This project will investigate how curatorial strategies related to dislocation construct the heritage object; how strategies of saving, collecting and exhibiting transform an object of use into one of display.
The working hypothesis that forms the focus of this projects and relates it to the overarching theme of Collecting Architecture is that conservation can be read as a form of curatorial strategy.
The moving of objects from one site to another, their re-framing through different display strategies, their re-naming and re-classification through legal frameworks such as listing, designation and shifted ownership, their re-enactment and reconstructions – all these modes of re-presentation and mediation can be read as curatorial interventions that affect the value and meaning of the object for the beholder in critical ways.
Architectural Heritage considers the history and development of the open-air museum in Scandinavia during the formative years of architectural modernism i.e. from the end of the 19th century up to 1930. The project investigates the significance of this development for a broader cultural understanding of the way in which vernacular culture is conceptualized as heritage: how the vernacular becomes part of a general cultural discourse producing values and narratives in society at large.
The central issue in the project is to study how strategies of displacement are part of forming the notion of a vernacular heritage. The case-examples studied – Skansen, Stockholm, opened in 1891, and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Bygdøy, opened in 1902 – show a diverse use of visual, spatial and interactive technologies to propagate a Scandinavian ‘origin’ for a new urbanized audience. The project considers the previously unstudied intersection between architecture, collecting and curation that emerges in these case studies. Although ‘conservative’ in its goal – the objective was to save the vanishing farm-buildings of rapidly industrializing Nordic countries – the Scandinavian open-air museum had an intriguing novelty in its privileging of space as a media for mass-communication. Crucially like the world-exhibitions and building-fairs that they resemble, and to which they can be related, open-air museums privilege the realism of the built examples over other techniques of architectural representation such as the image, the scale model and the drawing.
The modes of exhibition that characterize the open air museum can be related to contemporary phenomena of re-enactment and the related representational technologies used when the past is ‘re-staged’ – techniques such as tableaux, photography, film, and computer aided reality games. Contemporary heritage can be understood both in terms of democratization and consumption; coupled to tourism, heritage has grown to an ‘event’ industry without parallel in scale and scope.
At the same time, the ‘past’ is today a strong force for social engagement that traverses contemporary society. Heritage and conservation now engage, in their various expressions, wide and diverse groups. This ‘use’ of history today takes on varied forms, from local preservation societies and grass-root movements working to save heritage objects, to the re-enactment of historical events. All these phenomena, characterized by an active relation to the past as material for cultural production, betray strong resonances with the practices that emerge within the open museum at an early stage in its development, .
The Vernacular on Display thus serves as a context for understanding the ‘use of history’ today .