This study explores museum exhibitions of colonial histories through a tripartite approach by examining the relationship between the institution of the museum, the displayed objects, and the visitors’ experiences and perspectives. The main research question is: how are colonial histories represented in museum exhibitions in Europe, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean?
In this study, the author attempts to answer this question through a comparative analysis of different case studies of museum exhibitions across several colonial geographies within the trans-Atlantic trading route: The Netherlands (The Rijksmuseum and the Tropenmuseum), Curaçao (the Kura Hulanda Museum), England (the International Slavery Museum and the Museum of London), Ghana (Cape Coast Castle), and the United States of America (the National Museum of African American History and Culture). The analysis of these case studies focuses on concepts pertinent to museum exhibitions such as ‘representation’, ‘meaning-making’, and ‘visitor experience’ connected to several issues around inclusiveness, identity formation, trauma, and diasporic memory.
The study yields extensive insights and understandings of museum exhibitions in relation to new museological values, a maximisation of multiple meaning-making or a construction of meaning from a local perspective, and a consideration of suitable museum pedagogy and experience in distinctive colonial geographies. It argues that a better connection between museums and contemporary debates of colonialism can be found through the imagination of the (im-)possibility of the construction of a postcolonial museum, the development of people-oriented and narrative-based exhibitions, and through a bottom-up system of representation that allows communities and visitors to co-create exhibition.
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