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The role of the museum is a contentious one. The last fifteen years have seen scholars point to ways in which states - particularly imperial states - use museums as sites to showcase looted treasure, to document their geographic expansion, to present the state as the guardian of the national treasure, and to educate citizens and subjects. This period has also seen a great deal of attention paid to the reshaping of national histories and values in the wake of the collapse of the Communist bloc and the emergence of the European Union. (Re)Visualizing National History brings these two streams of scholarship together, treating the wave of monument and museum building in Europe as part of an attempt to forge consensus in politically unified, but deeply divided nations.
The essays in this collection explore the ways in which museums exhibit new national values, and, equally important, how the realization of these new museums (and new exhibits in older museums) reflects the search for a new consensus among different generational groups in Europe and in North America. The approach of the volume is deliberately interdisciplinary. The contributors come from a variety of countries in Europe and North America, speaking from the perspectives of cultural studies, history, art history, anthropology, and sociology, as well as museum studies.