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Religion in Museums: Euthanized Sacredness, in the Beholder’s Eye, or a Multi-Tool for Shifting Needs?: Three suggested models to discuss how museums affect sacredness
Umeå universitet, Institutionen för kultur- och medievetenskaper.
2018 (English)In: Museology and the Sacred. Papers for discussion / [ed] François Mairesse, Paris, 2018, p. 223-228Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Religion in Museums: Euthanized Sacredness, in the Beholder’s Eye, or a Multi-Tool for Shifting Needs? Three suggested models to discuss how museums affect sacredness (2018) MUSEOLOGY AND THE SACRED - MATERIALS FOR A DISCUSSION Papers from the ICOFOM 41th symposium held in Tehran (Iran), 15-19 October 2018, 145-148. Ed. François Mairesse Religion in museums:

Euthanized sacredness, in the beholder’s eye, or a multi-tool for shifting needs? Three suggested models to discuss how museums affect sacredness. Abstract for paper for the ICOFOM 41st symposium Museology and the sacred Tehran, 15-19 October 2018. Aimed for the analysis plan Museality-heritage-sacred. by Helena Wangefelt Ström, PhD candidate in Museology, Umeå University (Sweden). helena.wangefelt.strom@umu.se

What happens when religion in the shape of objects imbued with religious meaning is transformed into cultural heritage? What values are added, what are lost, and who is the performing agent? These questions concern what museums do to objects connected to religion, calling for a meditated use of terms such as holy, sacred, religious, and spiritual (all employed in recent research and policy documents by, for example, UNESCO, while in many cases as interchangeable). This paper suggests three models to understand the processes of heritagisation of religion and the factors and agents involved, starting from a historical background in European, in particular Italian, Early Modernity. A frequently used scholarly model depicts the museum as a killing of previous identities, and the objects as provided with entirely new identities, and lives, as museum objects. This view brings on dramatic effects for sacred objects, how they are handled and narrated in the museum, and possibly on how they are viewed by the visitors. The use or not of information signs before sacred objects in museums is an aspect on this matter. The second model is the hybrid identity, where a museum object can be said to possess two authentic identities simultaneously, depending on the views and beliefs of the beholder: authentic sacredness, or authentic art object and evidence of history. This view may fit well with the focus on the individual in our time. The third model presented is based on the two previous ones, and suggests a hybridity not only in identities or living/dead, but defined by the uses of the objects. Even musealized objects can, as in the cases of religious treasuries or of certain religious images in museums, shift identity between museum object, object of devotion (to be carried in processions or used in rituals), legitimization symbol (bishops’ ordinations etc), and, historically, as a monetary reserve to be sold if needed. The identity of the object shifts, also in practice of being looked at behind glass or being used and touched, depending on the use currently applied to it. A distinction between cultual use and cultural use is relevant for this model. I argue that these different approaches to sacred objects in museum pose different museological challenges and possibilities, and also ascribes different agencies to museum staff as well as to the visitors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Paris, 2018. p. 223-228
Keywords [en]
Museology, Sacred, religion in museums, heritage, critical heritage studies
National Category
Cultural Studies
Research subject
museology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-375488ISBN: 978-92-9012-448-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-375488DiVA, id: diva2:1283966
Conference
ICOFOM Symposium, “Museology and the Sacred”, Tehran 15-19 October 2018
Available from: 2019-01-30 Created: 2019-01-30 Last updated: 2019-01-30

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