Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations / Edition 1

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Museum Frictions is the third volume in a bestselling series on culture, society, and museums. The first two volumes in the series, Exhibiting Cultures and Museums and Communities, have become defining books for those interested in the politics of museum display and heritage sites. Another classic in the making, Museum Frictions is a lavishly illustrated examination of the significant and varied effects of the increasingly globalized world on contemporary museum, heritage, and exhibition practice. The contributors—scholars, artists, and curators—present case studies drawn from Africa, Australia, North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Together they offer a multifaceted analysis of the complex roles that national and community museums, museums of art and history, monuments, heritage sites, and theme parks play in creating public cultures.

Whether contrasting the transformation of Africa’s oldest museum, the South Africa Museum, with one of its newest, the Lwandle Migrant Labor Museum; offering an interpretation of the audio guide at the Guggenheim Bilbao; reflecting on the relative paucity of art museums in Peru and Cambodia; considering representations of slavery in the United States and Ghana; or meditating on the ramifications of an exhibition of Australian aboriginal art at the Asia Society in New York City, the contributors highlight the frictions, contradictions, and collaborations emerging in museums and heritage sites around the world. The volume opens with an extensive introductory essay by Ivan Karp and Corinne A. Kratz, leading scholars in museum and heritage studies.

Contributors. Tony Bennett, David Bunn, Gustavo Buntinx, Cuauhtémoc Camarena, Andrea Fraser, Martin Hall, Ivan Karp, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Corinne A. Kratz, Christine Mullen Kreamer, Joseph Masco, Teresa Morales, Howard Morphy, Ingrid Muan, Fred Myers, Ciraj Rassool, Vicente Razo, Fath Davis Ruffins, Lynn Szwaja, Krista A. Thompson, Leslie Witz, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Museum Frictions is a landmark publication which decenters the Western-centric bias of the existing literature. It shifts critical museology into a new register by challenging readers to think about the multiple ways that the globalization of a Western institution is transforming not only the dynamics of social interaction around the world but also the institutional nature of the museum itself.”—Ruth B. Phillips, coeditor of Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums, and Material Culture

Museum Frictions is not just a worthy successor to the preceding volumes Exhibiting Cultures and Museums and Communities, but a major leap forward. In the face of dramatic changes in the museum world during the past fifteen years, the last two volumes still remain a major platform for framing debate. I am confident that Museum Frictions will provide a similar service for the next fifteen.”—Doran H. Ross, Director Emeritus of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

“Just as Exhibiting Cultures and Museums and Communities set the agenda for museum debate over the last decade, Museum Frictions sets the agenda for the next. This is a wonderful book that must be read by anybody with an interest in museums, their transformations, dilemmas, challenges, politics, and futures.”—Sharon Macdonald, editor of A Companion to Museum Studies

“This marvelous and broad-ranging compendium by an eminent group of scholars provides a thinking person’s guide to contemporary museum work. It tackles the philosophical issues curators, directors, and professionals face in the art of cultural representation. How do you get the world’s diverse people to talk to each other in meaningful and significant ways? This book provides the intellectual tools for doing so, dealing cogently and adeptly with the complexity of globalization, conflicting perspectives, and the noise proffered by popular media. For a long book with large themes, it reads amazingly well.”—Richard Kurin, Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution

Barbara Franco

Museum Frictions challenges traditional thinking and will spark new debates and conversations that will undoubtedly add to a growing literature on the role of museums in a postmodern world. The geographically and culturally diverse case studies provide insights into museum interpretation that will be of interest to historians and museum professionals working in a wide range of public cultural venues. They also provide an important snapshot of museums and historical organizations in the context of the global changes affecting museums worldwide.”
Gwyneira Isaac

Museum Frictions will have a significant impact not only on museum scholarship, but also on researchers exploring public institutions and community politics more generally. In particular, while existing literature has commonly glossed over the challenges faced by community museums, viewing them merely as vehicles for empowerment, this book tackles head-on their struggles in finding stability within the changeable politics of both their local and global arenas. In opening up these provocative areas to debate, this book is sure to strengthen and enhance our understanding of relationships between regional and international players in the museum world and thus, the transnational nature of problems of representation. It also provides a practical guide for museum professionals, potentially developing new ideologies and procedures that may help minimize future museum frictions.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822338949
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 632
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ivan Karp is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship at Emory University. He has coedited numerous books, including Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture and Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display.

Corinne A. Kratz is Professor of Anthropology and African Studies and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship at Emory University. She is the author of The Ones That Are Wanted: Communication and the Politics of Representation in a Photographic Exhibition.

Lynn Szwaja is Program Director for Theology at the Henry Luce Foundation.

