Im Museum

Essayistische Anmerkung zu Geschichte und Funktion der Landesmuseen in Österreich

  • Gottfried Fliedl Institut für Interdisziplinäre Forschung und Fortbildung, Wien


lt is tempting to ascribe to the institution of the museum a prominent role in the function of memory. As a place where things, values, and meanings from the past are preserved, it appears to be technical memory, more alive than the archives thanks to its accessibility to the public and more vivid than the historical and text-oriented sciences thanks to concern with objects. Using the example of the Austrian provincial museums, this paper explores the plausibility of the notion of the museum as a place of memory. The first provincial museums opened their doors in the early years of the establishment of European museums and have as their primary task both to teil and to show. The spatial disposition of the museums - here in particular Carinthian Provincial Museum - offers a narrative in which the cultural and political 'self', should be recognized or reflected. The examples of the history of nine different (provincial) museums allows us to present, at least in outlines, various wishful constructions of affiliation to the past and projections of identity. At the bottom of the concept of museums lies the close relationship between, on the one hand, knowledge of history and identity, and, one the other hand, memory. The one appeared beyond all question, the other seemed to admonish. In view of the most recent history and the current condition of the provincial museums, this appears to have become untenable. Instead of the institution using the specific chance offered by the various historically affiliated and competing projections of identity, it seems that the provincial museums - and they are perhaps not alone - have become obsolete for purposes of historical memory, torn between the extremes of being merely archives of dead things or places of public entertainment working under the pressure of turning a quick profit.