Online Discussion

Memory & Museums Working Group

“Museums, Memory and Temporality”

October 28, 2021
11.00 EDT/UTC-4 (Find your time zone here)

Temporality is not neutral, nor is it in any way natural. In fact, time, as Jacques Rancière has argued, is a powerful tool for naturalizing what he calls “the state of things.” History and memory have different temporalities, each of which has implications for the ways they engage the past and constellate past and present. As part of its claim for something like objectivity, history usually insists on a temporal break between the past and the present. Memory, by contrast, is understood to be more subjective, affective, personal, and to have a more fluid temporality than history; as such, memory resists fixed chronologies, undoing neat divisions between past and present.

Please join the Museums and Memory Working Group for a discussion focused on how museums engage and deploy notions of temporality around historical traumas. If history, insisting as it does on a break between past and present, relegates traumas to the “past,” does it inevitably obscure the ways in which those traumas live on in the present? Might  the temporality of memory – in particular its reversibility – offer a more productive mode of engagement with “past” traumas that are not necessarily past? How do museums avoid creating simple narratives of progress, narratives that might enact the closure of historical traumas? Can an institution or exhibition be a historical museum,  memorial museum, and a human rights or ideas museums – that theoretically all demand different temporalities  – at the same time?

If you would like to attend, please email as we will be sharing a couple of short readings as a basis for the discussion. The link for joining will be this (Meeting ID: 865 4583 2421).