European Commission - 7th Framework Programme European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations last updated: February 2015

Exposing, Exposing Oneself: What are the Museum's Contemporaries?

5-7 December 2013

Marseille, France | Museum of civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean


The Museum of civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) will hold its 2nd International Scientific Meeting on 5-7 December 2013. The meeting will be dedicated to the investigation of the theme Exposing, Exposing Oneself: What are the Museum's Contemporaries?”.

Two years after the first conference dealing with the transformations and general challenges ethnographic and civilization museums are facing, this second symposium will focus on the ways museums deal with contemporary objects and issues.
Today, changes related to an increasingly globalized, virtualized and technologically connected world deeply reshape the ways of being together, the ways people share the same time and space.
Recognizing this new environment, such an assessment leads museums dealing with the contemporary world in all its forms to reconsider their role and their missions: researchenriching collections, conservation, exhibitions or museum education programs. As heritage institutions, museums are a link between past and present, but they also need to anticipate what will become cultural heritage for future generations. As places for
reflection and debate, they must spot and analyze evolutions: but how can they participate
in these changes, what is their role today?

This conference will try to define the specific role of museums in the creation and transmission of knowledge about our present societies, including the inherent risksresponsibilities and inquiries regarding the present and the future.

Panel discussion n°1: Forever contemporary?
The concept of cultural heritage has to be redefined when contemporary issues and objects
are concerned. Who decides, for whom and with what criteria, if a contemporary object
deserves to be a part of the cultural heritage? If time is rendering objects more and more
quickly obsolete, should we collect as many as possible in order to prevent their
disappearance or extinction or can we de-access without the risk of undermining the
principle of inalienability of public collections?

Panel discussion n°2: Finding the right distance
Window, mirror, screen, showcase in order to reflect contemporary societies, museums
contextualize and de-contextualize objects. Nevertheless, the contemporary is so close to
us, chronologically, emotionally, and symbolically that new ways to display objects have to
be found so that we can view them through a different lens. How do the crafts of
architecture, display and museum design respond to this challenge? How to choose
between explaining, searching for the necessary distance to analyze the contemporary
world and a necessarily deceptive objectivity since no manner of display can be entirely
objective. Should museums attempt to emphasize sensory immersion by appealing to the
viewer’s personal experience that allows an –illusionaryfreedom of interpretation?

Panel discussion n°3: Which role for the museum: witness, actor, activist?
The panel addresses the place of museums in the world of today: what is their scientific
and cultural policy and what about their wider political mission? What attitude should
museums choose? Should they be neutral or commit themselves to or promote a cause, a
community, a territory? Can museums dealing with contemporary issues approach any
subject? How free are they and how daring can they be? Is there a danger of censorship or


Entrance is free, but  pre-registration is required. To participate, fill-in the attached pre-registration document and send it before July, 22nd 2013 to Malika Médouni, Coordinator of 2nd International Scientific Meeting of the MuCEM, at malika.medouni(at)

To sumbitt an abstract, please send your proposal (500 words maximum) together with the pre-registration document before June, 24th 2013.


» link to the Conference