Public history

Participation and Public Interpretations: How to Navigate Multiple Historical Narratives in Museums?

6 December 2021 to 7 December 2021

Participation and Public Interpretations: How to Navigate Multiple Historical Narratives in Museums?
This symposium will bring together scholars, museum and archives professionals, heritage and other public history practitioners to discuss if and how multiple and sometimes conflicting historical narratives can coexist in museums.

Building on the 2020 symposium, which dealt with public history and public participation in museums, this 2021 event focuses on the multiple and diverse narratives in participatory history. Reinforced by ideology, identity, memory, and personal stories, public participation can enrich history and foster a variety of perspectives that may compete or complement one another. Navigating diverse experiences and perceptions of the past raises the matter of diverse interpretations of historical narratives and their possible inclusion in historiography and museums. This plurality can affect historical narrations, especially within highly conflicting societies, where the perceptions of historical facts can be very diverse and sometimes even incompatible. Museums can be battlegrounds for political discussions, seeking to mediate between often emotionally, and sometimes ideologically, charged discourses about the histories of nations, individuals, and identities.


6-7 December 2021




Monday 6 December

18H00 ¦ 18H10 Opening

Thomas Cauvin

18H10 ¦ 19H00 Keynote Speech

Multiple Narratives and Polyvocality in Historical Museums: Challenges and Disruption

This talk will take a synthetic theoretical approach, first outlining the main challenges of polyvocality and displaying multiple narrative in museums from a societal perspective, an institutional perspective, and an audience perspective. It will then scrutinize various types of practices that have taken on these challenges and disrupted traditional museum practices. Finally, the consequences of such disruptions will be considered.

Emilie Sitzia

Emilie Sitzia

19H15 ¦ 20H30 Roundtable

Promise and perils of Community-Built Exhibitions in Canada

This round table panel will explore the promise and perils of working with different organizations and communities to facilitate research, build collections, and create exhibitions that are more reflective of the diverse and sometimes conflicting experiences of Canadians. Each presenter will give an overview of their project after which the speakers will address a series of questions.

Sharon Babaian, Cedric Brosseau, Erin Gregory, Sarah Jaworski, Emily Gann


Tuesday 7 December

09H00 ¦ 09H15 Opening

Thomas Cauvin

09H15 ¦ 10H30 Panel 1

Multiple Narratives of Conflicting Past

  • Hot Interpretations of Difficult Heritage: the Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre in China (Yujie Zhu)
  • “Peers of the Independent Poland”: A case study of polyvocality and conflict in oral history projects (Marta Kopiniak)
  • Diversification of mnemonic discourses on Russophone minority in Estonian museums: is agonistic memory possible? (Ene Kõresaar & Kirsti Jõesalu)

10H45 ¦ 12H00 Panel 2

Representing Fragmented Interpretations

  • The Mosaic Technique as a Model to Manage Today’s Public Participation in a Polyvocal Museum Collection. (Marco Innocenti)
  • On Narrative Controversies Past and Present - New Means for Mapping Cultural Complexity (Florian Windhager, Johannes Liem, Nicole High-Steskal, Anja Grebe & Eva Mayr)
  • Exploring the digital approach in displaying the multi-layered interpretations of the displaced objects. (Mingshi (Michelle) Cui)

12H00 ¦ 13H00 LUNCH BREAK

13H00 ¦ 14H15 Panel 3

Visitors and Users as Co-producers

  • What was left out of the museum and what they now tell. Participation and narratives of the archaeological and historical past of the Camarones Valley in the process of heritage appropriation (Arica, Chile). (Javiera Carmona Jiménez, Jaqueline Correa-Lau and Calogero Santoro Vargas)
  • Personal Perceptions in Data-driven Immersive Spaces. (Dario Rodighiero)
  • Creating inclusive object narratives with individuals experiencing congenital and early-onset blindness. (Carla Ayukawa, Chantal Trudel and Tom Everrett)

14H30 ¦ 15h45 Panel 4

Community Narratives within Museums

  • Negotiating the past, in the present, for the future: The case of the Rifboys (Ghent, Belgium). (Tina De Gendt)
  • The History of the Berlin Wall revisited - practitioner’s reflections on diversifying museum education and outreach at the Berlin Wall Foundation. (Gülsah Stapel and Sina Emde)
  • Where are the people? - Community Narratives and the Anthropology Museum in Shillong, India. (Amorette Grace Lyngwa)

16H00 ¦ 17h15 Panel 5

Post-conflict, Peace, and Reconciliation

  • Walking through contested histories together: can museums engage communities in conflict? (Graham Black)
  • The symbiosis of oral history and agonistic memory: Voices of 68 and the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. (Chris Reynolds)
  • Can the use of technology in Colombian museums intervene in and help manage tensions inherent in a period of fragile peace-building? (Eduardo Briceño Florez)

17h15 ¦ 17h30 CONCLUSION


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