A difficult issue, or a difficult place?
In 2015, Hadeland Folkemuseum opened the exhibition “Alt for Norge” («Everything for Norway»). Through audience participation, contemporary challenges such as racism were discussed in light of local Second World War history. The exhibition spurred an unprecedented amount of critical media coverage and complaints from the general public. With its clear emphasis on bridging the gap between past and present, the exhibition seemed be in line with current Norwegian national museum policies which increasingly encourage museums to offer critical perspectives on both past and current issues. However, the local communities in which these museums are located, often maintain a more nostalgic view of the museum, imagining its role to be a unifying meeting place for the strengthening and affirmation of local identities.
These opposing and inherently contradictory expectations pertaining to the role and mandate of local museums became apparent during the debate that followed the exhibition. Through this case study, I argue that these often opposing expectations were largely left unidentified, and hence were often used interchangeably as tools for legitimation within the same institution, leading to frustration and misunderstandings both among museum staff as well as the local community. In this paper I argue that the shift in national museum policies, coupled with insufficient attention to the dynamics of local adaptation, did, in the case of the exhibition «Alt for Norge», lead to a struggle over the power to define the symbolic space of the Cultural Heritage museum. In the process, the debates in the wake of the exhibition revealed fundamental ambiguities and tensions constitutive of the question of the role and purpose of the local Cultural Heritage museum in Norway.
Maja Leonardsen Musum studied Cultural Anthropology in Brooklyn, New York, before moving to the Norwegian countryside where she, quite unexpectedly, fell in love with museums. She currently heads the Department for Exhibitions and Education at the local Cultural - and Natural history museum, Randsfjordmuseene. Musum is doing a degree in Museum Studies at the University of Bergen.
mlm[at]randsfjordmuseene.no / www.randsfjordmuseene.no