Call for Papers: The Museum as a Place of Tension, Arena of Conflict and Space of Dialogue in Central Europe

Start date: 14. February 2022
End date: 14. March 2022
Time: 0:00 - 0:00
Location: Szczecin

Objects – Actors – Spaces

Since its inception, the museum has often been a place of competition rather than dialogue, of exclusion rather than emancipation. Both in the past and today, the museum space has invariably been at the intersection of authority and cultural output. The ways of narration used in these two fields highlighted and sometimes still highlight divisions – not only within societies, as pointed out by Pierre Bourdieu, but also between ethnic groups, nations and, in particular, modern Central European states with their ethnic and linguistic foundations. A special role is played by borderland museums, which become bulwarks of national culture or channels for its propaganda. In times where geopolitical borders were moved, museums turned out to be strategic aims and carriers of acculturation or reculturation.

The museum seen as an ideologically marked collection of objects placed within a space and created by actors aware of their social mission has been chosen as the topic of this year’s Conference of the Working Group of Polish and German Art Historians and Restorers. We are interested in history and contemporaneity of broadly conceived Central Europe – an area of often complicated ethnic situation and repeatedly rearranged state borders, with national, regional and local museums (state-funded, local, municipal and private). We intend to look at the museum institution as a place reflecting a variety of social, national and cultural tensions and at the same time a space for connecting, consolidating and analyzing the difficult past and complicated present.

We suggest three areas of reflection on former and current museums in Central Europe:
– objects: We are interested in individual items and museum collections. We want to explore exhibits that caused or cause rivalry and become arenas of conflict between societies and nations; our goal is to identify objects that are important for contemporary identity. Considering this context, provenance research discovering dramatic histories of relocated works of art appears to be crucial as a potential field of cooperation and discussion. We would like to explore several aspects of collections: their content in the context of various local, national and imperial meanings, changes in their status and significance resulting from ownership changes, takeovers by foreign authorities, political system transformations etc.
– actors: We want to draw attention to the activities of museum professionals, collectors, researchers representing various fields of science – such as history, art history, ethnology, archaeology – who are sometimes involved in propaganda-related aspects of science and in the state policy, at other times following their own collecting paths, independent from the official arrangements. We intend to analyze their visions, activities and attitudes in difficult times of historical, political and social transitions.
– spaces: We would like to consider the meaning and the use of symbols in museum architecture, and analyze museum expositions, their message, ways of creating stories and their impact on viewers today and in the past. We also want to discuss the location of museum buildings within an urban environment and reconstruct their meaning in previous and contemporary public space. An exceptional space that can hardly be neglected by contemporary humanists are European overseas colonies. The function of the artifacts obtained from these territories, kept at their original storage places or relocated after moving the borders in Central Europe, has changed, turning out to be a particularly problematic heritage).

We welcome proposals for 20-minute-long papers concerning the heritage of Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. We are also planning to create a forum for the exchange of information in the form of short, 10-minute oral presentations of current research projects on art history and heritage conservation concerning the shared heritage of Poland and Germany.
The conference languages are German, Polish and English; simultaneous translation is planned.

The place of the meeting is the National Museum in Szczecin.
Conference Academic Committee: Dariusz Kacprzak, PhD (the National Museum in Szczecin), Kamila Kłudkiewicz, PhD (Institute of Art History of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań), Szymon P. Kubiak, PhD (the National Museum in Szczecin, Academy of Art in Szczecin).
Please submit the proposed title with an abstract (maximum 1800 characters with spaces) and a short professional bio by 31st March 2022 to: