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Memory vs history: the role of Museums

Dominique Poulot explains how the writing of history distinguished itself from the writing of memory.
In the European history, we had a development of a critical history during the 18th Century, which focused on the analysis and the archival material instead of the experience of actors instead of listening from witnesses. And this has given rise to a proficient organisation of history based on archives. So we can say that around the end of 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th Century the art of memory as one can say before, the art of memory of the 16th Century, 17th Century was untimely change. And as Assmann said, the intergenerational memory went to a purely mediatized form of memory. And this new form of memory had no longer a direct relation to the past. [BELL]
I think that each country has several histories according more or less to the same pattern from time– a religious time, was providence, and revolutionary history, which combines the 19th Century. And we have this story in a lot of general story of Europe, such as the story by Benedetto Croce, a history of the triumph of liberty. And, of course, the National Museum that had been built during the 19th Century, especially, were dedicated to this kind of history, the birth and the building of a nation, and the same time, the growing liberty of the people.
So one of the model of this kind of a National Museum is the Louvre Museum in Paris, because obviously, there was at the end of the 18th Century, a kind of coincidence between the birth of the nation state and the birth of the national museum. So this kind of national museum and especially with revolutionary origins, is typical of European museum. Of course, it has been changed in the 19th and 20th Centuries. But the model of a museum invented by the national state is very powerful today. And it has a lot of characteristics about the fact that it’s money from the state, which is useful for the museum. It’s the image of the nation, which is given by the exhibitions.
And one question is articulation between universal claims and the national images that the museum is supposed to give to the public.

Dominique Poulot, from the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne discusses the distinction between memory and history.

He explains that critical history emerged in the 18th century, which led to the professionalization of history and the generalization of the use of archives. This new field replaced the “art of memory”, which prevailed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

He then moves on to discuss the role of museums. He explains that the 19th century museum was dedicated to celebrating the nation and the rise of people’s freedom. He draws on the case of the Louvre and stresses the coincidence between the birth of the nation state and that of the museum.

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Cultures and Identities in Europe

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