Making Military History In Museums

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Call for papers in Making Military History In Museums

A conference organised by the National Army Museum, London in collaboration with the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.

The National Army Museum, London, has submitted a successful Stage One Heritage Lottery Bid which proposes a complete redisplay of its collections and a remodelling of its interior at a cost of £22 million. As part of the Stage Two submission process it invites practitioners and academics to submit papers which will stimulate debate about the particular challenges of displaying military stories, memories and objects. In collaboration with the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester there will be a one day conference at the Museum on Friday 13 September 2013. Ideas generated and discussed at the conference have the possibility of influencing how the Museum presents its displays. This conference therefore offers an unusual opportunity for academic ideas to influence a key national museum project in the capital in a direct and immediate way. Plans are in hand to publish a selection of papers on the web in an edited volume.

Papers are invited that investigate one or more of the following themes which are broad and intended to offer scope for debate and intellectual experimentation.

  1. Difficult histories relating to the theme of warfare. How do the historical narratives and the material collections of military museums contribute to division and contestation? How do they, or might they, build bridges between nations and communities? How can military museums interpret objects whose meanings depend on national narratives that have been rethought or revised in a multicultural nation? What is the role of military museums in reflecting on the nature of war, death and suffering not only in the past but in the present?

  2. Popular culture, memories, forgetting and warfare. What is the role of warfare in national identity and to what extent should national museums tell a national story? War and remembrance – how have popular cultural practices shaped cultural memories? How and why does forgetting shape the military story? How do military museums affect popular attitudes to the nation, warfare and the military in general? How do national military museums contribute to the values, perceptions and identities of citizens in a global era?

  3. The role of affect in the military museum. How do iconic objects affect visitors? To what extent is it appropriate to encourage emotional responses of pride, sorrow, admiration or shame in military museums? How can this be done in a non-confrontational and unthreatening way?

  4. The role of the personal narrative in the military museum. In a postmodern world old narratives are challenged and a multiplicity of voices is encouraged. What is the role of the personal story in the military museum? Do military museums have a role in telling the stories of ex-soldiers?

  5. How does a museum use space effectively in exhibition design? How can a deeper and broader understanding of military history and its potential be incorporated into the design of the Museum’s physical structure? How can the architecture and range of spaces that comprise the Museum, be designed to enable dialogue as well as generate meaningful and engaging experiences for a range of users? What do we understand about the relations between architecture and identity and how can this be harnessed by museums such as the National Army Museum?

Central to this conference is a dialogue between museum professionals and university researchers. While academics can operate outside the professional and institutional constraints that shape practice, the role of the museum professional in developing greater and better museums, in tune with the demands of early twenty first century society, is the key to museum development success. This conference provides a forum for debate between these two, one that will help to shape the redevelopment of the National Army Museum London.

The deadline for submission for proposals for papers is Tuesday 2 April 2013. These should be brief (no more than 500 words) along with the name of the proposer(s) and the institutions to which they are affiliated (if appropriate) and their current position (e.g. curator, lecturer, PhD student). Proposals should be emailed to Alastair Massie, at the National Army Museum, London, ( Please put ‘Making Military History in Museums’ in the title of the email and indicate to which of the five subthemes the proposal is related.

Information about registration for the conference for those interested in attending without presenting a paper will be available on the websites of both the Army Museum and the School of Museum Studies in the spring of 2013.

All enquiries should be sent to either Alastair Massie or Sheila Watson at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

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