Museums and the Representation of Identity

Authored by: McLean Fiona

The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity

Print publication date:  April  2008
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754649229
eBook ISBN: 9781315613031
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043249


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The museum is arguably the most fertile heritage arena in which to undertake identity work, and also the most complex. The mix of co-creators in identity construction and the resulting potent soup of identity negotiation are symptomatic of the very nature of the museum. From its inception to its current status, the museum has been implicit in accessing, ignoring, confronting, re-affirming and forging identities. Surprisingly, though, it is only recently that the museum’s identity-conferring status has been fully acknowledged and interrogated. This chapter will briefly consider the historical legacy of identity negotiation in the museum and will then discuss more recent interpretations of identity work, which acknowledge that the museum is a potent force for engendering respect for difference in identities.

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