City Museums and Multiple Colonial Pasts: Insights from Amsterdam, Warsaw and Shanghai

In this presentation, we will report on the results of the collaborative project on city museums carried out in Amsterdam, Warsaw and Shanghai between 2018 and 2020. In short, our research identifies how ‘decolonization’, a notion that has excited global interest and action, differs – regionally, nationally, locally. The cultural memory of Amsterdam as a historic colonizer poses different challenges to decolonizing the museum than the forgotten entanglements in the overseas colonization in the case of Warsaw. Shanghai museums show sharply that decolonization does not necessarily involve ‘critical’ discourse as conceived by critical museology. Moreover, both Warsaw and Shanghai add complexity to what decolonization can mean beyond the memories of overseas colonization. Overall, decolonization in museums and the associated debate have evolved in a number of different regional directions and are likely to develop in divergent ways in future. The research was funded by the ECHOES project (Work Package 3) and has resulted in several reports and publications by associated researchers.

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