about how the past informs the present and is actually used in the present, something communities cherish. It implies ways of categorising objects and traditions – the power of labelling and classifying. It is vulnerable as it may be lost because of destruction, loss, or decay, and more than a collection of things – heritage is about the relationship that a community, nation, city, or ethnic or religious minority constructs with its past. It is a framework within which people are socialised.

What is culture?

Culture is a type of knowledge, a system of meaning and the context within which behaviours, events, processes and institutions are situated. Culture is the set of mental categories that we learn as we grow up and which help us organise our behaviour and interpret our experiences.

Thus culture is mostly about ideas and behaviour, however it has a close link with the material world. Culture – like intangible heritage – exists and is manifested in the interaction of people with one another and in connection to their material environment.

Heritage has a stronger material connotation than culture and is oriented towards the past. However both culture, as a system of meaning, and heritage, as a system of tangible and intangible objects and practices, contribute to forging the sense of belonging to a community.

Definitions of heritage according to the cultural context

Heritage is a very elastic, and at times quite elusive, concept that carries with it a lot of baggage, and the baggage in different languages is quite different. Words shift in different historical and spatial contexts.

In British English there are various layers of meanings deriving from its use in different spheres, in policy and academia, but also in daily life (the lottery). In Italy the equivalent concept of ‘patrimonio culturale’ refers rather to an expert-driven approach, and as such a top-down discourse tends to monopolise the use of the concept. Dansk? Kulturarv.

Cultural heritage policies

Cultural heritage studies and policies emerged along with the socio-economic transformations of the second half of the 20th century. Nowadays cultural heritage policies also refer to activities and objects developed in the present.

There are several competing aims within heritage and broader cultural policy:

  • the glorification of the past, of its beauty and its achievements
  • the production and consumption of heritage goods – the participation of citizens in the creation and recreation of heritage and their enjoyment of artistic and literary creations or natural landscapes
  • a citizenship function – helps citizens feel part of their community and its history, and hence builds a sense of a common future
  • an education function – integrated in education curricula, not only in courses on the arts but also in citizenship education, history, geography, natural sciences or biology, and can have an important function today in lifelong learning programmes
  • the utilitarian turn – heritage is valorised as a factor of job creation and economic growth, with a growing emphasis on the economic impact of heritage activities and sites that can boost the local economy of a place through related hospitality as well as cultural services
  • linked to urban development and the growth of cities – heritage activities contribute to a vibrant city that is attractive to both residents and visitors

Cities and their heritage

An urbanising world poses challenges and opportunities to cultural heritage, endangering both tangible and intangible heritage:

  • works of art or historical buildings bulldozed to make space for new real housing or office projects
  • everyday rituals that rural people may abandon when moving to urban areas
  • traditions, clothing, dialects lost to adopt uniformed and standardised codes of dress or ways of speaking

Reinventing heritage in the city (or inventing a city heritage) can represent a development factor as well as an important way to build a new sense of community. Heritage can be a factor of economic growth. It can attract tourists and make a city a desirable place to live, because of the services and attractions it offers. But the challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas that open up for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage in urban centres are numerous.

Urbanisation and globalisation:

  • globalisation “refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness” and includes four socio-spatial dimensions:
    • the stretching of social, political, and economic activities across borders
    • the intensification of interconnectedness and of patterns of transnational interaction and flows (of capital, goods, services, people, media images, ideas, or pollution)
    • the speeding up of global interactions and processes
    • the intertwining of the local and global in ways that local events may affect distant lands

Over the last 50 years cities have become privileged loci of economic activity and political power, and also of cultural policy and governance – they offer the necessary socio-spatial dimension that economic and cultural globalisation requires, bringing together people, products, services, expertise, consumption, information and communication into an intense and dense network.

Cities epitomise the double potential of globalisation:

  • homogenisation – through the diffusion and prevalence of ‘Western’ lifestyles and a global culture of consumerism
  • diversity – eg exacerbating identity-related conflicts or local grievances, or through the opening up of new opportunities for cultural expression

Cities allow for manifestations of glocal-hybrid forms, styles, and patterns, bringing together local and global elements and processes.

The combined effects of globalisation and urbanisation also favour the emergence of a new type of ‘city nationalism’: city-imagined communities of people who feel they form a cultural and political community, who feel that they belong together.

Contemporary globalisation is a process of combined and uneven development:

  • draws together people, goods, and capital almost cancelling distance of time and space while ignoring existing disparities and inequalities
  • creates greater disparities and inequalities in resources, income, health, and cultural power than those that it initially brought together

Metropolitan areas are the privilege ‘theatres’ where globalisation plays out. Particularly in the cultural field, the size of cities and their being ‘nodal points’ where people, capital, and goods cross make them the new protagonists of the cultural scene, propelling them as protagonists into the governance of cultural issues, including of cultural heritage.

