A House of Commons? Symbolic Excavations of a Museum cum Villa cum Tombstone
Book chapter, 1999
The article is a symbolic excavation of the Vänersborg Museum, located in the town of Vänersborg, Sweden. The museum opened in 1891 and re-opened as a ‘museum of museum history’ a hundred years later. Through a theorized recontextualization, the museum is displayed as a polysemic spatio-patriarchal marker for the rich donor on par with the buildings of the national state and church; as a token of a private villa; and as a public museum. In this multi-layered object, the practice of bourgeois flânerie in the central part of town is repeated by the gazing flâneur in the museum exhibits. The spatialized elevation of the museum function and of the individual donor and practices of his class are related to possible effects on the asymmetries of museum practices with regard to the ‘social’ other within the local context, and with regard to the framing of the colonized ‘cultural’ other exhibited and domesticated in the museum. The article suggests that forgotten and repressed effects and meanings should be unveiled in a ‘museum of museum history’ in a politicized effort to understand the role of the museum in producing social inequalities and racialized prejudices in Sweden, past and present.