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Public Lecture: Museums as Archives. Cultural Emergence, Disappearance, and Reemergence through Museum Collections

KNIR Research Dialogues (KRD)
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Recent academic and societal debates on the role of museums have emphasized the work of collections and exhibitions in creating and enforcing enduring notions of local, national, or more recently ‘global’ identities.

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Part of installation at the exhibition ‘Staging Resistance’ by artist Jonathas de Andrade, Amsterdam FOAM museum (Photo: M. Françozo, 2022)

In fact, since at least the 1960s, the political critique of (governmental) institutions has developed side-by-side with waves of academic research focusing on issues of inclusion versus exclusion and the power of cultural representation in exhibitionary settings, from nineteenth-century World Fairs to present-day museums. While scholarly literature abounds, public discussion has gained momentum due to the powerful controversies generated by repatriation requests.

In this talk, I propose to add to the debate by moving away from a grand-scale perspective, which critiques the museum as an institution, to instead look at the potential of objects and collections in allowing communities to reconstruct their own historical narratives and in doing so to create their present-day identities. I will review some of the fundamental (anthropological) concepts that have emerged in this debate and explore how those have been appropriated by historical actors and communities seeking to reconnect with aspects of their own cultural traditions. The role of contemporary artistic practice in these processes of cultural reemergence will also be explored.

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Photographic installation at the exhibition ‘Staging Resistance’ by artist Jonathas de Andrade, Amsterdam FOAM museum (Photo: M. Françozo, 2022)

About the speaker
Dr. Mariana Françozo is an Associate Professor of Museum Studies at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. Her research stands at the intersection of anthropology and history and focuses on the collection and circulation of indigenous objects and knowledge from Brazil to Europe, with special emphasis on the early modern period. She has published articles in Curator: the Museum JournalMuseum History JournalIndiana, and the International Journal of Cultural Property, among others. Her latest book, Toward an Intercultural Natural History of Brazil (Routledge, 2023) explores the early modern history and the possible contemporary uses of the seventeenth-century treatise Historia Naturalis Brasiliae.


This KNIR Research Dialogue is a keynote lecture of the workshop Staging “italianità” between Race, Science and the Arts.
Please note that you have to register your participation for the workshop separately by writing an e-mail to (for attending at KNIR) or by registration on ZOOM (for attending online).

Photo header and square: Permanent gallery at the Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg (Photo: M. Françozo, 2017).