Tomás Ybarra-Frausto was, until retirement in 2005, Associate Director for Creativity and Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1998, he was awarded the Joseph Henry Medal for “exemplary contributions to the Smithsonian Institution.”

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Read an Excerpt


Public Cultures/Global Transformations


Copyright © 2006 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-3878-9

Chapter One


The term "exhibitionary complex" signals a nervous preoccupation with exhibition as a practice. In his 1988 formulation of the concept, Tony Bennett characterized the exhibitionary complex as a set of civic institutions whose goal was to encourage "new forms of civic self-fashioning on the part of newly enfranchised democratic citizenries." Taking shape in the nineteenth century, the exhibitionary complex included not only museums but also libraries, schools, and other places where popular schooling took place, such as galleries, arcades, department stores, and international expositions. In his contribution to this volume, Bennett has refined the concept to account for new modes of citizenship in the contemporary context of official policies of multiculturalism. Public museums, as we know them from their history in the United Kingdom and Australia, have become "'differencing machines' committed to the promotion of cross-cultural understanding, especially across divisions that have been racialized." Funded by the state and guided by official cultural policy, no matter how enlightened, public museumsare by their nature governmental. For this reason, Bennett proposes that museums, while they are public spaces, should be distinguished from public spheres so as to better understand their intermediary role in public culture.

Reflecting on a wide range of museums, heritage sites, and themed attractions in Spain, South Africa, the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, the essays in this section attempt to historicize contemporary museum practices and the exhibitionary complexes associated with them in light of globalization, understood as a complex and far-flung system of integrated flows of people, goods, technologies, knowledge, and capital. The global produces the local, either as the outtakes of globalization-the places left out or left behind-or as a value-added space within a global economy of heritage tourism. Global processes always manifest themselves locally, and museums are no exception. The webs of relations that characterize globalization and instruments for expanding them differ qualitatively and quantitatively from earlier colonial empires, with which they also share many features. Whereas Bennett cautions that the impact of globalization has been exaggerated, Martin Hall sees an epochal shift so profound as to require not an updating of the exhibitionary complex but the formulation of something quite different, what he calls in his essay the "experiential complex." These two essays offer alternative models for thinking about the sites discussed in this section and elsewhere in this volume. The historical question they pose is whether Hall's experiential complex follows Bennett's exhibitionary complex or whether the two are historically contemporaneous, their differences arising from the types of exhibitions upon which they are based. The locus classicus of the exhibitionary complex is the nineteenth-century public museum. The locus classicus of the themed attraction is the international exposition or world's fair. Both arose in all their fullness at the same time, during the second half of the nineteenth century, and their paths of development are intertwined, though each has a much longer history. Indeed, American anthropologist Franz Boas, who worked on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago (1893), distinguished between the "exposition method" of commercial exhibits and the "museum method," which was systematic, scientific, and educational. Both methods were represented at the Chicago World's Fair.

To capture their contemporaneity, we might offer as a complement to the exhibitionary complex, which Bennett identifies primarily with civic institutions, the "expositionary complex," in keeping with Boas's distinction between the museum method and the exposition method. This is not to suggest that museums are a pure example of the former and world's fairs a pure example of the latter. On the contrary, the value of Hall's contribution is in developing a question posed previously by Corinne Kratz and Ivan Karp as to why themed amusements such as Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot (the latter itself a permanent world's fair) incorporate museums and actual things, "authentic objects," into simulated environments, why they become more exhibitionary, while museums such as the open-air Beamish in the north of England, with their thematic treatments and rides, become more expositionary. Whether the sites that Hall discusses are significantly different from their world's fair predecessors-whether they represent an epochal shift of the expositionary complex itself or whether the expositionary is overtaking the exhibitionary in museums-remains an open question.

In her essay Andrea Fraser asks, "Have new museums such as the Guggenheim Bilbao finally succeeded in replacing the pedantic discipline of a nineteenth-century ordering of things with the fluid freedoms of unprogrammed flows?" Or has this kind of museum, with its spectacular "wow" space, become a corporate entertainment complex? Instead of recycling a dead industrial economy as heritage by making it into an exhibition of itself, the city purchased a Guggenheim franchise and became a McGuggenheim outpost along with Venice, Berlin, and Las Vegas-and Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro, should their dreams come true. Now on the map of world cities and part of the grand tour of our own time, Guggenheim Bilbao remaps not only the museum but also its political economy. What Fraser describes is a capital-intensive monument to neoliberal ideals in the economic wasteland of a deindustrialized city. Rather than functioning as a differencing machine, this museum first injects the Guggenheim formula into a local situation and then imports the tourists, who make up the vast majority of visitors. The differences produced and even exaggerated in the local setting by these processes are economic, but not part of the museum's exhibition. What is called the "Bilbao effect" has proven difficult to replicate.

