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Mapping the Dynamics of Religion in Exhibitions of European Museums for the History of Religion: Theories and Practice

Panel Chair: Marianna Shakhnovich | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Recently we found ourselves in an era of visual culture, when film, video and art practices got great social value. In the museums of the world there are a great number of artifacts associated with different religious traditions. What is the significance of these artifacts in contemporary cultural space? What impact do they have on the modern society? How do the exposition principles and methods of demonstrating change under the influence of new paradigms in anthropology and the history of religion, or in various political context? What distinguishes the exhibitions of objects related to religion, in church museums, art museums, or museums specialized on the history of religion? What are the methodological approaches and principles of using such artifacts in the modern museum exhibitions? What are the perspectives for the objects of religious culture stored in museums in formation tolerance, dialogue and understanding. These questions are raised in the agenda of the Congress of the IAHR for the first time, but they are of great interest to historians of religion, anthropologists, museum curators and teachers of religious education and general public.

Ekaterina Teryukova

Visual representation of religion in museum (The State Museum of the History of Religion’s Case)

The paper features the history of the Museum of the History of Religion and its permanent exhibition. Founded in 1932 Museum of the History of Religion intends to make a comparative typological exposure of ritual and sacred objects of various peoples. Its goal is to present religious phenomenon as it is. But what is the best way to do it? The Museum’s collection of photos, showing temporary and permanent exhibition in past, and nowaday museum permanent exhibition reveal that museum dedicated to religion have in disposal except authentic material objects and documents such important instrument as models and maquettes that allows to visualize the evolution of religious beliefs in cultural, historical and social context.

Konstanze Runge

Religious Objects in the service of their collectors, curators and researchers - Some observations from the Religionskundliche Sammlung Marburg

What can religious objects and their museum presentation tell us about the understanding of religion(s) of their collectors, curators and researchers? How is the change of the notion of religion(s) presented in the world's oldest University-based Museum of Religions? The scholarly understanding of the phenomenon of religion has profoundly changed since 1927, when the Religionskundliche Sammlung was set up by the theologian and philosopher of religion Rudolf Otto. Today Otto's heritage is critically cherished and employed by the academic staff of the Department of the Study of Religions of Marburg University who run the museum. This paper will deliver some insights into 88 years of studying religions through and with the help of their material representations at the Religionskundliche Sammlung Marburg – from a theological to a study-of-religions-approach - and will illustrate this through selected examples of religious objects.

Crispin Paine

Religion in secular museums: is a revolution starting?

Museums are booming all over the world, and many of those museums are full of objects that were once 'religious'. Now they have become art objects, or historical artefacts, or scientific specimens. But for many people, they are still 'religious objects', sometimes even sacred. Even secular museums are beginning to recognise this, and some are finding ways of helping their visitors understand those objects' religious meaning, as well as their scientific, historical or artistic roles. Moreover, some museums are starting to use their objects to help visitors to better understand religion. Secular museums are public spaces where people of any religion and none can meet on neutral ground. This short paper will examine this phenomenon, and will ask: is this just a passing fashion, or can it be the start of a new role for museums, and a real contribution to public understanding of religion?

Marianna Shakhnovich

Theoretical Approaches in the Study of Religion and its Representation in Museum Exhibitions in Europe and Soviet Russia in 1930s

The aim of the paper is to study the influence of the most important theories in Study of Religion on the formation of exhibitions about religion at museums in Europe and Soviet Russia in the 1930s. The author examines the impact of anthropology of religion to create exhibitions on the evolution of religious beliefs and practices and shaping the image of the "other" religions by museum means. Particular attention is given to the influence of historical methodology in museum displays, coupled with the development of the tradition of Religionsgeschichte, the spreading of Marxist sociology and the emergence of a new interdisciplinary approach of total history.


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