Museological Practices from the time of the Non-Aligned Movement in Slovenia

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) functioned as a third way between the two blocs, aiming to creatively contribute to the existing world order. It advocated for peaceful coexistence, disarmament, territorial integrity, and supported anti-colonial struggles. Different collaborations and exchanges were established between non-aligned countries in the field of economy, business, education and culture. Yugoslavia as one of the founders of the NAM participated in those processes which significantly contributed to acquiring new museum collections from other continents.

Slovenia was one of the six republics of former Yugoslavia at the time, and its foreign policy importantly influenced the field of museology. In 1964, the new Museum for non-European cultures was established as a branch of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM). It was filled with collections from all over the world which were the result of museum curators’ fieldwork, collaboration with amateur collectors and foreign students, artists’ donations as well as donations from the Presidency of Yugoslavia. Between 1960 and 1990, over 80 exhibitions were organized, among them nearly half traveling exhibitions from non-aligned countries. In 2001, the Museum for non-European cultures was closed and all the non-European collections were transferred to the SEM.

Together with ethnographic museums from all over the western Europe, SEM has recently been part of two EU projects that deal with colonialism and decolonization of museum practice. According to its specific history and museum practices from the second half of the 20th century that were marked by NAM principles of solidarity and friendship, the museum curators developed collaborative approaches with heritage holders to share the responsibility of interpreting their heritage. This was an experiment on developing new strategies and visions of collecting and interpreting non-European collections in the SEM on the basis of specific anti-colonial disposition from the time of the NAM.

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