International conference organised by the University of Paris-Sorbonne and EHESS in Paris, 23-24 May 2014.
Since the fall of the Wall, the museum space devoted to the collective memory of mass violence - genocides, camps, deportations, famines, persecutions - in Central Europe and the former USSR has been radically reorganised. New political, social, cultural and scientific issues, access to hitherto inaccessible documents, and the circulation of ideas and knowledge across borders that are now open, have made it possible both to create new ways of documenting the traumatic past and to initiate reflection on a European, or even global, scale on this memory of the past.
Museums displaying the violence of the Soviet regime have thus been established: Gulag museums or museums of the occupation in certain former republics; new light has been shed on the violence suffered by the populations under Nazism. Many cities in Eastern Europe have set up museums documenting the aftermath of the two totalitarian regimes to which they, in turn, fell victim. Finally, for some years now, virtual museums have been created with the aim of building up an oral archive, a new and very different medium from photography, objects and texts.
The abundance of traces thus constituted raises numerous methodological and ethical questions as to the relevance and possibility of representing violence and reconstructing the past.
Moreover, museumification leaves room for the unspoken, for the void of memory, and for the distortion or falsification of historical data. The understanding of these totally new or reshaped spaces cannot be conceived without understanding the magnitude of the memorial stakes and the interplay of antagonistic experiences.
On the other hand, these spaces reveal an essential part of today's culture. Their architecture and scenography, considered in their interaction with the urban or natural landscape, both reflect and model the self-representation of Europeans. Between artistic or technical experimentation and the establishment of discourse, representations and ideologies, the museum is a paradoxical place of crystallisation, but also of memorial negotiations.
It should be noted that in the construction of memorial devices and representations of mass violence, the models of the memorialisation of the Holocaust, particularly in museums, since 1945 and to date, play an important role. Other memorial spaces are being created on the model of war museums as they were conceived in the USSR and Eastern Europe before 1989. Finally, some countries opt for an ethnic rather than a universal approach. It is this circulation of models through the dialogue or confrontation of memories that we propose to address during this conference.
Friday 23 May
Panel 1: WHAT TO EXHIBIT, HOW TO EXHIBIT, THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE TRACE
(moderator Delphine Bechtel)
Panel 2: THE IMPACT OF DEMATERIALISATION, NEW NARRATIVES AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE VIRTUAL
(moderator Luba Jurgenson)
Saturday 24 May
Panel 3: THE CENTRALITY OF THE HOLOCAUST, THE CIRCULATION OF MODELS AND THE GLOBALISATION OF MEMORY
(moderator Frédéric Crahay, Remembrance of Auschwitz)
Panel 4: COMPETING MODELS: DOCUMENTING THE INTERTWINED VIOLENCE OF TOTALITARIANISMS
(moderator Philippe Mesnard)