Museums

One of the first endeavors of the newly independent nation-state is the construction of archives and museums, repositories of sources and artifacts that are deemed to symbolize and emblematize the new nation. Indeed, the end of the 18th century and the rise of nationalism in the 19th century saw the creation of a wave of public and national museums: the Grande Galerie in the Louvre in Paris opened in 1793; the Museum of Versailles, dedicated to the glories of France, opened in 1833; the Berlin Museum of National Antiquities opened in 1830; museums of folklore opened in Denmark in 1807, in Norway in 1828, and in Finland in 1849. Even a Museum of Manufacturing opened in London in 1852 to exalt England’s technical and industrial achievements (Le Goff, 87-88). “Museums,” wrote Benedict Anderson, “and the museumizing imagination, are both profoundly political” (Anderson, 178). The new post-1991 independence of the Baltic States saw little exception to this trend, although the kinds of museums inaugurated by the new states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania reflected their own complex attitudes to their recent pasts. The Museum of Occupation of Estonia in Tallinn, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia in Riga, and the Museum of Genocide Victims of Lithuania in Vilnius, each in their own way told a complex narrative about violated nationhood and selective memories of occupation.

Comments are closed.