Contemporary Museums

Tension Between Universalist and Communitarian Approaches

Contemporary Museums

Edited by

Yves Girault, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle de Paris, France

ISBN : 9781786307453

Publication Date : September 2023

Hardcover 266 pp

165.00 USD



At the center of current debates surrounding the social function of museums, questions concerning museum activities and the participation of both inhabitants and the public arise. In 2019, these questions were the subject of many heated debates at the 34th General Assembly of ICOM in Kyoto, which intended to propose a new definition of the museum. As the representations of the tensions between Universalist and Communitarian approaches are not only largely dependent on the historical and
socio-political contexts of the various countries concerned, a generational angle must also be considered. It thus seems totally anachronistic to try to defend a dichotomous vision that is far too simplistic.

At the heart of these current events and international issues, this collective work studies, in an international context, the values, actions and discourses advocated for participating in processes such as collection, selection, conservation and interpretation of heritage elements linked to the territories, resources, knowledge and know-how of various communities. The analysis of the tensions and asymmetries of power between various groups of actors –politicians, managers, scientists, visitors, representatives of local or diasporic populations, among others – particularly in the context of decolonization policies of museums, is also a major part of this book.


Part 1. From Local Participation to the Social Role of the Museum.
1. Reflections on Social Participation and the Museum in Latin America, Isabel Orellana Rivera.
2. Analysis of Different Modalities of the Museological Promotion of Participatory Archaeological Research, Francisco Valdez.
3. The Paradox of Participation in the Chinese Ecomuseum, Yi Du.
4. The Integration of Digital Technologies into the Museum, François Mairesse.
5. Redefining the Museum or the Distant Echo of Santiago: A North American View, Yves Bergeron and Anna-Lou Galassini.

Part 2. From Political Engagement to the Decolonization of the Museum.
6. Problems and Challenges of the Involvement of Diasporas within the Museum, Yves Girault.
7. Indigenous and Museum-Based Curation: In Partnership with the Kaingang, Guarani Nhandewa and Terena Peoples (São Paulo, Brazil), Marília Xavier Cury.
8. “Collaborative Conservation” in the Museum: Is Decolonized Conservation Possible in France? Amandine Péquignot.
9. Restitution and Repatriation Procedures: New Perspectives, New Practices, Simon Jean-Nebbache.

About the authors/editors

Yves Girault is Emeritus Professor at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle de Paris, France. His recent research focuses on the analysis of the identity and the social and political challenges faced by museum actors in the North and the South.