From Great Men to Ordinary Citizens? The Biographical Approach to Narrating European Integration in Museums
Wolfram Kaiser: European Studies, University of Portsmouth, UK
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Theme: Exhibiting Europé
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The history of European integration is not easy to tell – in books or, for that matter, in museums. Most importantly, it appears to lack drama. This lack of drama creates a dilemma for museum practitioners who wish to tell stories about the contemporary history of Europé as shared history. In these circumstances, one prominent way of telling stories about European integration history in museums, and the focus of this article, is the biographical approach. Drawing upon research in all of the museums mentioned in this article and many more, and some 60 interviews with museum practitioners from across Europé, this article first discusses three biographical approaches to narrating European integration history in museums. It proceeds to draw out general conclusions about the prospects of mainstreaming European integration in history museums, and about the particular opportunities and pitfalls of the biographical approach and its different varieties.

Keywords: Biographical approach; European integration history; founding fathers; museums; personalization

Volume 3, Theme: Theme: Exhibiting Europé, Article 25, 2011

Wolfram Kaiser
From Great Men to Ordinary Citizens? The Biographical Approach to Narrating European Integration in Museums:
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  • Interviews

  • Benoit, Isabelle, Tempora, interview, Brussels, 14 October 2009.
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  • Witte, Els, Professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, interview, Brussels, 6 October 2009.
  • Volume 3, Theme:: Theme: Exhibiting Europé, Article 25, 2011

    Wolfram Kaiser
    From Great Men to Ordinary Citizens? The Biographical Approach to Narrating European Integration in Museums:
    Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
  • Wolfram Kaiser (2017). One narrative or several? Politics, cultural elites, and citizens in constructing a ‘New Narrative for Europe’. National Identities, 19(2): 215. DOI: 10.1080/14608944.2016.1265491
  • Quincy Cloet (2017). Two sides to every story(teller): competition, continuity and change in narratives of European integration. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 25(3): 291. DOI: 10.1080/14782804.2017.1348339
  • Christoffer Kølvraa (2013). The Father on Display: The House of Jean Monnet and the Construction of European Identity. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 4(4): 747. DOI: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124747
  • Ian Manner & Philomena Murray (2016). The End of a Noble Narrative? European Integration Narratives after the Nobel Peace Prize. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 54(1): 185. DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12324
  • Wolfram Kaiser (2015). Clash of Cultures: Two Milieus in the European Union's ‘A New Narrative for Europe’ Project. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 23(3): 364. DOI: 10.1080/14782804.2015.1018876
  • Christoffer Kølvraa (2016). European Fantasies: On the EU's Political Myths and the Affective Potential of Utopian Imaginaries for European Identity. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 54(1): 169. DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12325
  • Vincent Della Sala (2016). Europe's odyssey?: political myth and the European Union. Nations and Nationalism, 22(3): 524. DOI: 10.1111/nana.12159
  • Wolfram Kaiser (2017). Limits of Cultural Engineering: Actors and Narratives in the European Parliament's House of European History Project. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 55(3): 518. DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12475

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