Conference article

Comparing National Museums: Methodological Reflections

Peter Aronsson
Tema Q (Culture Studies), Linköping University

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Published in: Comparing: National Museums; Territories; Nation-Building and Change. NaMu IV; Linköping University; Norrköping; Sweden 18-20 February 2008

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 30:1, p. 5-20

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Published: 2008-05-20


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


The article sets out to define the need for comparing national museums as complex cultural processes. To do this questions are developed that concern the workings of institutions as arenas for cultural policy and identity politics in relation to central fields of knowledge. Methodological considerations for designing a comparative project are presented; and finally four fields of comparative endeavours related to different sets of state-making processes are presented:

An all-encompassing European comparison (including colonial endeavours) on the path taken by various nations to establish the place of national museums and the role they play in the creation of community.

An in-depth study of how the national display in a selection of countries creates visions of cultural community. How do they deal with differences and belongings on a super-national level and how do they relate to regional differences?

From a citizens’ perspective the intentions of cultural policy or institutional ambitions might be of little importance. This part will simulate visitor experience of national narratives in a comparative selection of capitals from project one; in order to develop an understanding of how citizen experience relates to the more structural findings in the other sub-projects and hence map in what directions citizenship and community are moving through contemporary displays of national community.

The place of national museums in changing knowledge regimes.


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