Reference : Defining the "city museum". The creation process of a new museum category
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Arts & humanities : Multidisciplinary, general & others
Arts & humanities : History
Defining the "city museum". The creation process of a new museum category
Postula, Jean-Louis mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département des sciences historiques > Muséologie >]
City museums: Collisions/Connections, 7e conférence du CAMOC (Comité international pour les musées de ville de l'ICOM)
du 24 au 27 octobre 2012
[en] city museum ; category ; museum
[en] As early as the second half of the nineteenth century, some major European cities developed museums to present their history. This movement has grown around the world throughout the twentieth century. The phenomenon is now more relevant than ever, as evidenced by numerous projects of creation and renovation of such institutions. Nevertheless, it took a long time before this kind of museum began to be considered as part of a specific museum category, with its own characteristics and challenges. It was only in 1993, at the Museum of London, that representatives of museums devoted to the study of cities met for the very first time, in order “to discuss [their] problems, to develop theories and to promote [their] special place in the museum movement worldwide” (Hebditch, Max, Key-note address, in Johnson, Nichola, ed., Reflecting cities. The proceedings of a symposium. London, Museum of London, 1993, p. 1). The expression “city museum” took shape for this occasion, with the creation at the end of the symposium of what can be seen as the ancestor of CAMOC, the International Association of City Museums, which faded in 2005.

For almost two decades, the city museum has become the object of study of a large number – almost one per year – of international conferences and collections of articles bringing together academics, but mostly professionals who live and experience the museum every day. Practitioners appear therefore as the main producers of discourse on the city museum. This presentation examines the concept of city museum through its different uses and definitions within the museological literature, between 1993 and 2008. The analysis of these speeches will highlight the fact that there are no unanimously established uses of the expression among the authors. It will also show that, as a museum category, city museum is an object whose identity is still under construction.

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