Cities and heritage: how different cities speak of their heritage

Some cities identify the source of their heritage in the past:

  • Rome, Shanghai, Athens – trace their heritage in ancient civilizations and empires, claiming it as a local heritage, albeit universally recognised
  • Vienna, Paris, London, Budapest, Istanbul – trace their heritage in their more recent past as capitals of empire; rich in imperial architecture, palaces and museums, urban planning with impressive boulevards, bridges or sewage systems
  • Marseilles, Barcelona – ports which trace their heritage in their economic function of the past, imprinted in their urban planning and characterising the cities to this day

Other cities reinvent their heritage by reference to their present and future:

  • western global cities like Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto define themselves through cultural diversity, celebrating it as an important part of their heritage
  • Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf, Hong Kong and Singapore are creating a new type of global city nationalism, forming their heritage with reference to their geographical morphology (often peninsulas) and their role as global financial and cultural centres
  • mega-cities of the global south, former colonies such as Delhi, Mumbai, Cape Town or Johannesburg, trace their heritage with reference to their colonial past, as well as to their sense of national independence and acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity

What counts most in defining the heritage of a city is the emergence of a self-consciousness of the city as a heritage community, and the claim to govern itself with a large degree of independence from the nation.

Week 2: the governance of heritage

Heritage governance is about relationships and interactions among different types of actors, seen as a better fit to contemporary societies than government and the state. It enables actors, such as companies or civil society, who are more quick to act and have more timely information, to make up for the lacunae of state action. The term governance designates interaction and networking between public and private actors in horizontal, non-hierarchical ways.

Heritage governance was traditionally linked to the nation-state and was centralised, a task entrusted to culture ministries and their experts. It was also mainly funded by the state; there was little activity in terms of public-private partnerships as heritage was conceived as ‘national property’.

During the past 15 years heritage governance has undergone a process of transformation leading to a number of changes:

  • multi-level: both horizontal and vertical cooperation; vertical between international, national, regional, and even local authorities and actors, and horizontal between actors from different sectors
  • inter-related with other policies such as education and tourism, but also with business innovation and SMEs
  • decentralised rather than top-down and expert-dominated

Decentralisation processes:

  • outsourcing – many functions of heritage preservation, such as cataloguing and restoration, are outsourced to private (profit/not) actors, offering flexibility and efficiency
  •  devolution – regional and local actors are given power and responsibility in managing their heritage, privileging a stronger sense of ownership, cutting red tape and allowing heritage to become a lever of cultural and economic development
  • managerialisation – the role of managers (of museums, libraries, cultural foundations, associations) has become increasingly important; each cultural institution shows a high degree of autonomy as well as self-sustainability; also with much more community participation
  • privatisation – beyond outsourcing or managerialisation to the outright concession of cultural heritage places or items entirely to private operators

Heritage in urban strategies

What does a local perspective bring to the understanding of the dynamics of heritage governance? Numerous reports argue that successful heritage policies generate positive impacts for cities, by:

  • creating jobs directly at sites or museums
  • attracting tourists, thus generating indirect revenues
  • educating the urban population on their past, passing on knowledge to future generations
  • creating intercultural dialogue
  • regenerating urban areas and improving the well-being of their inhabitants

As a part of an urban strategy cultural heritage is not an end in itself but an instrument for pursuing different goals. Each city and each urban heritage policy prioritises these goals differently. For example, urban strategies prioritising cultural tourism may disregard, or even be to the detriment to, the accessibility of heritage to the urban population. Focusing on urban regeneration may lead to a concentration of cultural attractions and activities in just a few areas of the city.

Who is involved and has a say in the elaboration of a heritage policy will determine the objectives that are prioritised and, eventually, its beneficiaries.

Three conceptual frameworks showing the power dynamics of urban cultural heritage strategies:

  • levels of governance: constraint or resource? cities have various degrees of autonomy, which may affect the financial and human resources at their disposal and their capacity to regulate
  • policy sectors: who gets involved? education? transportation? tourism?
  • modes of regulation:
    • public actors set the rules and enforce them, and may also directly invest in preserving heritage or operate heritage institutions
    • private actors are market-driven and profit-oriented, and may act as key stakeholders and take part in their implementation as part of public-private partnerships
    • civil society often plays a central role in the mobilisation for the preservation of heritage and its promotion

Heritage and urban development

Economists argue that cultural heritage should not be viewed as a cost, but rather as an investment that can yield short-term and long-term economic impacts:

  • short-term: direct effects (eg employment and income generated), induced effects (eg visitor consumption, benefit to local businesses, jobs…) and indirect effects (multiplier effects)
  • long-term (more difficult to calculate):
    • increased attractiveness of a city – recognitions, such as UNESCO World Heritage list or landmark cultural projects, can raise cultural tourism, which generates higher spending and can contribute to encouraging residents and businesses to settle in the city by raising the quality of life
    • fuels urban creativity, providing knowledge and ideas, which can be reinterpreted and generate spillovers in the local economy
    • a key component in urban regeneration – in numerous former industrial neighbourhoods in crisis or central areas in decay the focus on cultural heritage has accelerated the revival of urban life

This suggests a mechanic process, whereas local development relies on how cultural heritage relates to the local social and economic system. For example heritage trails appear to be a low-scale initiative which can generate several benefits, such as attracting more visitors for longer stays and diverting flows from congested areas, but more important is the collaboration that such projects can trigger, between heritage sites and service providers, between different local governments or among nonprofit organisations, all gathered around a common objective and a common cultural identity.

Giving new life to industrial heritage

By the 1980s the use of industrial heritage as tool of urban development had spread rapidly, resulting from the context of the industrial crisis as well as from the will to promote a more inclusive approach to heritage.

