Exhibiting 20th century history

History museums and history exhibitions are central to any culture of history.

History museums and history exhibitions are spaces in which meaning is produced collectively, and in this way, they are central to any culture of history. Our congealed imaginations of the past are displayed or staged in history exhibitions. Museums in East Central and Southeastern Europe have had to adapt to new conditions over the past twenty-five years. They have had to generate adequate responses to the challenges presented by completely different approaches to exhibiting history. The often polarized debates over the nature and experience of communist dictatorship have brought with them new expectations by society of what a history museum ought to be and do.

At the same time, these museums are expected to use the visual conventions and interactive possibilities provided by new media to expand the ways they communicate with visitors. Museums in Western Europe were confronted with similar changes in the 1970s, when new forms of mediation and representation fundamentally transformed the field. On this account, it makes sense to expand our perspective on Eastern and Southeastern Europe to include Central and Western Europe as well.

The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia and the Politics of Avoidance

Nikolai Vukov · 05. Dec 2012

The article discusses the "Museum of Socialist Art" in Sofia as the first state-supported museum institution focused on the communist period in Bulgaria. Paying attention to debatable i...

After 1989: The Museum of Modern Art – Responses to the Art-Historical Past in East Central Europe

Piotr Piotrowski · 01. Dec 2013

You no doubt know that there was no single model of communism in post-World War II Europe. On the contrary, the communist past was experienced differently in almost every country. There...

Yugoslavia: From the Beginning to the End 1918 – 1991. Exhibition in the Museum of Yugoslav History (1.12.2012 - 17.3.2013)

Ivana Dobrivojević · 23. Oct 2013

The Exhibition Yugoslavia: From the Beginning to the End 1918-1991 was opened in the Museum of Yugoslav History on 1 December 2012. The ninety-fifth anniversary of the unification of So...

1945 – Defeat. Liberation. New Beginning. Twelve European Countries after the Second World War

Daniel Logemann · 25. Oct 2015

With twelve countries, 36 biographies and 500 objects, this exhibition seeks to give a tangible sense of Europe’s post-war history. But without posing questions to guide visitor’s engag...

The Ruhr Museum at Zollverein

Ulrich Borsdorf · 05. Jun 2014

The identity of the Ruhr area was shaped by industrialisation, which transformed the former rural landscape and small towns into a centre of the industrial revolution on the continent. ...

“The Light of History”: The First Permanent Exhibition on Upper Silesian History in Poland Avoids Sensitive Issues and Focuses on Ostensible Consensus

Juliane Tomann · 01. Mar 2016

For a long time there was no comprehensive exhibition on the history and culture of Upper Silesia in Katowice, the capital of the Silesian voivodeship. The city’s original museum buildi...

When History Speaks Through Objects… "45: The End of the War in 45 Artefacts"

Anna Muller · 16. Nov 2015

While the Museum of the Second World War is still awaiting the opening of its final location, its staff have prepared an exhibition that in 45 artefacts tells the story (or perhaps, st...

The Germans Did Not Come, or History as Material for Contemporary Art

Jakub Zarzycki · 26. Oct 2015

The Germans Did Not Come exhibition, held at Wrocław Contemporary Museum from 19 December 2014 to 23 February 2015, was a collection of around thirty works centred on the formation of a...

Solidarność Yesterday – Solidarity Today? The European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk endeavors to combine the past with the present

Florian Peters · 12. May 2015

The European Solidarity Center (Europejskie Centrum Solidarności, ECS), which opened its doors in Gdańsk, Poland, in August 2014, is neither the first nor the last historical museum to ...

Towards a Balanced Tribute to the Polish Righteous? The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa.

Florian Peters · 08. Dec 2016

It is good news that this museum has opened its doors. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that the Ulma family, to whom it is dedicated in the first place, deserves to be commemorated...

Facing a Difficult Past? The Yser Tower in Dixmude, Belgium

Maarten Van Alstein · 16. Nov 2016

In Dixmude, a provincial town in the remote western corner of Belgium, a bulky cross-shaped monument, the Yser Tower, rises up on the banks of the Yser River. Built on the site of once ...

'Territory of Terror': Observations on the Musealization of Soviet Crimes in L’viv

Alexandra Wachter and Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair · 07. Mar 2017

“It's a memorial to victims, either of the ghetto, or of the Holodomor”, a young man who introduced himself as Oleksandr informed us. We were standing outside the unfinished museum know...