Heritage and the Politics of Culture
In the eyes of many people museums and libraries are still temples of culture and knowledge. And so they should be. However, it is not as simple as that. A term as ‘Temples of culture and knowledge’ implies two things that present themselves as certainties, but are in fact constructions with a limited validity. A Temple suggests a kind of sacred place in which there can be no doubt about its importance and, secondly, the knowledge available in that Temple is beyond doubt, because the Temple has hired expert priests (curators) who ‘know the truth’. Both implications of this view on museums are by now being fundamentally challenged. In this panel we would like to address the position of museums and libraries in society by analysing the issue of property. Who actually owns the collections? And what consequences do the various ideas about property have? After an introduction we will try to make some more theoretical remarks to sharpen our thoughts and to show what is actually at stake. In the final part we will address the issue of property in a colonial and post-colonial context.