Many cities like Liverpool, Marseille, Genoa and Bilbao experienced difficult times. [CPH never mentioned in this connection; too small, or because it has the benefit of being a capital?] Beyond an economic crisis these cities underwent . Derelict factories and former industrial neighbourhoods in decay appeared as deep scars in the landscape, leading to an identity crisis as well as an economic crisis.

The use of industrial heritage as a resource has been a key strategy in creating a new urban narrative, defining new functions for empty warehouses and closed factories and creating new jobs in both the tourism sector and the ‘new economy’, including knowledge-based sectors such as IT, design, or the arts.

The recognition and promotion of industrial heritage was part of a general movement towards a wider and more inclusive recognition approach, which affected vernacular and rural heritage as well as alternative cultural productions such as graffiti.

The historical and aesthetic values of industrial heritage became recognised as a testimony of the industrial revolutions which transformed the world from the 19th century, of successive technical achievements and of the memory of the working class. Projects aimed at telling a new story in order to overcome their identity crisis, and at developing new economic sectors such as entertainment and tourism

Week 3: heritage and urban change

Urban transformations: the city as an ever-evolving cultural heritage

As a city evolves some of its infrastructures and buildings lose their initial functions, are conserved and become part of its cultural heritage. In the second half of the 20th century numerous train stations became obsolete; some were heritagised (the social construction of heritage, the process that leads people to consider something as heritage).

Brian Hoyle has identified six stages in the relationship between cities and ports:

  • in ancient and medieval ports port and city are closely associated, from both a spatial and functional point of view
  • between the 19th century and early 20th century the growth in industry and trade pushes ports outside the city’s confines
  • in the mid-20th century, with the rise of industrial activities like oil refining and the introduction of containers, the port starts being separated from the city
  • 1960s t0 1980s: new maritime technology causes the establishment of separate port industrial development areas; the retreat from the waterfront
  • 1970s to the 1990s: redevelopment of the waterfront, with a process of urban renewal beginning within the original port areas
  • 1980s onwards: a new stage of reconnection between the port and the city, with redevelopment projects enhancing the importance of port and city integration

This transformation in the organic relationship between the port and the city has affected urban neighbourhoods where the workers employed in port activities once lived. Hafen City in Hamburg “aims to recover the port warehouses, restore the historic district and reinforce Hamburg’s identity as a maritime city”. But having former ports and industrial areas recognised as places of heritage value has been a tortuous process; such areas are seen as problematic because of poverty, abandonment, crime and poor services. Their inclusion in heritage programmes is still a contested issue in many cities.

Cultural heritage vs urban development

Does urban development appear as an asset or as a threat to the preservation of heritage?

Three key tensions:

  • archaeology vs urban development: research in the urban environment can take place under the pressures of urban developers unwilling to avoid delays in their projects
  • preserving the historical landscape vs adjusting to urban change
  • authenticity vs instrumentalisation of heritage: tourism-oriented urban regeneration strategies can be to the detriment of the preservation of local intangible heritage and vernacular social practices; the existence of measures to safeguard built heritage does not necessarily guarantee the preservation of the city’s social character; who is heritage for?

The consequences of heritagisation for local populations:

  • lower class populations living in the historic centre of Naples have been viewed by the urban elites as an obstacle to promoting the area as cultural heritage, as they were associated with a bad reputation, namely crime and poverty; this led the administration to redefine the right behaviour in the city and make reproaches to local inhabitants for their “lack of heritage consciousness”

The issue of gentrification:

  • the term gentrification has been used to describe the settlement of upper and middle class households in working class neighbourhoods, often associated with the transition in housing tenure from renting to ownership
  • the rehabilitation of cities’ built heritage is often accused of contributing to the process of gentrification
  • the intangible heritage that lies in the customs, habits, and everyday life of these neighbourhoods’ inhabitants may be at risk while built heritage is conserved
  • evolution of the definition of gentrification:
    • 1980s: mostly related to a process of rehabilitation of 18th and 19th century inner neighbourhoods as well as the conversion of former factories and warehouses into lofts and apartments
    • 21st century: expanded to include redevelopment projects in central areas and extended to the analysis of the changes in modes of consumption in inner neighbourhoods
  • a distinction is generally made between two types of dynamics:
    • top-down logics of redevelopment of central areas that lead to (and sometimes aim at) the eviction of local populations
    • an organic process involving local communities and businesses that enables conservation of the character of the area
  • not necessarily a planned process, but this does not mean that policies cannot play an indirect role; the construction of a new train station or a new cultural centre, the improvement of urban services, the creation of touristic trails, can all contribute to gentrification
  • Kate Shaw: “preservation of heritage can be used as a deliberate gentrification strategy, with the ‘cultural sensibilities’ of the middle class pointedly distinguishing between past and future users”

Gentrification represents a key tension in heritage policy. Different visions of what heritage should be for compete:

  • some argue that heritage should be preserved to accelerate urban regeneration and attract tourists
  • others defend the position that cultural heritage should mostly carry social and educational objectives
  • also a subject of tension between the advocates of the rehabilitation of built heritage and those also devoted to safeguarding intangible heritage

Some policies have been trying to challenge this issue:

  • the establishment of social housing within gentrifying neighbourhood, either in new or rehabilitated buildings
  • the regulation of rents in order to prevent lower income households from being evicted because of the rise of real estate values

Events and city identity

Different kinds of events have been integrated into the strategies of cities to promote heritage.

