National museums are increasingly called upon to provide forums for dealing with highly sensitive issues of traumatic past events – particularly those related to situations of political violence.
The first section of the report deals with cases related to conflicting representations of "natural" and ethnic communities. With a focus on the Mediterranean; the papers examine museum policies in dealing with conflicts of displaced communities in the border lands between Italy and the ex-Yugoslavia or in the contested religious heritage of Greek Cypriots.
The second section focuses on the role national museums play in handling historical issues that are socially and politically sensitive. The Soviet rule in Estonia provides an example of the manipulation of museum policies in the context of dictatorial regime changes. A comparative study of the representation of the Holocaust in contemporary Germany and Britain and the question of the Gulag Museums in Russia provide examples of the problems inherent in representing such traumatic events.
The third section deals with cases related to restitution of anthropological remains and cultural assets. This area of research; related to the postcolonial critique; will be tackled from a theoretical point of view through case studies coming from Northern Europe. By going beyond the legal aspects of restitution issues; these studies examine the historical significance of using objects from the past as expressions of collective identity.
The conference proceedings and its reports are produced within the three-year research programme EuNaMus – European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; coordinated at Tema Q at Linköping University (www.ep.liu.se/eunamus). EuNaMus explores the creation and power of the heritage created and presented by European national museums to the world; Europe and its states; as an unsurpassable institution in contemporary society. National museums are defined and explored as processes of institutionalized negotiations where material collections and displays make claims and are recognized as articulating and representing national values and realities. Questions asked in the project are why; by whom; when; with what material; with what result and future possibilities are these museums shaped.