To better understand the relationship of the complexes that are the subject of this section-note the anxiety that one sense of the term "complex" indexes-follow Fraser's tour of a tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao. At the heart of this tour is the walk. In the absence of the encoded floor plan of the classical public museum, an audio guide directs the visitor through the arterial space of the building. To move through the floor plan of older public museums is to walk a particular plot, whether evolutionary, revolutionary, or something else. To change the plot, you must change the walk. Above all, what Fraser's account captures is the importance of mode of locomotion in defining museums and in distinguishing them from themed attractions and theater and cinema. In museums we walk and the exhibits are stationary. In theaters, we are stationary and what we watch moves. In theme parks, we ride and the exhibits move. Themed attractions share locomotion of visitors with museums and the creation of illusions with theater and cinema. All of them tell a story.

While all of them engage the senses, they do so in distinctive ways. How they do so is central not only to Bennett's notion of the role of the exhibitionary complex in training the senses but also to Fraser's critique of how the art museum institutionalizes a particular aesthetic discipline and Hall's description of the multisensory aspect of themed environments. Using a wide variety of techniques and genres, themed attractions feature experiences ranging from the spills and thrills of extreme rides and motion-simulation attractions to immersive themed environments that are structured around a story. These environments combine theatrical sets and lighting, a sound track, haptic effects (temperature, moisture, texture), proprioceptic effects (disorientations of the body's orientation in space), smell (the latest technology to be developed for this purpose is the "smellitzer," a machine that adds the appropriate aroma to each part of the attraction as the visitor moves through it), emotional triggers to set mood, and special effects derived from cinema. Like fiction in other media, they depend on what designers call the sixth sense, the imagination or suspension of disbelief, which allows the visitor to fill in the gaps. Creating strategic gaps is a form of "brain scripting," a term for how commercials create gaps that structure how consumers will fill them. Central to this process are "cliché icons."

What is it about these complexes-exhibitionary, expositionary, experiential-that provokes anxiety? Fraser points to the aesthetic discipline of the Guggenheim Bilbao, a Trojan horse of neoliberalism. Hall focuses on the undisciplined commercialism of Disney's Animal Kingdom, which harbors precisely the outmoded ideas that the South African Museum, discussed by Leslie Witz in his essay, tries so hard to identify. All these authors foreground the importance of the critical and tactical museologies that are addressed elsewhere in this volume, as does Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who looks at heritage as a mode of cultural production that is essentially museological in character. They do this by taking up, first, the normative museum practices associated with the exhibitionary complex and, second, the consensual aspects of the expositionary complex. Many of the sites they discuss are in large measure strategic in the sense that they command the resources and the space from which to plan and manage large operations and to exercise control over the stories they tell, the experiences they provide, and above all the people who enter their precincts. Motivated by civic ideals, profit, or both, these sites provoke anxiety over issues of control, whether in the forming of citizens or consumers, and over the instruments for exercising control-the disciplinary regime of the museum, the totalizing nature of imagineering, the manipulations of scripting, the intractable appeal of clichés, and a more general engineering of consensus. Joseph Masco's Document in this section echoes all these anxieties and ambiguities and raises still others, looking at the Trinity Test Site and museums, monuments, and anniversary commemorations related to the history of U.S. nuclear involvement. Nothing could be further from the public sphere as a space of reasoned debate and oppositional perspectives operating outside of the control of the state (and the market).

The issue for Witz is the role of museums in creating new pasts for new kinds of citizenry in a postcolonial and postapartheid African society with a settler history. Howare older museums such as the South African Museum (the oldest in South Africa) reforming themselves to this end, and what new forms are museums taking? Consistent with a larger trend, particularly as encouraged by UNESCO, the World Bank, and NGOs, museums and heritage more generally are seen in South Africa as important to peace (strengthening civil society and civic culture, understood in terms of cultural identity, reconciliation, and nation-building) and prosperity (economic development, primarily through tourism), though in practice these competing goals may not be compatible. So deeply embedded was the old South Africa in every aspect of museums-architecture, institutional structure, collections, exhibitions, narratives, staff, and visitors-that the revamping of them and the exhibitionary complex that guided them is important as a process in its own right.

South Africa's museums, as Witz shows, are struggling against received images, whether produced in South Africa, such as the Gold Reef City casino's themed evocation of early-twentieth-century Johannesburg, or elsewhere, such as Disney's Animal Kingdom, with its Primeval Whirl (a "pre-hysterical spinning roller coaster for a wacky run"), Affection Section (a petting yard), and South African-themed lodges. Under pressure to serve as agents of social transformation as well as economic development in postapartheid South Africa, museums find themselves torn between conflicting imperatives (the state and the market) and constituencies (South Africans and foreign tourists). Tourism-itself a museum of outmoded but marketable tropes (an attractive colonial past, a modern nation with European roots, pristine wilderness, picturesque and diverse natives, and now also triumphal portrayals of the anti-apartheid struggle)-is at odds with the new narratives and images that many museums are attempting to offer.