Mega-events: national pride or city branding?

  • the football world cup, the Olympic Games and world expositions are highly mediatised and reach a global audience; they have become major tools for cities to display their singularity and to compete on the global stage
  • emerged in the 19th century, in the context of the industrial revolution. and are associated with the rise of modernity
    • the first world exposition was the Great Exhibition of London in 1851
    • the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896
  • aim at celebrating universal values such as excellence, respect, and friendship (Olympic)s or progress and innovation (expositions)
  • the nations that organise them wish to demonstrate their economic and political power:
    • materialised through innovative buildings, which remain important monuments (the Eiffel Tower)
    • to display imperialism (the 1931 colonial exhibition in Paris left a contested heritage – its main building was turned into the National Museum of the History of Immigration in 2012)
  • until the second half of the 20th century the city is rather a showcase of modernity than an actor in mega-events strategies
  • later on cities started to compete to organise such events in order to increase their attractiveness:
    • their first motivation is economic impacts – mega-events are argued to yield high returns on investments by attracting tourists and enhancing cities’ images
    • their second motivation is to accelerate urban transformations – the year of a mega-event often constitutes the deadline for a number of major redevelopment projects, new infrastructure, new cultural and sport facilities
  • the use of mega-events as an instrument of national pride has not disappeared; emerging countries combine urban branding and nation branding aimed at asserting the rising soft power of these nations, as in China’s stadium by Herzog and De Meuron for the 2008 Olympics; Gulf countries also offer a good example, with the World Exposition in 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 Football World Cup in Doha

Festivals as instruments to enhance local heritage:

  • mega-events have a global scale but are highly standardised, while smaller scale events such as festivals, carnivals, or biennials can be more rooted in the city’s identity
  • cities use festivals to create a lively and attractive urban environment, but also view them as a way to differentiate and promote a specific identity, often carrying old traditions that made them famous worldwide
  • festivals can be a great asset to the city, especially if they are not imported for commercial or for self-realisation reasons but are rooted in the community, with the concept connected to the city and the citizens themselves involved

European Capital of Culture

  • evolved from a traditional arts festival to a complex programme tied to economic and social objectives
  • during the first years the event took place in the recognised European cultural centres such as Athens, Florence, or Paris, lasting only a few months and involving mainly the cultural sector to achieve mostly cultural goals
  • in 1990 Glasgow played a pioneering role in using the event as a tool to transform the city’s image by extending it to a year long programme and taking it as an opportunity to regenerate a city tarnished by the industrial crisis
  • Lille came up with a number of innovations that expanded the scope and objectives of the initiative, involving 193 towns in the area, emphasising the social impact, establishing cultural sectors and events in peripheral neighbourhoods to reach out to diverse populations and boosting citizens’ participation through a volunteering programme involving almost 18,000 citizens
  • a narrow focus on urban growth that may not benefit the whole city’s population is now avoided, with the scope and objectives expanded to include, for example, inter-city cooperation as well as social impacts
  • ECC projects are often criticised for being too elitist and not rooted enough in their city; Marseille’s cultural scene rose up to the reduction of culture to an urban marketing tool and created a parallel event to the European Capital of Culture, named, the “Off”; three artists aimed “to put the Marseillais artist at the heart of the European Capital of Culture, by organising off the wall and impertinent shows, based on paradoxes of the city”; see also OFF-Biennale Budapest
  • smaller cities often take a more innovative approach and are able to capture more significant benefits

Aarhus 2017: the ECC Olympics? Of rather more interest would be Milton Keynes 2023:

The city is culture…Rather than looking at the culture that takes place in the city…the real task is to understand the city itself as culture. Milton Keynes was meant to be different: it is, as the Capital of Culture bid proposes, “different by design”.

Museums and the experience economy

Update, Sep 2018: report on the European Museum Academy’s 2018 prizes, doled out in Aarhus’ Den Gamle By (submissions | winners)…NORDMUS (more), Danish and German museums working together

Update, May 2018: Denmark’s National Museum is soon to introduce a kedsomhedsknap (boredom button) for children. Spotted this in an article profiling director (and professor at CBS) Rane Willerslev (Politiken Kultur, 2 June 2018), who even has a reality show on DR 2, Ranes Musuem. All part of an effort to get rid of the museum’s stuffy image and attract more paying guests; tivolisering? Other ideas put forward by the Must advertising agency included an historic pick n mix, a pet cemetery and a ghost tour.

