The Power of the Object: Museums and World War II

This important book deals with key issues affecting all history museums, taking as a starting point the interpretation by museums of World War II. The essays it contains are based on a conference held by the National Museums of Denmark, at which leading international museum professionals were invited to speak, including representatives of: the Imperial War Museum; Museum of the Danish Resistance; Musée Royal de l’Armée, Bruxelles; Museum of Occupations, Tallinn; and the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.

The essays in this 400-plus page publication explore how history museums can – and are – helping to explain and interpret the thinking of past generations, as well as their material culture. Among the many key issues the contributors address are:

  1. How best can abstractions like cause, effect and other ideas be interpreted through objects?
  2. Just how is the role of objects within museums changing?
  3. How should we respond when increasingly visitors no longer accept the curator’s choice of objects and their interpretation?
  4. How can museums deal effectively with controversial historical issues?

Esben Kjeldbæk

What is the Power of the Object?
Esben Kjeldbæk, Director, Museum of the Danish Resistance,, National Museums of Denmark

Interpreting the Second World War
James Taylor, Head of Research & Information, Imperial War Museum, London

The European Forum of Contemporary Conflict
Anne Godfroid, Exhibition Curator, Musée Royal de l’Armée, Bruxelles

The Exhibition: Between Book and Film
Hans Henrik Appel, Senior Researcher, Royal Danish Arsenal Museum, Copenhagen

The Breendonck Memorial
Patrick Nefors, Head of Scientific Activities & Publications,, Musée Royal de l’Armée, Bruxelles

Challenges of a Memorial
Henrik Slov Kristensen, Head of the Frøslev Camp Museum, National Museum of Denmark

The Jersey War Tunnels
Christopher Addy, Collections Manager, Jersey War Tunnels

Showing Rather Than Telling
Heiki Ahonen, Managing Director, Museum of Occupations, Tallinn

Exhibiting Secrecy
Oliver Benjamin Hemmerle, Visiting Professor, Masaryk University, Brno

Objects and the Power of their Stories
Marcel Wouters, Director, Marcelwoutersontwerpers BV

The Dilemma of Exhibiting Heroism
Clemens Maier-Wolthausen, Director, History-Memory, Berlin

Post-Communist Museums: Terrorspaces and Traumascapes
Lene Otto, Associate Professor of European Ethnology, University of Copenhagen

How Museums Speak
Esben Kjeldbæk, Director, Museum of the Danish Resistance, National Museums of Denmark

Esben Kjeldbæk has been head of The Museum of Danish Resistance 1940-1945 (part of the Danish National Museum) since 1987. Has written books and articles about sabotage and the mental history of the occupation years, oral history and museology.

Title: The Power of the Object - Museums and World War II
Editor: Esben Kjeldbaek
Pages: 424
Size: 216 x 140mm
Date: 2009
Edition: £44.95 [paperback]

ISBN: 978-0-9561943-4-3 [paperback]

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