Witch hunts, immigration and integration
In engaging with difficult and dissonant issues museum risk being perceived as politically biased and hence loose their credibility as a knowledge institution or risk loosing their relevance in a time where an increased focus on the relevance of topics to contemporary society is what makes exhibitions interesting and attractive to a greater public.
At Museum of Southwest Jutland the process of creating two new museums engaging with difficult issues has made this dilemma pressing. One museum deals with the history of the European witch trials in renaissance Europe while the other deals with Denmark’s most famous emmigrant to America, Jacob A Riis whose haunting pictures of New York’s poor immigrant society have claimed an iconic status in American culture. The theme therefore engages with the story of European immigration and integration in America at the end of the 19th Century as well as national belonging and identity.
The paper will from a supplier perspective discuss two key issues. First, both museums arguably hold a dark history that is echoed in contemporary issues such as persecution and immigration. Hence as attractions they can be placed within the field of dark tourism. However, in recognizing that dark tourism attractions should also be understood as culturally constructed narratives where dark aspects are culturally defined and emphasized, it becomes relevant to reflect on the interpretative strategies chosen at each particular site. For this reason, secondly, the paper will address the importance of not only addressing difficult issues from a professional research perspective such as history but to also include systematic analysis that engages with popular uses of history in order to engage visitors in a more reflexive manner.
Lulu Anne Hansen, b. 1976. Holds a Ph.D. in history and one of her key research interests revolves around history and heritage interpretation and tourism. She has previously dealt with the Atlantic Wall as contested heritage in Denmark.
lulha[at]sydvestjyskemuseer.dk / www.sydvestjyskemuseer.dk
Flemming Just, b. 1957. He was professor of contemporary history at University of Southern Denmark, before he in 2011 became director of the merged regional Museum of Southwest Jutland in Ribe-Esbjerg.
fju[at]sydvestjyskemuseer.dk / www.sydvestjyskemuseer.dk