Conference article

Appropriations of Antiquity

Johannes Siapkas
Uppsala University, Sweden

Lena Sjögren
Stockholm University, Sweden

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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 30:16, p. 205-223

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Published: 2008-05-20


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


Sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome is an emblematic category of high art in the western museum tradition. Accordingly; displays of ancient sculpture in museums form an instructive case study for a wide-reaching; comparative analysis of museological developments from the 18th century and onwards. Isolating a category of exhibited objects like ancient sculptures is fruitful for a comparative approach because it transcends national traditions. It is hard to pinpoint differences in displays of ancient sculptures that can be attributed to; or explained by; national traditions. The appropriation of the classical legacy in various national traditions should not be viewed as an excluding facet of a unique national identity; but is often better understood as an inclusive part of the national identity since it signals that the specific nation belongs within a wide cultural sphere. In contrast; our empirical examples suggest that there are closer similarities between the theoretical developments in academia and museums. In this paper; therefore; we aim to elaborate on the chronological development of sculpture exhibitions and identify the discursive foundations that scholarship and museum exhibitions share. Drawing on this; it can tentatively be concluded the development of displays of ancient sculpture is associated closer to the development in academia than to national museological traditions. From our perspective; museums can be viewed as an integrated part of the institutions of knowledge.


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