Scholarly & Social Meeting Exhibiting Prison Cells: Curating Political Victimhood in the Museum

Open to the Public
Nador u. 11
Hanak Room
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 5:30pm
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

We are pleased to announce the fourth lecture of this semester in the series "History Department Scholarly & Social Meeting"  taking place next Tuesday, November 26th, in Hanák Room, at 17:30.
Simina Bădică will give a lecture on:

 Exhibiting Prison Cells: Curating Political Victimhood in the Museum


Museums of communism have boomed in East-Central Europe after 1989, yet their scholarly analyses rarely take into account the numerous museums of communism that functioned in the area before 1989. The talk highlights the connections and continuities between these pre- and post-1989 museums but mainly focuses on the resilience of curatorial practice in both communist and anti-communist museums. It argues that current attempts to commemorate victims of communism actually use the memorialisation means and techniques pioneered by communist museums themselves in commemorating their own victims.

In order to build this argument, the talk focuses on one museum installation, the prison cell which has become a symbolic artifact for curating past dictatorship in the museum. How do prison cells become museum artifacts? What is the origin of this transformative practice? The talk explains how placing a museum inside a former prison is a deliberate choice that weighs heavily on the curatorial concept as this hybrid form of prison-museum is almost a new genre in museum history. It aims to explore why is it that “since the 1970s, the prison has increasingly become the location par excellence for the memorialization of past dictatorships` violence across the globe?” (James Mark)

The research material mainly comes from Romanian museums of the 1950s and the 1990s (Doftana, the Sighet Memorial-Museum to the Victims of Communism and to the Resistance, the projected Râmnicu Sărat memorial museum) but comparable examples in East-Central Europe are also discussed.


-Simina Bădică recently submitted her dissertation on Curating Communism. A Comparative History of Museological Practices in Post-War (1946-1958) and Post-Communist Romania at CEU’s History Department. She works as a researcher for the Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest where she deals with the collections inherited from the former Museum of Communist Party History. She writes and curates exhibitions on recent history and its representation in museums, archives and private memory.