Since the late nineteenth century, museums have been cited as tools of imperialism and colonialism, as strongholds of patriarchalism, masculinism, homophobia and xenophobia, and accused both of elitism and commercialism. But, could the museum absorb and benefit from its critique, turning into a critical museum, into the site of resistance rather than ritual? This book looks at the ways in which the museum could use its collections, its cultural authority, its auratic space and resources to give voice to the underprivileged, and to take an active part in contemporary and at times controversial issues. Drawing together both major museum professionals and academics, it examines the theoretical concept of the critical museum, and uses case studies of engaged art institutions from different parts of the world. It reaches beyond the usual focus on western Europe, America, and ’the World’, including voices from, as well as about, eastern European museums, which have rarely been discussed in museum studies books so far.
’This important and original collection of writings about art museums picks up where the critique of museums, begun three decades ago, left off. That critique uncovered the imperialist, racist and patriarchal values that shaped museums of the past. The professionals and art historians contributing to this volume, several of them from eastern Europe, offer fresh, new models of museum reform, models designed to make museums more democratic, self-critical and enlightening, and more pertinent to the complexities and contradictions of contemporary life.’ Carol Duncan, Ramapo College of New Jersey, USA and author of Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums