CFP: Rethinking the Maritime Museum

From H-Museum:

Call for papers

Rethinking the Maritime Museum
Developments – Perspectives – Challenges
Aabenraa and Flensburg
20-22 May 2009

The maritime museum is well established in the world of museums. For 150 years this kind of museum has made its unique presence felt and discovered its own way of understanding and telling maritime history. Like the maritime industry, maritime museums are global. They have established an international pattern, and the items on show and stories they tell do not vary that much. You will find a familiar feel to the maritime museum, regardless of whether it is in Sweden or Argentina.

The main story is that of technological developments in shipping, from steam boats to atomic submarines, especially when the story about the switch from sail to steam was all-pervasive. Such a story is told all around the world, with varying angles. The relation between the global development and the local story is an interesting area of creative tension in which maritime museums can flourish.

Facing new social and economic challenges the maritime museums have to ask themselves if they can sharpen up or refine their profile in order to reach out to new users without losing their traditional visitor groups.

Within the next few years, both the Flensburg Maritime Museum and the maritime section of Museum Sønderjylland in Aabenraa will get the chance to expand and rethink their activities. For that reason, the museums are holding a conference from 20-22 May, 2009 at which it will be able to discuss ideas for innovative developments, new perspectives and current challenges for the maritime museums. The target group will be scientists and professionals throughout Europe.

The conference will take the two museums’ situation as the starting point, but the theme is relevant for the museums debate that is going on at both national and international levels. Many maritime museums are either in the middle of, or are about to embark on, a debate about their foundation. The conference will also tie in with the ICMM’s world congress in Malta in 2008, which more broadly addressed the future of the maritime museums and their opportunities.

Based on the historical development of the maritime museums, many questions will be addressed. These will range from the traditional matters of collections, stories and exhibitions to the broader questions of construction and significance of a maritime identify in modern society. The interaction between museum and culture will also be examined, as will the links between museum and local activists.

The conference will have the following main themes:

Maritime Stories:
Key words: What stories do the maritime museums tell? Museums and science centres – Development of exhibition techniques and styles of learning.
Bringing things to life – What stories are supported by the maritime events culture? Between maritime romance and reality – What notions do people visiting maritime museums have?

Maritime Artefacts:
Key words: What makes an item “maritime”? Which collections policies do we follow? Where are collections focussed on? How do we manage big artefacts that come from the modern maritime world? Do the collections have any blind spots?

Maritime Tourism:
Key words: The maritime world as a tourist attraction? Experiences and money, and where museums fit in. The Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen, amusement parks or museums. Quality or quantity? Links for co-operating with the tourism industry. Many small experiences or notable big ones? The financial aspect of the leisure economy.

Maritime Heritage:
Key words: What is a “maritime identity”? Which role do museums play in constructing und developing a maritime identity? Who care for the maritime heritage? Cultural relics. Volunteers and the historical maritime scene. Museum ports and ports as museums. Professionalization and alienation.

Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes and focus on examples of “best practice”. Papers of no more than 2,000 characters within one of the four themes should be sent or by 15th November, 2008. The papers will be published in an anthology after the conference.

Practical matters, venue:

The conference will be held from 20-22 May, 2009 in Aabenraa and Flensburg. Following the conference, there will be the opportunity to participate in the 30th Rum-Regatta in Flensburg. The final programme and material will be ready in January.

The conference is being organised jointly by the Flensburg Maritime Museum and Museum Sønderjylland. The conference organisation is being headed by Thomas Overdick, head of Flensburg Maritime Museum (, and Asser Amdisen, head of the maritime section of Museum Sønderjylland ( ).


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