This paper takes Greek philosopher Plato’s well-known observation that no living organism stays actually the same throughout its lifetime since its fundamental nature is instead continuous change, and applies it to museum institutions. Museum institutions might be regarded as living organisms as well and, from this perspective, we can ask what causes a museum to be perceived as the same museum over time. In so doing, we can thus also analyse the conditions under which the balance between stability and change breaks down. Combining contextual analysis and a case study approach seems the most promising strategy to address these questions. In this paper, we analyse the debate over the function and mission of museums in post-Unification Italy to show that museums can serve multiple purposes, purposes which in turn might shape museums’ collections, visions, and display and narrative strategies. We also present the analysis of a case study which not only demonstrates that museums never stay the same but also allows us to draft an analytical model according to which the substantial changes museums undergo or trigger in interaction with and relation to societal changes enable us to identify the fields of force in any given concrete situation in which museums are located and act as institutions.

Museums as living organisms. Temporality and change in museum institutions

Elisa Bernard
;
Maria Luisa Catoni
In corso di stampa

Abstract

This paper takes Greek philosopher Plato’s well-known observation that no living organism stays actually the same throughout its lifetime since its fundamental nature is instead continuous change, and applies it to museum institutions. Museum institutions might be regarded as living organisms as well and, from this perspective, we can ask what causes a museum to be perceived as the same museum over time. In so doing, we can thus also analyse the conditions under which the balance between stability and change breaks down. Combining contextual analysis and a case study approach seems the most promising strategy to address these questions. In this paper, we analyse the debate over the function and mission of museums in post-Unification Italy to show that museums can serve multiple purposes, purposes which in turn might shape museums’ collections, visions, and display and narrative strategies. We also present the analysis of a case study which not only demonstrates that museums never stay the same but also allows us to draft an analytical model according to which the substantial changes museums undergo or trigger in interaction with and relation to societal changes enable us to identify the fields of force in any given concrete situation in which museums are located and act as institutions.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11771/21131
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