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Exhibiting and communicating history and society in historic house museums

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Abstract:

Any scientific or pedagogical operation concerning heritage is a metalanguage. It does not make objects speak, but it talks about them, in the words of Magaly Cabral. The historic house museum is not just a house that is a ... museum. In historic house museums, the actual building, the collection and the person who lived in the house are so closely linked as to practically fuse. This makes for a relationship that is conducive to communication, according to the author. Magaly Cabral’s analysis of the problems encountered in deciding what to communicate in setting up house museums is both pertinent and pithy. The anecdote about the Comte sisters’‘museumizing’ their house by putting it under glass in France, and her comment that ‘setting up an entire house in its original state is only the beginning of a long path’, force us to reflect on the museological commitments involved in transforming living spaces into house museums. The author clearly ‘intends to provoke some thought about the educational purpose of the historic house museum, taking into consideration some of the tools that help in the process of communicating with the public and with which objectives they are employed’.

Magaly Cabral, who holds a Master’s degree in museum education, is director of the Memory and Documentation Centre of the House of Rui Barebosa Foundation/Ministry of Culture, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the DemHist regional co-ordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, former CECA regional co-ordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean and former Brazilian National Committee Treasurer.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0033.00311

Affiliations: Memory and Documentation Centre of the House of Rui Barebosa Foundation/Ministry of Culture, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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