Double erasures

Rewriting the past at the Musée du quai Branly*

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Author: Nélia Dias1
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  • 1 Department of Anthropology, ISCTE, Av. das Forças Armadas, 1649‐026 Lisboa, Portugal
 nelia.dias@iscte.pt

The new millennium has been the point of departure for several important transformations in ethnographic museums throughout France. Focused on the Musée du quai Branly, the paper examines the main principles guiding its creation: the accent put on cultural diversity and the recognition of the equal value of different cultures. These concerns emerged in the context of a growing civic crisis as if through objects, museums attempt to palliate government policies and social exclusions. The paper also analyses the double erasure of the past within this museum: the colonial past as well as the history of the collections. Thus, Branly intends to be devoted to a new global cause, the promotion of cultural diversity in accordance with a number of declarations from UNESCO and other international bodies. By relegating ethnographic information to a secondary role, the Musée du quai Branly inaugurates a new model of museums in resonance with current political and ethical concerns and imposes new challenges on museum anthropology in particular and anthropology in general.

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