This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.
Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission
Elizabeth C. Macknight
Methods for Historians Attending to the Voices of the Past
How do we thoroughly historicize the voice, or integrate it into our historical research, and how do we account for the mundane daily practices of voice … the constant talking, humming, murmuring, whispering, and mumbling that went on offstage, in living rooms, debating clubs, business meetings, and on the streets? Work across the humanities has provided us with approaches to deal with aspects of voices, vocality, and their sounds. This article considers how we can mobilize and adapt such interdisciplinary methods for the study of history. It charts out a practical approach to attend to the history of voices—including unmusical ones—before recording, drawing on insights from the fields of sound studies, musicology, and performativity. It suggests ways to “listen anew” to familiar sources as well as less conventional source material. And it insists on a combination of analytical approaches focusing on vocabulary, bodily practice, and the questionable particularity of sound.
France’s Great War from the Edge
Susan B. Whitney
World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.
Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski, Julian Pänke, and Jochen Roose
Germany's role in Europe and the world is changing fundamentally. For about five decades West Germany's and reunited Germany's position was very much aligned with the European integration project.
Despite its hegemonic potential, Germany defined its role as a partner of the other EU member states. Within the EU framework and globally, it mostly acted jointly with European partners, particularly France. Although Germany's situation altered significantly after unification, it still refrained from exercising its increased power and was rather seeking the role of a “gentle giant.” This was largely the case despite some exceptions, such as the unilateral recognition of Croatian and Slovenian independence in the early 1990s, and criticism that Germany might tend to single-handed foreign policy—the “Alleingang.”
The Work of Culture, Heritage, and Musealized Spaces in “Unprecedented Times”
Writing at the midpoint of 2020, it has become cliché to say we are living in unprecedented times as the world copes with a confluence of events and challenges near cataclysmic proportions—the COVID-19 pandemic, civic unrest, social and political upheavals, and disrupted economies. In these times, what should be the work of culture, heritage, and musealized spaces and those that study them? I reflect on the articles in the special section, which stand as examples of engaged research and scholarship that seek to make visible troubled histories and presents, and to amplify voices that have for too long been silenced or ignored. Such visibility work surfaces what does and does not have precedent, what has and has not changed, and what is truly different and revolutionary. The articles draws on historical, comparative, and global perspectives to enrich knowledge gained from firsthand observation and engagement with local communities. Using Donna Haraway's concept of “tentacular thinking,” I argue that we need not only to shed light on difficult chapters in our histories, but also to offer tools for understanding, guidance, and thoughtful actions in the present.
The Emergence of a Community of Practice
Esther Helen McNaughton
This article describes the unprecedented coming together of New Zealand art gallery educators to respond to the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This newly formed community of practice met virtually three times at critical points. At each stage, new concerns were discussed and understandings evolved. The gallery educators were able to approach shared issues cooperatively, enabling mutual support to a degree that had hitherto not been possible. By the end of these meetings, gallery educators were reestablishing their regular teaching practice with the integration of many of the innovations of the period. Additionally, the meetings fulfilled a preexisting desire for closer contact and professional support, and thus proved to be the foundation of an ongoing national professional group for New Zealand art gallery educators.
What Is Public History Globally? Working with the Past in the Present. Paul Ashton and Alex Trapeznik, eds. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
The Disobedient Museum: Writing at the Edge. Kylie Message. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2018.
A Museum in Public: Revisioning Canada's Royal Ontario Museum. Susan L. T. Ashley. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2020.
Anti-Museum. Adrian Franklin. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2020.
Collecting Activism, Archiving Occupy Wall Street. Kylie Message. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2019.
Greagh Smith, Conal McCarthy, Bronwyn Labrum, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Jill Haley, Jun Wei, and Safua Akeli Amaama
Women in the Museum: Lessons from the Workplace. Joan H. Baldwin and Anne W. Ackerson. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Museums and Anthropology in the Age of Engagement. Christina Kreps. London: Routledge, 2020.
Te Papa to Berlin: The Making of Two Museums. Ken Gorbey. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, 2020.
What Are Exhibitions For? An Anthropological Approach. Inge Daniels. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
The Museum as Experience: An Email Odyssey through Artists’ and Collectors’ Museums. Dario Gamboni. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.
Comradely Objects: Design and Material Culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s. Yulia Karpova. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.
Museum Development in China: Understanding the Building Boom. Gail Dexter Lord, Guan Qiang, An Laishun, and Javier Jimenez, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019.
Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses. Philipp Schorch with Noelle M. K. Y. Kahanu, Sean Mallon, Cristián Moreno Pakarati, Mara Mulrooney, Nina Tonga and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020.
The rhetoric and poetics of a slavery exhibition
Paula Mota Santos
In 2009, in Lagos, Portugal, the remains of 158 bodies of fifteenth-century enslaved Africans were unearthed. In 2016, Lagos City Council inaugurated a slavery-themed exhibition in collaboration with the Portuguese Committee of UNESCO's Slave Route Project. Through an analysis of the exhibition's rhetoric and poetics, I argue that the former is yet another instance of Lusotropicalism, a theoretical construct developed by Gilberto Freyre throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s to support the construct of Brazil as a racial democracy, and appropriated by Portugal to support the “benign” character of its colonial system. As a consequence, slavery and Portugal's role in the transatlantic slave trade, although apparently brought into the light in this exhibition, are in fact hidden in plain sight because both the rhetorical and poetic devices at play conspire to evade addressing the colonial order and its historical consequences, both past and present.
Deviant Heritage Comes Out of the Shadows
Rachel F. Giraudo
Amid changing state laws to legalize the growing, selling, and use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in the United States, activists and advocates continue to help legitimize cannabis through museum-like practices and heritage work. They recognize the importance of destigmatizing the plant and its users, and effectively use exhibits to educate the public as one means of spreading their message. Given the rapid commodification of legal cannabis, some are also documenting its prohibition in order to protect members of cannabis subcultures whose livelihoods are now threatened. Through engaged scholarship, I examine efforts of two museums and two groups of advocates to represent and make visible the heritage of cannabis in the United States.