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Exhibiting the Frontier: American Borders as Museological Projects

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In the twenty-first century, international borders are being rethought and remade after the concept of a 'borderless world' of the 1990s lost its promise. This article looks at some of the ways in which borders have recently been re-conceptualized and framed through case studies of two museological projects: the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Texas and the Mauermuseum/Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. As abstract, conceptual phenomena, geographical borders pose a representational quandary that is addressed not only through state strategies of demarcation and surveillance, but also through soft power and the strategies of architectural and museological display that bolster popular support for, and lend meaning to, the abstraction of a line.
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Keywords: Border Patrol Museum; Checkpoint Charlie; border exhibitions; frontier; globalization; soft power

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 13, 2012

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  • The Journal of Curatorial Studies is an international, peer-reviewed publication that explores the cultural functioning of curating and its relation to exhibitions, institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture. The journal takes a wide perspective in the inquiry into what constitutes "the curatorial." Curating has evolved considerably from the connoisseurship model of arranging objects to now encompass performative, virtual and interventionist strategies. While curating as a spatialized discourse of art objects remains important, the expanded cultural practice of curating not only produces exhibitions for audiences to view, but also plays a catalytic role in redefining aesthetic experience, framing cultural conditions in institutions and communities, and inquiring into constructions of knowledge and ideology.
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