The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Museums as a site of protest


I was interested to see that a couple of activists protesting against the recent Chinese crackdown in Tibet made use of the First Emperor exhibition at the BM this week, to publicise their campaign. Before anyone panics, the museum has confirmed that no damage was caused to the figures and, indeed according to anecdotal reports, many of their fellow visitors applauded their action.

Link to The Times' report

It's made me wonder about other, similar incidents, where museums and exhibitions have become the background to, or focus of, protests. Off the top of my head I can only think of one other example - in Los Angeles, where Cuban exiles protested outside a museum hosting the 'Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon' exhibition, which later travelled to the Victoria & Albert Museum. I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this post, but I'm sure there would be plenty of scope for considered enquiry. Hmmmm.....

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5 comments:

elodie said...

the same Terracotta warriors "were attacked" in October: a guy managed to enter the zone, put a gas mask on one or two warriors in protest of China's CO2 emission! after that, security and gallery staff in the exhibition more than doubled!!

Ceri said...

I vaguely remember someone damaging an artwork about Margaret Thatcher some years ago? I heartily applauded that :D I am sure there are plenty of examples but of museums themselves staging protests I imagine there are far less!

Amy said...

Thanks Elodie - that was the same man who carried out the recent action! Interesting that he and his accomplice were able to get past security (minimal though it is) again. Surprising that they managed to procure tickets for a second visit (them being like 'hot cakes')!!

zaftig46 said...

What about museums as protest themselves? Like the spate of creationist museums cropping up lately?

Mary said...

The Museum of immigration in France has frequently been the site of protests by people protesting against various aspects of French immigration policy. In 2006 (so before the museum was even open) a group of protestors were forcibly evacuated by the police. 17 people were wounded in the operation including 2 children (according to AFP). There were also sit-ins in 2002 and 2005 (and more I don't know about I'm sure). Since the opening there have been protests staged in relation to France's refusal to acknowledge its colonial history. And in 2000 the Musee dauphinois in Grenoble was attacked by masked, baseball-bat- and knife-wiedling racists (see my article for Museum and Society in March last year) for hosting a lecture by a prominent Algerian historian (and former Indpendence fighter).

And what about the guy who smashed up Duchamps' 'Fountain' at the Pompidou Centre (can't remember when, 1980s sometime I think)?