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National Museums, Globalization, and Postnationalism: Imagining a Cosmopolitan Museology

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rhiannon MasonORCiD



In recent years it has been asked whether it is time to move ‘beyond the national museum’. This article takes issue with this assertion on the grounds that it misunderstands not only museums as cultural phenomenon but also the ways in which globalisation, nationalism, and localism are always enmeshed and co-constitutive. The article begins by considering theories of globalisation, postnationalism and cosmopolitanism and their relevance for national museums in the European context. Specific theories of cosmopolitanism are subsequently further explored in relation to two museum examples drawn from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Museum of European Cultures in Berlin. In different ways both examples demonstrate the potential for museums to engage visitors with ideas of cosmopolitanism, globalisation and postnationalism by revisiting, reframing and reinterpreting existing national collections and displays. In the process the article makes the case for the merits of a nationally situated approach to cosmopolitanism in European museums. At the same time it acknowledges some of the potential limits to such endeavours. The article concludes by imagining what a ‘cosmopolitan museology’ would offer in terms of practice, politics and ethics.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mason R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Museum Worlds: Advances in Research

Year: 2013

Volume: 1

Issue: 1

Pages: 40-64

Print publication date: 01/07/2013

Date deposited: 15/09/2014

ISSN (print): 2049-6729

ISSN (electronic): 2049-6737

Publisher: Berghahn Books Ltd.


DOI: 10.3167/armw.2013.010104

Notes: Accepted manuscript available from 1st December from:


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