• Maria Christensen
4. term, History, Master (Master Programme)
After the conclusion of World War 2, many colonies gained political independence, which evoked a wave of cultural consciousness for these countries. As a result, many newly independent states established national museums to define and manage their history and cultural heritage, which for years had been handled by the colonial power. To regain their cultural property, which was still in the hands of the former colonial power, decolonized nations around the world demanded it repatri-ated. In some cases, the demands were a success and the cultural treasures were safely returned to the new national museums. For many scholars, this marks the end of the process, but this is far from the case.
As a result of the sudden shift in power and political transition that takes place when nations are decolonized, the national identity of the nations is fragile. They need national symbols and a common history to gather around. The object of this thesis was therefore to understand the poten-tial of the repatriated objects regarding a postcolonial national identity. To answer this, two cases were selected: The Gustav Holm collection returned to Greenland National Museum in 1985 and Archives and the pew-ends from Kirkjubøur returned to the National Museum of the Faroe Islands in 2002.
It is the museum personnel that decides which objects are relevant to the history of the nation and should define who we are. The importance and value they attribute to the collections are communicated and reflected in the way the collections are presented through visual and verbal form in an exhibition. The Gustav Holm collection and the pew-ends from Kirkjubøur are current-ly part of the exhibitions New people – the Thule Culture and Church fittings from the Faroese episcopal residence in Kirkjubø. To understand their possible role in the Greenlandic and Faroese national identity it was necessary to analyze the exhibitions, the collections are featured in. The methods presented by Hejlskov Larsen, Thorhauge, and Strandgaard were chosen but modified due to the worldwide pandemic.
By analyzing the exhibitions and the way the collections were presented therein and compar-ing the results with relevant research on national museums and identity, it became clear that both collections are essential in the national narrative, the Faroese and Greenlandic national museums have constructed. The narrative presented in the Thule-exhibition centered around the origin of the Greenlandic people, whereby the exhibition established an imagined community by identifying a common origin and roots, the Thule Culture. As for the pew-ends, they formed a narrative about the Faroe Islands as a proto-state with authority and independence during the middle ages. Moreo-ver, they represented the agelessness of the national character, since their story is strongly tied to the church, which has had an integral role to play in the Faroese society, from the middle ages to today.
The collections are also imbued with a sense of pride as a result of the period or culture they are representing in the exhibition. Through didactic and aesthetic principles applied to the Thule exhi-bition, the Gustav Holm collection presented the Thule Culture as a people that, unlike others, were able to survive, endure and produce beautiful and well-made objects in a harsh environment. As the forefathers of the modern Greenlanders, this narrative creates a sense of pride towards roots, but also a pride related to being Greenlandic and Inuit, since the narrative presents these people as strong and unique.
Pride was also evident in the Kirkjubøur exhibition. The pew-end was presented as a national symbol and the proof of Faroese greatness and authority through an aesthetic principle, which sig-naled pride and provided national legitimacy in a time, where the Faroese nation wasn’t recog-nized as such by the Danish Government.
Based on these observations it was concluded that the pew-ends from Kirkjubøur and the Gustav Holm collection are ascribed a tremendous value and role regarding the post-colonial na-tional identity of the two nations in the Faroese and Greenlandic National museums, proving that returned objects are greatly valued when returned since they are part of the culture and history of the nation.
Publication date1 Jun 2020
Number of pages79
External collaboratorGrønlands Nationalmuseum
No Name vbn@aub.aau.dk
Information group
Føroya Náttúrugripasavn
No Name vbn@aub.aau.dk
Information group
ID: 333399074