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

National Museums in a Changing Europe

12-14 December 2012

Budapest, Hungary| Central European University

Conference of the Eunamus research consortium studying ‘National Museums, Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past, and the European Citizen’


The first call produced an excellent response in many areas and we are now seeking further papers to enrich and diversify the papers covered at the conference. Proposals for papers are welcome from every part of Europe, and particularly from Western Europe which was underrepresented in the response to the First Call.


This conference is an opportunity to bring together researchers studying national museums and professionals responsible for taking these institutions forwards. It offers an opportunity to consider the past and present, but with the aim of debating the future. The conference considers holistically the role of the national museum in the context of change.

Researchers, museum and cultural policy professionals, and postgraduate students, are invited to submit abstracts of maximum 300 words by 21st October 2012 to Please include contact details and affiliation.


The conference also welcomes delegates who do not wish to present a paper. To register your interest, please email

Friday 14 December is designated as the project’s final conference including comments on the project’s conclusions from invited experts.


The conference will be shaped around the following questions:

  • How should the institutional inheritance of national museums (purpose, culture, philosophy, etc.) shape their future role?
  • How do the historical narratives and material collections of national museums contribute to division and contestation? How do they, or might they, build bridges between nations and communities?
  • How have national museums been instrumentalised in government policy? How have they become socially active?
  • How do national museums contribute to the values, perceptions and identities of citizens?
  • In a changing Europe, how can national museums contribute to greater social cohesion? How can the stories national museums tell and the treasures they display, be mobilised to build connections across Europe?

Central to this conference is a dialogue between museum professionals, professional organisations, policy makers and university researchers. While academic researchers can operate outside of the professional and institutional constraints that shape practice, the role of national museums in building greater European cohesion can only be developed within a framework of energetic, proactive professionalism. National Museums in a Changing Europe provides a forum for debate and dialogue between those who study national museums and those who daily shape these institutions and who are charged with taking these institutions forward.


Eunamus, a European-funded research consortium, brings together participants from across Europe to consider how national museums and their uses of the past, might contribute to European cohesion. In 2010, when Eunamus began its research, the challenges to cohesion seemed to arise from population migration, demographic change and nationalism. Two years later, Europe’s democratic and economic institutions, and European cooperation more generally, are under extraordinary pressure.

As a continent, which more than any other, is composed of autonomous independent states, with a population twice that of North America, in a territorial area no larger than Canada, and with a combined GDP larger than any nation (including the USA and China), Europe’s significance in the modern world often eludes its citizens. Given its political complexity, it is inevitable that Europe is in a constant process of change. At times in its history, however, change seems overwhelming. Confidence is then replaced by uncertainty, democracy and the free market face new challenges, and a shared sense of European cultural identity becomes increasingly tested by nationalistic instincts. These periods of great uncertainty have resulted from territorial conflict, political revolution and economic catastrophe. Europe is today situated in one of these vortexes of extreme change, apparently incapable of recovering the stability of just a few years ago.

Historically, national museums have been important players in the negotiation of national and pan-European stability. In the face of mass industrialisation, urbanisation and challenges to national autonomy in the nineteenth-century, museums across Europe engaged in identifying, recording and collecting the tangible characteristics of the nation. Today these museums form a connective tissue that reveals similar modern aspirations, acts of representation, and pasts. In art and science, the global study and representation of culture was established first in Europe; these representations are inherently European. In national museums across Europe, these museums seem to speak of many things but in doing so they also seem to say something about Europe itself.

The price of these acts of negotiation and production of symbolic objects has also been the development of national competition and divisive nationalism, contestation over possession, the elevation of particular kinds of art that empowers the richer nations, and an inflexibility in the representation Europe’s changing ethnic and religious populations. If Napoleon’s acts of possession and representation became the model for Europe’s rising cultural nationalism in the nineteenth century, (which became enshrined in the building of national museums across Europe), what role might national museums have in today’s Europe where a counter aspiration of beneficial economic and social interdependency holds sway?


The Eunamus consortium is led by: Peter Aronsson, Linköping University, Sweden; Alexandra Bounia, University of the Aegean, Greece; Arne Bugge Amundsen, University of Oslo, Norway; Constantin Iordachi, Central European University, Hungary; Simon Knell, University of Leicester, UK; Kristin Kuutma, University of Tartu, Estonia; Ilaria Porciani, University of Bologna, Italy; and Dominique Poulot, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France.



» link to the Conference