Research Project MNEMUS

Practices and Challenges of Mnemonic Pluralism in Baltic History Museums

The study analyzes how Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian history museums deal with the multiplicity of competing perspectives in interpreting the 20th century in a changing political and socio-economic context.

MNEMUS investigates the role of museums in fostering democratic pluralism in contemporary Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where – since the post-communist turn – mnemonic diversity has been constantly on the agenda. Through the concept of mnemonic pluralism that links memory to the principles of democratic pluralism MNEMUS explores the ways Baltic history museums deal with complexities of the 20th century and with the multiplicity of competing perceptions of the past in changing political and socio-economic contexts. Through its practice-oriented approach MNEMUS should be able to detect interrelations between mnemonic discourses, cultural policy and memory politics, individual and institutional agencies and expectations, and their outcomes in curatorial practice.

OBJECTIVES

  • Analyze the curatorial practices in history museums from the perspective of providing space for mnemonic pluralism and critical dialogue in the meaning-making of the 20th century.

  • Establish the factors that undermine or support mnemonic pluralism and reflexive, critical engagement with the complexities of the past in Baltic museums.

  • Identify best practices of pluralistic and critical memory work in museums.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

MNEMUS is situated in the theoretical framework of memory studies and museum studies. It draws on the recent theorizations of reflexive and dialogic modes of memory (agonistic memory, cosmopolitan memory, multidirectional memory, implicated subject). Different modes of memory are considered as mnemonic possibilities, not as normative standards. There is no automatic meaning or purpose attached to different modes of remembering, they are shaped according to how the museum positions itself in and toward concrete mnemopolitical relationships, structural and cultural constraints, and available cultural strategies. Museums and curators as mnemonic actors operate in local, national and transnational networks simultaneously to create museum memories.

This Project is supported by the Estonian Research Council grant (PRG1097).