Update, Dec 2017: nice work in Edinburgh museums – the 2011 remodelling of The Museum is a triumph, while the City Art Centre offered an Edinburgh Alphabet, more than 300 objects grouped around a letter of the alphabet, and Edinburgh’s 101 objects, the ultimate city heritage tour…report from a seminar in Aarhus on sociale rum og brugerinddragelse i udstillinger…

Update, Nov 2017: Sharing is Caring 2017 in Aarhus (#sharecare17 | programme) was on digitisation and impact, with day 1 offering a CULTour to Dokk1Museum Jorn and Gammel Estrup, day 2 with papers and ignites, and day 3 with workshops in ARoS; note the links are in the top menu and not on the main page, which also didn’t advertise that livestreaming was available; #poor

Update, Mar 2017: the theme of ODM’s Formidlingsseminar 2017 (programme | vids) was Hvad er museerne værd (#MuseetErTilFor) exploring how museums demonstrate their social value. Examples: work with people with Alzheimers (demente) in Den Gamle By, educating the young about democracy at Arbejdermuseet, initiatives for refugees at Nationalmuseet. Day 2 included streams on communication and research…Vestegnen’s very own museum, Kroppedal, has got itself an objects exhibition: 99xVSTGN (objectsarticle | Tingtale catalogue by Harald Voetmann), although Forstadmuseet objected: På besøg på VestegnenBorgmestre: Vi er ikke bare dem med falske øjenvipper)… John Falk’s Visitor identity related motivations (again)…

Update, Sep 2016: on a trip to Hamburg and Ratzeburg we lunched in BallinStadt, Hamburg’s emigration museum, and went photo amok in the Grenzhus Schlagsdorf and Kreismuseum Herzogtum Lauenburg, as well as any number of art galleries on the Ernst Barlach trail…here’s an interesting article on museum locationsAroS has got itself a formidlingscenter, a Danish version/not of the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s Transparentes Museum…the outgoing director of Medical Museion posits The point of museums is to play with material stuff…interesting piece on the National Trust, if tl;dr, and Treasure palaces, a book of essays in which celebrated writers revisit museums, inc Alan Hollinghurst at Thorvaldsens…OH at Crystal Palace Museum: “it’s just things in glass cases”…CPH’s newest museum, Enigma (lives up to its name)…the American Writers Museum opens (story)…

During June and July 2015 I audited Leicester’s Behind the scenes at the 21st century museum MOOC, resulting in a suite of #flmuseums posts. Since then I’ve cast a rather more critical eye on the museums I visit (see Museums and me in Poland) and begun to explore the Danish curatorial scene.

Previously mostly confined to childhood and holidays, in the era of the experience economy museums have moved into a different place. This is not necessarily positive – the refurbishment of what I know as The Museum at Chambers Street in Edinburgh has caused widespread consternation among those who grew up with the goldfish. For many something is lost as museums (like cities) become homogenised.

On my 2014 trip to Embra I noted that the two old art galleries, the portrait gallery and the national gallery, had made some concessions to fashion but maintained a traditional feel. This meant they didn’t feel too dumbed down – it’s a gallery not a visitor attraction, or maybe it can be both? The displays were a little folkelige in places, but we’ll let them off. The Minette display in the portrait gallery was a treat for Jean Plaidy fans. There was also any number of new museums-cum-experiences I’ve never heard of – Museum on the Mound, Dr Neil’s Garden…and the Saltire Heritage Centre in Athelstaneford.

Often it’s the quirk which works – put a newly polished museum experience next to the Cork Butter Museum or the homemade relief maps in the NVA-Museum in Prora, and I know which I prefer. For now the two styles coexist – compare and contrast Helsingør’s achingly trendy Museet for Søfart with the rather more traditional Værftsmuseet.

Museums are playing their role in the spatial turn, with the city/urban museum increasingly de rigueur. A breathless post on the Gehl blog highlights museums “sharing exhibits in the public realm [and] acting as a catalyst for public life” via  events, entertainment, educational programmes, cafés and shops. Opening up facades, improving wayfinding and overall integration plus offering opportunities to linger is seen as key, together with collaboration between institutions – see Copenhagen’s Parkmuseerne and proposed ‘museum island’. Rethink Museums, a project by digital agency MMEx, is charged with exploring ways of rethinking stories in public space. The museum as place, but where’s the art?

Art isn’t always about participation and popularity and relating everything back to us. Museums shouldn’t be, either.

For lurkers, the Organisation Danske Museer‘s programme of events are well amplified (not so though for the Nordisk Museums Forbund’s Dialog- og udviklingsseminar in September 2016, tsk). The vids for #formidling16, an annual seminar held in conjunction with Formidlingsnet (ODM’s digital platform) and Museumsformidlere i Danmark, came up in no short order. MiD’s leader centred around the LCD vs elitism debate, which has a slightly different slant in Denmark, while Pelle Guldborg Hansen (@Peguha), chair of the Danish Nudging Network, expounded on oplevelsens tyranni (the tyranny of experience; basically, research is lacking on the relationship between experience and behaviour, memory and storytelling).

Worth a watch was artist Jesper Rasmussen, who asked whether the elusive formidling (broadly curation and its dissemination) has become an end in itself, more important than content, in the hunt for visitors and coverage. He criticised labyrinthine, dark exhibitions where the lone visitor is passively taken onwards – it’s not possible to discover your own route without a torch. In this scenario objects are reduced to tools in the service of iscenesaettelse (staging/presentation- the story). Instead of making connections or showing something in a new light there’s sensory overload for its own sake, in particular sound, “because we can”. While this can work – for me at the Northern Lights exhibition in Rovaniemi – it’s over-use makes it often plain annoying.

Jesper also highlighted installations as frequently banal, making the objects they present equally banal. Perhaps learning can happen via the senses, creating a mood and a context for the objects, came a comment. It’s like soundmaps and scent maps, the latest way to experience architecture. He also criticised the extensive use of user surveys, paraphrasing Steve Jobs: customers don’t know what they want until they see it.

An SDU seminar on The post-representational museum gave examples of “forms of curating that challenge representation and relate to the concept of the assembly”, with presos discussing the new role of the museum, changed means of communication and the tensions between “knowledge, sensation/affect and agency”. Interesting looking paper by Ida Brændholt Lundgaard (Aarhus) on museums, atmosphere and sense of place, plus presos on a number of projects funded by Velux, including one from Jakob Ingemann Parby (Københavns Museum/RUC; Academia.edu) on Urbaniseringens møder og mennesker. No coverage, sadly.

More: Museerne vil holde på dig | Et bud på 5 megatrends for kulturarv

#FLRobert Burns: the Robert Burns MOOC

Update: “comedian, writer and bon vivant” Keara Murphy has been doing a Burns’ secret life special since 2015: sex life | tax life | rock n roll life | after life…and reborn in the TLS…OTH he may have been a “Weinsteinian sex pest”Robert Burns Night 2018 inc Burns Unbroke (Summerhall; map), Red Rose Street…another Rabbie map…

Quick look at Robert Burns: poems, songs and legacy (#FLRobertBurns) from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow kicked off on 25 Jan, obv, for three weeks.

Who was Robert Burns? What made Robert Burns a poetic genius? And what made Robert Burns a global icon?

You’ll examine archive material, original publications and manuscripts by Burns himself, recordings of Burns songs and examples of objects used to commemorate the poet. You’ll also look at and learn to interpret a selection of Robert Burns’ works in the context of Scottish history and culture.

Setting things in a wider context, you’ll also develop your understanding of Robert Burns’s reputation – from the rise of Burns Clubs and Burns Suppers following his death, to the continuing celebration of the poet today through Burns Night, Hogmanay (New Year) and beyond.

A counterpoint to #FLfairytales and #FLwordsworth, then.

Who was – and is – Robert Burns?

Rabbie wordcloudKicking off by debunking Rabbie related mythology, the first week proper had 21 steps, the sort of thing which makes me groan. Anyway, step 1 invited a one word response on something called AnswerGarden to the question: who was Robert Burns? I went with ‘Scot’. There’s quite a nice wordcloud emerging (see right).

How are we to understand the man and his reputation? What transformed him from the ‘heaven-taught ploughman’ first discovered in the 18th century into the instantly recognised celebrity he is today? Burns occupies different roles throughout his life – poet, farmer, exciseman – and has indeed meant different things to different people at different times.

For some he is a ‘national bard’ and Scottish patriot; for others he is a major British poet; while others still might argue that Burns is a citizen of the world. Burns has also been regarded a somewhat contentious figure. His many romantic liasons, for example, have raised controversy, yet they have also provided inspiration for some of the most memorable love poetry ever written. For some Burns is more a radical figure, one who speaks on behalf of the common man (and woman).

Three things from the intro I didn’t know:

  • he brought Scots poetry back into vogue
  • he was an avid collector and editor of Scots songs, as well as writing many new ones himself
  • by the time of his death at the age of 37 he had made at least five women pregnant on at least 13 occasions and sired at least 12 children

Edwin Muir (1887–1959): Burns is ‘to the respectable, a decent man; to the Rabelaisian, bawdy; to the sentimentalist, sentimental; to the socialist, a revolutionary; to the nationalist, a patriot; to the religious, pious’.

Hugh MacDiarmid (1892–1978) ‘Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name / Than in ony’s barrin’ liberty and Christ’!

Born in 1759, in April 1783 Burns began a first Commonplace Book (a type of scrapbook or notebook), marking the beginning of his sustained endeavours as a writer. In 1786 that he published his first volume of poetry: Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, printed by John Wilson in Kilmarnock. The success of the Kilmarnock edition put an end to his supposed plans to emigrate to the West Indies. Instead he travelled to Edinburgh to promote his poetry and prepare for the publication of a 2nd edition, the ‘Edinburgh Edition’, in April 1787.

In the years that followed Burns produced several of his most famous works, however in the latter part of his life he moved away from poetry, investing much of his time and creative energy collecting and composing songs.

Burns was a freemason and wrote numerous poems inspired by and for his Masonic brethren. The Freemasons played an important part in the posthumous commemoration of the national bard, securing the tradition of the Burns supper and commissioning and/or contributing to numerous statues and memorials.

Lots of poetry reading and textual analysis!

Poet or songwriter?

We take a closer look at Burns as poet and songwriter…We also take a trip to visit our friends at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway to look at some of the publications and manuscripts held in their extensive collection, and you’ll even try your hand at transcribing a manuscript in Burns’s own handwriting. Together, we’ll examine some of the influences on Burns and his career collecting and reworking traditional songs.

Robert Burns wrote or collected two songs for every poem he produced, and was clearly both a success as a poet and as a songwriter. It is probably true to say, however, that his song-writing is thought of as a subset of his work as ‘a poet’.

