The Museum Time Machine: Putting Cultures on Display by Robert Lumley

By Robert Lumley

A provocative contribution to the present debate on museums, this number of essays includes contributions from France, Britain, Australia, america and Canada.

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For his part, Georges-Henri Rivière, who has just received the ‘National Heritage Prize’, declares: ‘People should take an interest. They should realize that these things (in the “minor” heritage) belong to them. 9 Writing of the notion of ‘community’, in which, as they see it, ‘ideally spatial unity, social unity and cultural coherence’ should coincide, Daniel Fabre and Jacques Lacroix, have observed that in spite of ‘the suspicion with which it is regarded by sociologists and politicians, the term evokes a potent image at the crossroads of history and Utopia’10 From this point of view, nostalgia can now be seen as a prescriptive and prospective matter and ‘Heritage Year’ ushers in the age of its expanded reproduction.

The first time I stumbled upon this scene I had thoughts of an entrenched local conservatism, or of a place visited by Dr Who’s Tardis, or even of a sinister sub-culture based upon the new brutalism of ‘Victorian values’. On all counts I was not wrong of course, because after all what I had happened upon was simply history at work! However, if being nonplussed by these spectres was my response, precipitate careful research into past editions of History Workshop Journal might have forewarned me of their imminence.

Finally, I want to locate the Trust’s perception of ‘the past’ in terms of how it constructs ‘community’ and the turn-of-the-century labour process at the outdoor museum of Blists Hill. This will give me the opportunity to show how the working assumptions of the museum management and trustees are translated into historical representations. The political economy of museum making Capital and labour In the early months of 1967 what was to become the Telford Development Corporation appointed a Working Party on Industrial Archaeology.

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