sexta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2009

Museums and Faith

ICOM / ICMAH Annual Conference 2009
"Museums and Faith"

organised by
ICOM's International Committee for Museums and Collections of Archaeology and History (ICMAH)
and the
Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg
14-16 May 2009


The Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City History Museum) will be hosting the above conference. It will be organised as part of a support programme for the exhibition "A Matter of Faith. An Exhibition for Believers and Non-Believers". For more information, please visit

Starting point and background of the conference

The times we live in are characterised by our highly ambivalent relationship with religion and faith. On the one hand, western societies are experiencing increased secularisation. This is countered, on the other hand, by a growing trend towards fundamentalism, also among Christians. Nevertheless, the subject of faith and religion appears so far to have occupied only a marginal place in cultural history museums and exhibitions. There are only a handful of establishments that explicitly tackle this subject. Worth mentioning are the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow, the Museum of World Religions in Taipei/Taiwan or the Bijbelsmuseum in Amsterdam. At the same time, numerous cultural history museums exhibit objects of faith outside of their religious context. Is the museum world scared of taking a stand with regard to the subject of faith?

The conference "Museums and faith" calls upon critically reflective museum curators. It is not intended to focus on religious history or anthropology.

More specifically, the conference "Museums and faith" will be contemplating and discussing innovative and stimulating practical examples under the following four focus points:

1. Museums in the area of tension between faith and society
It has become a common catchphrase to talk of a "clash of cultures" or a "clash of religions". Major cities in Europe as well as in America are characterised by the juxtaposition and often the opposition of religions. To what extent do museums / exhibitions take a stand in these negotiation processes? Do they assume the role of neutral observers, of chroniclers? Or do they intervene, moderately or even taking sides?
Can and should museums explore the depth of faith?

2. Can historical experiences of faith be exhibited?
To what extent can individual experiences of faith in fact be represented by means of historical observation? (To what extent) can this even be communicated to an audience that is no longer religious?

3. Faith in contemporary art
How does contemporary art broach the issue of faith, between blasphemy and provocation on the one hand and individual professions of faith on the other hand? What can curators of cultural history museums learn from the approach adopted by contemporary art museums?

4. Secular museum objects, sacred museum objects
Whenever a Christian church is no longer used for worship, it must first be "deconsecrated", so that it can subsequently be used for secular purposes.
What happens to objects originally used for religious rites? What about their religious content? Does this disappear once they are transferred to a museum or an exhibition? As museum objects they are secular objects per se, but is there not something that "remains" nevertheless? Altar pieces, for instance, can trigger reflective meditation in a museum. Likewise, religious objects deposited in a museum can be made available to people for religious ceremonies. How do museum curators deal with this? Do they act as intermediaries between the religious and the secular? How much faith do curators allow in their museums?

The plenary and case study sessions will be held in English. No simultaneous translation from English is foreseen. Participants will receive the abstracts of the papers printed in English.

Registration will be limited to 50 participants.

Marie-Paule Jungblut
Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg
L-2090 Luxembourg
Tel.: +352 4796 4562
Fax: +352 471707

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