haunted museums

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he Museum of World Culture has been favourably compared with the Musée du Quai Branly, which is often mentioned as the antithesis of the Swedish museum. But is the difference between seeking to honour formerly humiliated and despised people, and to promote intercultural exchange actually that great in practice? In both cases, the objectives involve strengthening existing self-images: in France the one depicting the country as the highest court of good taste; and in Sweden the one about being the ultimate domicile of good will. At the same time, and in spite of the ideological ambitions driving the museums, in both French and Swedish cases a kind of unintentional ethnography is being conducted: a haunted ethnography. Siegel points to how collections are made available through a classificatory system that fixes and delimits the understanding of the objects. The collections of the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg contain about 100 000 objects. These are classified in accordance with a variety of ontological and epistemological principles dating from the period in which the objects were acquired. These principles are difficult to grasp, but they determine what can be found.

more from Lisa Karlsson Blom and Mikela Lundahl at Eurozine here.

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