  1. It is probably Burns’s love of ‘rhyme’ that led him into an increasing interest in song from poetry.
  2. However it might also be noted that his first creative production was the song, ‘O Once I Lov’d A Bonnie Lass’ (1774), and that among his earliest work is a number of other songs.
  3. Burns selected and adapted tunes for his songs, but he did not write original tunes.
  4. Many of his works such as ‘Auld Lang Syne’ or ‘A Red Rose’ were often published without music in editions of his work as though these were poems.
  5. Burns refers to himself as ‘poet Burns’ and as a ‘rhymester’ rather than as a songwriter.

Among Burns’s most celebrated songs are his Jacobite pieces, such as ‘Charlie He’s My Darling’ (from the mid-1790s), his love songs, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ (1791) and ‘A Red Rose’ (1794), and also ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (1788). As with ‘Charlie He’s My Darling’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ existed in a number of versions going back to the 16th century, but it is Burns who really popularises the title-phrase, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, reworking its emphasis and the material within the song. Burns made the song into something appropriate to a new age of emigration, a more universal sentiment where friends and families are rendered asunder.

What made Burns an international icon?

Hundreds of biographies, edited collections and critical studies of Burns’s life and works have been published since the bard’s death in 1796, and there are over 3000 translations of Burns’s works into foreign languages, but Burns’s literary works are just one aspect of his legacy.

Since the 19th century Burns has been celebrated at Burns Suppers, in Burns related statuary and memorabilia and at grand centenary celebrations such as those held across the globe in 1859 and 1896. Innumerable composers, artists and performers have been inspired by Burns.

Statues and public memorials to Robert Burns were being erected across the globe as early as the mid-19th century. By 1909 over 40 had been commissioned in the UK, and a minimum of five in Australia, three in Canada, one in New Zealand, and nine in the USA.

Some trivia related to Burns’s reputation:

  • Burns coined the popular phrase ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ in his poem ‘Man Was Made to Mourn’
  • like Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the title of JD Salinger’s famous novel Catcher in the Rye comes from one of Burns’s poems – ‘Comin’ Thro’ the Rye’
  • US President Abraham Lincoln was a real fan of Burns and could recite pieces of Burns’s poetry by heart

For dedicated fans only! It may be my heritage but I had no idea yer man was quite that huge, and it’s definitely not my period. Having said that, listening to the songs easily brings a tear to the eye.

Rabbie linkage:

Museums and me in Poland

During June and July 2015 I audited Leicester’s Behind the scenes at the 21st century museum MOOC, resulting in a suite of #flmuseums posts. This made museum visits on holiday in Poland a month or so later all the more interesting. A 2014 article in Politiken sets the scene, highlighting a number of new Polish museums, including Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, which I had a nose around in 2004, six years before its transformation. (See also the story about remembering Schindler in the Czech Republic.)

Gdynia

A highlight here was the mini-museum (FB) in the basement of the BGK Housing Estate. The museum was founded by the estate’s residents, and was opened for us by a workman who proudly showed off the mementos they have gathered, including pre-war bathroom fittings, kitchen bells and an early refrigerator in a larder. Also on show was a a pre-war wooden mangle, still in use, and a fully equipped air raid shelter complete with a still operational ventilation system. Our guide also let us into the apartment building proper – photo heaven!

By way of contrast the Gdynia City Museum (IYP) was not very tourist friendly, although just about worth the price of entry for a film tracing the foundation of the city and the opportunity to buy a coaster with a picture of a Polish naval officer.

The brand new Emigration Museum (IYP) in the former Dworzec Morski/Marine Station (1926) was a rather bigger deal. For me the building trumped the exhibitions, with the sense of what went before less apparent amidst the plethora of digital concepts and child-friendly multi-media exhibits. A lengthy comment was left in the visitors book.

Olsztyn

Onwards to Olsztyn in the former East Prussia, now the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. No cutting edge concepts here, but instead an efficient touch screen driven information kiosk with comprehensive information about the museums in the area. I particularly regretted bypassing Herder’s birthplace in Morąg, and having to skip the House of the Olsztyn Gazette due to lack of time.

The Museum of Warmia and Masuria in the 14th century castle reflects the depth of culture in the area, with some some quirky displays alongside more traditional folkloric exhibits. The collection of clocks in the tower was a particular highlight.

Gdańsk

We finished our trip in Gdansk, which has heritage to suit every taste and more museums than you can shake the proverbial stick at, no doubt soon to be joined by a Günter Grass homage or expanded gallery (GG died on 13 April 2015 – see IYP’s  Wrzeszcz walking tour).

We managed to tick off the Polish Post Museum and Westerplatte, both playing a key role on 1 September 1939 – our Westerplatte visit taking place on the 76th anniversary. Lack of time again did not permit a look at the Free City of Gdansk Historical Zone.

The latest museum to open is the European Solidarity Centre (Esme Ward’s report), opened on the 34th anniversary of the signing of the Gdansk Agreement on 31 August 2014 in the former Lenin Shipyard. Like Gdynia’s Emigration Museum it’s ‘state of the art’, ie nowhere to sit down, a one way circuit with no obvious exit, multimedia and interactivity galore, nothing left out. What did work; Room F, with a giant Solidarity logo made up of visitors’ messages.

Despite involving a lot of hanging around, our visit was made by the arrival of the Polish president on the 35th anniversary of the signing of the agreement.

