Conference article

National Museums of Architecture

Isabelle Flour
Universitå Paris 1 Panthåon Sorbonne, Department of Art History, France

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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 30:11, p. 151-165

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Published: 2008-05-20


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


This paper discusses the worldwide rise of national museums of architecture in the shape of architectural casts museums in the second half of the nineteenth century; through case studies chosen in Britain (the Architectural Courts at the South Kensington Museum) and in France (the Museum of Comparative Sculpture).

The two national museums were born from emulation either with independent societies or from competition between the two nations as regards the creation of museums. Cross-Channel exchanges of ideas therefore helped define different modalities of the national museum of architecture.

The study cases show that different missions were endorsed by the various museums; ranging from educational to envisioning the notion of heritage and the history of art; and the prioritization of any one mission was the result of native disciplinary context; depending on whether the collection was part of a museum of a broader scope or constituted in itself a museum in its own right.

The acquisition policies of the two museums also allow analyzing the representation of national identities on both shores of the Channel; and re-evaluate the usual distinction made between British imperialism and French nationalism to define two tendencies: an imperialistic universalism in Britain and an expansionist nationalism in France.


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