While museums offer a sanctuary for objects removed from the everyday world, much that is considered heritage is sited in that world-whether as material heritage (buildings, monuments), natural heritage (landscapes, wilderness), or intangible heritage (knowledge and practices of living communities). The dilemma for intangible heritage, which is the focus of Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's essay, is how to reconcile a valorization of customary practices with a program of social transformation. Bennett's essay here, in revising the exhibitionary complex, identifies changes in museums that are consistent with their role in "shaping and transforming people through their own self-activity" in ways that encourage the "individualizing and innovative self" over the "custom-bound self." The success of such transformations creates the crisis to which heritage is a response. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett suggests that heritage is a mode of cultural production that creates something new, namely, a new relationship to what comes to be designated as heritage. That new relationship arises from the conversion of habitus (unconscious culture) into heritage (self-conscious selection of valued practices). The result is a transvaluation that "preserves" custom without preserving the "custom-bound self." This is why heritage figures so prominently in official cultural policy and why it undergirds the differencing machine that Bennett suggests museums have become. The satirical American newspaper The Onion captures this dynamic in its "U.S. Department of Retro" article, reproduced as a Document at the end of this section.

How opposing subject positions make a difference-how they shape the differencing practices that are intended to overcome the very racial divisions that museums have historically reified-is evident from Witz's account of two museums in and near Cape Town. One is a large museum with a long history and state support (the South African Museum). The other is a small, new museum, formed independently and with very limited resources (Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum). In some ways, the South African Museum recognizes its complicity in a repudiated history and has been taking some necessary steps to reform itself in the postapartheid era. In the case of its ethnographic exhibits, it is engaging in a museology that includes elements of self-critique and self-indictment, even as it simultaneously takes part in efforts to inscribe indigenous pasts as part of a new postapartheid triumphalism. A full-blown mode of self-indicting museology has been particularly important in Germany, but the South African situation introduces different inflections to this kind of perspective.


Excerpted from MUSEUM FRICTIONS Copyright © 2006 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword / Lynn Szwaja and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto xi

Preface: Museum Frictions: A Project History / Ivan Karp and Corinne A. Kratz xv

Introduction: Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations / Corinne A. Kratz and Ivan Karp 1

Part 1. Exhibitionary Complexes

Exhibitionary Complexes / Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 35

Exhibition, Difference, and the Logic of Culture / Tony Bennett 46

The Reappearance of the Authentic / Martin Hall 70

Document: 5:29:24 AM / Joseph Masco 102

Transforming Museums on Postapartheid Tourist Routes / Leslie Witz 107

Isn't This a Wonderful Place? (A Tour of a Tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao) / Andrea Fraser 135

World Heritage and Cultural Economics / Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 161

Document: The U.S. Department of Retro, The Onion 203

Part 2. Tactical Museologies

Tactical Museologies / Gustavo Buntinx and Ivan Karp 207

Communities of Sense/Communities of Sentiment: Globalization and the Museum Void in an Extreme Periphery / Gustavo Buntinx 219

Document: Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums 247

Document: Art Museums and the International Exchange of Cultural Artifacts, Association of Art Museum Directors 250

Document: Museo Salinas: A Proactive Space Within the Legal Frame, Some Words from the Director, Vicente Razo 253

Musings on Museums from Phnom Penh / Ingrid Muan 257

Community Museums, Memory Politics, and Social Transformation in South Africa: Histories, Possibilities, and Limits / Ciraj Rassool 286

Community Museums and Global Connections: The Union of Community Museums in Oaxaca / Cuauhtémoc Camarena and Teresa Morales 322

Part 3. Remapping the Museum

Remapping the Museum / Corinne A. Kratz and Ciraj Rassool 347

The Museum Outdoors: Heritage, Cattle, and Permeable Borders in the Southwestern Kruger National Park / David Bunn 357

Document: Baghdad Lions to Be Relocated to South Africa 392

Revisiting the Old Plantation: Reparations, Reconciliation, and Museumizing American Slavery / Fath Davis Ruffins 394

Shared Heritage, Contested Terrain: Cultural Negotiation and Ghana's Cape Coast Castle Museum Exhibition "Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade" / Christine Mullen Kreamer 435

Sites of Persuasion: Yingapungapu at the National Museum of Australia / Howard Morphy 469

Document: Destroying While Preserving Junkanoo: The Junkanoo Museum in the Bahamas / Krista A. Thompson 500

The Complicity of Cultural Production: The Contingencies of Performance in Globalizing Museum Practices / Fred Myers 504

Bibliography 537

Contributors 577

Index 583

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