Lecture by Andrea Witcomb (Australia) 16.01.2018

Vortrag Witcomb


The representation of cultural diversity in Australian museums is well known for its focus on the contributions to Australia by post-war migrants.

Coming after a period in which the official policy was one in which migrants were expected to 'assimilate' into the dominant culture, many of these exhibitions were concerned with identifying the contributions the various ethnic groups made to 'Australian' culture, focusing on celebrating what made them different. In this presentation, I wish to explore the representations of cultural diversity through another focus – that of place.

A focus on place, I want to suggest, enables an inquiry that is interested in cross cultural relations rather than difference per se. In focusing on place as a framework through which multiculturalism has also been represented in Australian museum exhibitions I am interested in asking how this frame has helped to redefine relations between us and them, contributing to our understanding of Australian society as multicultural. To do so, I will look in some detail at three key exhibitions that can illustrate the ways in which we have dealt with cross cultural encounters in Australian cities – Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney which developed an exhibition on Sydney in 1984 which featured various places run by post-war migrants as part of the social fabric of Sydney, Jews and Italians in Carlton – an inner city suburb of Melbourne - which was a collaboration in 1992 between Museum Victoria, Museo Italiano and the Jewish Museum in Melbourne, and Migration Memories, a temporary exhibition at the National Museum of Australia that looked at experiences of migration in two regional towns – Robinvale and Lightening Ridge. My analysis will involve paying particular attention to issues of voice – who is speaking, for whom and how – as well as how the visitor is addressed; how social interactions between different groups are represented; and how cultural diversity is understood as constituting place and therefore identity.


Andrea Witcomb is Professor in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at Deakin University, Australia. Her work engages with the ways in which museums and heritage sites interpret difficult histories and facilitate cross-cultural encounters. Her books include Reimagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Routledge 2003) and, with Kylie Message (eds.) Museum Theory as part of the 2015 Wiley Blackwell Handbooks of Museum Studies edited by Sharon MacDonald and Helen Rees-Leahy. Andrea is in the midst of writing up a number of publications from an Australian Research Council funded project she led on Collecting institutions, cultural diversity and the making of citizenship in Australia since the 1970s. She is also co-leading, with Alistair Patterson, a project on the history of collecting practices in Western Australia called Collecting the West: How collections created Western Australia.

The lecture will take place at 16.01.2018 11am in Schillerstraße 6, room S 102. Guests are welcome!




Annette Veit
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