Round the corner from the museum is the Sala BHP (Occupational Health and Safety Hall), where the negotiations between the strikers and the government were held and the agreement was signed.  Taken over by Solidarity in 2004 and now renovated, the hall currently functions as a conference and museum facility.

The great and good were in attendance to commemorate the 35th anniversary, and we felt privileged to be able to sneak in for a look round, as old friends relived the events and enjoyed a beer (or two) in the cafe.

A split new Museum of the Second World War (IYP) is due to open in December 2016, just 200m from the Polish Post Office on the edge of the historic city centre. How will the museum approach the legacy of WW2 more than 70 years on? Since the election of a new government there have been reports of a change in tack and even cancellation of the multi-million złoty project (The Observer | Timothy Snyder | delayed, Jan 2017 | open and still causing controversy, April 2017 | Calvert Jnl) | the transnational angle).

For now a temporary exhibition in the Solidarity Centre, End of War in 45 artefacts, was well done, emphatically not in any set order, an “inspiration incentive to reflect on the complexity of historic events…and the ambiguity of their outcomes”.

 

More tangible things

Week 2 of  Tangible Things (@tangiblethings | Facebook) considers the value of stopping to look at things around you, specifically A toga in the archive, exploring clothing and contemporary political, economic and social phenomena, and John Harvard’s toe:

Just looking is never enough. Question what you see.  Questions about John Harvard’s statue take us many directions—to art, to early American history, and to the Houghton Library. The John Harvard statue also invites us to look at how the meaning of a person or an event changes over time. His memorial was created nearly 250 years after his death, raising the question of what aspects of his life were being remembered and what was being forgotten.

John Harvard’s statue helps us to consider the difference between history and what scholars call “memory,” or the ways in which people memorialize the past.  Memorials acquire new meanings from the ways history is remembered, imagined, or forgotten over time.

Find a memorial, monument or statue in your own area. Consider when it was made, what it commemorates, and how it has changed over time. In what ways is its history like and unlike that of the John Harvard statue? If you can, include an image.

Here’s my post on memorials.

Week 3! Looks at some of the ways people have brought things together into purposeful collections to preserve memory, promote commerce and define culture.

Given up on the social side – feels anonymous and impersonal. Needs curating.

First, a look at collections organised around a specific person or a place (see also Placing the author). Such things may seem personal and local, but can also lead to broader themes. Points from the vid:

  • room interpreted (sic) as a bedroom although it was a dairy
  • layering of different histories – what’s left out?

Memory making:

That’s what a good memory maker does. You don’t see the labor that goes into creating it. And it’s pieces of the past, fragments of the past, bits of oral tradition, artifacts, documents that they pieced together so patiently. And by looking closely, we can trace some of those fissures and cracks, and we can begin to understand that history in a much deeper way beyond just the memory.

Exercises:

  • describe an object; what aspects of family history may have been forgotten?
  • often the achievements of male inhabitants are highlighted rather than that of the women who preserved the house or persons of color who labored there or contributed to the family’s possessions – select a museum or historical site in your own area and consider whether it too might contain evidence ‘hidden in plain sight’

Next up, the museum in a box, used in American schools in the 19th century to teach children about “useful things”:

It appears systematic, but on close examination we discover the impossibility of confining any group of objects to just one story, to just one category.

Which appears to be the message of the MOOC so far. The discussion question: Choose a museum that you have visited. What were its objectives? How do those goals influence the organization and display of objects?

The museum in a box is related to world fairs and the categorisation of knowledge. Hence the exercise is to create a modern day drawer for the box, on Pinterest or Dropbox.

Week 4 considers methods of rearranging objects to create new ways of thinking. This  sounds interesting and has big crossovers with librarianship, however I’m off on holiday so will need to run through the last two weeks double quick on return.

First up, how anthropology museums have confronted the ways their own collections reflect the conquest of native peoples, then a look at how natural history collections are conventionally organised around material attributes. The team has been involved in connecting objects to things from other kinds of collections in order to situate them in human history, and in adding ‘guest objects’ to three popular galleries.

  • If you had the opportunity to add a ‘guest object” to each of the three galleries that we examined, what would you choose? If possible select things with which you have direct experience and explain how they might alter, enlarge, or disrupt the meaning of the current exhibits.
  • If you were to create a museum, what would it be about and how would you organize it?

Week 5 looks at organising collections by broad theme rather than through traditional taxonomic categories, allowing us to see new meanings and new connections. The Time and Time Again exhibit moved beyond conventional museum boundaries to bring a variety of objects together around a single theme, showing the complexity of something as fundamental to human experience as time:

  • Find and list at least three time-keeping strategies or devices in your own environment that are not included in the Time and Time Again catalog
  • Consider the different ways you experience time. Which are more culturally influenced and which are more biologically rooted?

An early 2oth century sewing machine showed the impossibility of containing the meaning of a single object in just one collection – almost any object can connect aspects of the past that often seem unconnected, and even an ‘ordinary’ object can open up multiple ways of understanding the world and the people in it. There’s an awful lot of stuff on sewing machines, where I was looking for some sort of conclusion. The content was fine, but it didn’t really go anywhere and there was little theoretical background. Plus it was really really American. Maybe the team were present in the discussions, but the absence of any form of weekly wrap-up or any email contact meant the whole thing feel very anonymous.