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Museums and a Progressive Sense of Place

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher Whitehead, Dr Francesca LanzORCiD


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In this chapter we avail ourselves of Doreen Massey’s relational geography (1991) and open it out—certainly beyond the scope of her own aims—to consider how museums can contribute to the development a progressive sense of place through display, without omitting or ignoring situated antagonisms and social divisions. Considering belonging as related to emotional attachments that lead to feelings of being “at home” often in relation to a place, what are, in the present “age of migration”, the conflicts between belonging and non-belonging? What if different feelings of belonging converge and compete in the same place? How can these be represented, through objects and displays, in order to create new perspectives for visitors on place and social relations? We explore this in reference to European-funded work we have undertaken on museums and migration. Bringing to bear our respective perspectives as a museologist and an architect, we examine museums’ explicit and implicit preoccupations with place and the constructions of the social world that they allow, before returning to Massey’s ideas to help conceive of museum productions of a progressive sense of place. If we know place as “the location of the intersection of disparate trajectories,” as Massey encouraged (2004, 6), and if we view this historically as well as in the now, then a particular sense of the social world opens up, and with this the possibility to break up and denaturalize the us-them logics that drive exclusionary politics or make of place-occupancy an object of contention.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead C, Lanz F

Editor(s): Golding V; Walklate J

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Museums and Communities: Diversity, Dialogue and Collaboration in an Age of Migrations

Year: 2019

Pages: 20-41

Print publication date: 23/01/2019

Acceptance date: 30/05/2017

Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Press

Place Published: Newcastle upon Tyne


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781527516083