New Rhetoric for the Old Worldview: A Case Study of the Museum of Ethnography in Belgrade

By Ljiljana Gavrilovic.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper discusses activities and media image-building of the Museum of Ethnography in Belgrade, and argues that the change in rhetoric does not necessarily mean the altered viewpoint behind the Museum activities. The first museums in Serbia were founded during the period of Romanticism. At that time, origins and background of people and cultural groups were thought to be a crucial point between association of space that belonged to a certain group/people and vice versa. This viewpoint was the basis of establishment for real political boundaries among newly created statehoods and national states. Museum thus served as an integral process of the political projects, along the lines of European museum studies. A century later - during the last two decades of the 20th century - a reconstruction of the local/national identity in the Balkans has produced a number of “research” and presentations of the past (including museum exhibitions), aimed at proving who (people, nation, ethnic group) was there “first”, on which ground, and who’s older than whom. The essence of this proceeding was to establish a right to a territory- again in the context of political projects (formation of the new states or maintenance of the status quo). This whole period was characterized by the rhetoric of “blood and territory”, which was kept in spite of the political changes until last year. Museum exhibitions targeted Serbs exclusively, even though 30% of the Serbian populations are made of minorities.

In 2007 and 2008, the rhetoric has changed and adapted to fit the contemporary concept of museums’ aims and roles. However, the practice has stayed the same: it is still directed toward “identity protection”, underlying that identity is something given, impossible to alter and strongly attached to a territory. Museums should keep cultural heritage alive but not at the cost of excluding large segments of Serbian population.

Keywords: Museum, Serbia, Rhetoric, Worldview, Identity

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.27-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 584.382KB).

Dr. Ljiljana Gavrilovic

Researcher, Institute of Ethnography SASA, Belgrade, SERBIA

Ljiljana Gavrilovic worked in the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade (1981-2000). She gained all professional titles while working in the field of museology, including the title of the museology advisor in 1996. In the period 1992 – 1995 she was the head of the Documentation Section. Since 2002 she works in the Ethnographic institute SASA. Till the end of 2005 she worked as a researcher on the project Contemporary Rural and Urban Culture – Trajectories and Transformation. Currently, she works on two projects: Serbia between traditionalism and modernization – ethnological and anthropological researches of cultural changes and Anthropological research of communication in contemporary Serbia


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