Exhibiting 20th century history

Museums and cultural representations of history are central to any historical culture

History museums and exhibitions are spaces in which meaning is produced collectively, and in this way, they are central to any historical culture. Museums in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe have gone through much change over the past three decades as they adapted to the new conditions and expectations to exhibiting history for public consumption. Numerous new museums have emerged that challenge long-standing methods and ways of displaying history; changing cultural policies have put museums and curators centre stage in historical debates and so-called culture wars. At the same time, and not only in Central and Eastern Europe, museums react to the growing demand for more interactive and participatory ways of representing history. Thus, curators and designers make active use of new visual tools and interactive possibilities provided by digital media in order to expand the ways they communicate with visitors.  

While articles in this section primarily focus on museums and interesting recent exhibitions – both in the region and beyond -, other forms of visualizing, performing and aestheticizing the past in the cultural sphere also require our attention. As narrative contestations and mnemonic dissonances find expression in theatre performances, feature and documentary film, in songs, public re-enactments or literary representations, they essentially contribute to the shaping and forming of collective historical imaginations and cultures. Both museums and other cultural representations of the past thus provide an important platform for negotiating history beyond politics, allowing new perspectives and new aesthetics to enter the field of historical meaning-making in the public.