Museums as Agents of Memory and Change
Conference organisers: University of Tartu, Department of Ethnology, Estonian National Museum
Venue: Estonian History Museum, Tallinn (24.-25.04), Estonian National Museum, Tartu (26.04)

The aim of the conference is to bring together museum practitioners and researchers to problematise museums as places of memory negotiation and agents of social change. Our invited keynote speakers are Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine.

While increasingly seeking to engage themselves in public life, museums are embedded in the fields of politics of memory and heritage, diverse, often disparate group interests, and power relations. More than ever, dealing with the past is full of impediments and challenges for museums. The conference will bring together 50 speakers, academics and museum practitioners from a wide range of countries to discuss the following topics:
  • The politics and policies of memory: what is the role of museums during political transformations; how can museums address the legacies of colonialism, dictatorships, genocide, warfare, forced migration; do museums have any power to break established memory narratives and build new ones; how should museums relate to activism; how are museums embedded in global memory culture?
  • The politics of collection, curation and representation: how should collections be revised vis-à-vis changing societies; how inconvenient and conflicting pasts be represented; how can museums tell stories about the future with collections from the past; what are the limitations and relevance of museum collections and what challenges do curators face; what possibilities are there within curatorial practice to make heritage(s) and empower visitors?
  • The challenges of participation and collaboration: what does it really mean to give authority over museum content to the citizen; how can museums target multiple groups and discuss complex subjects with visitors; what characterises visitor involvement on site; how can museums successfully encourage debate and find new ways to engage communities; how can museum professionals be assisted when engaged in tension-creating discourses?