Experiencing Mixed Emotions in the Museum: Empathy and Memory in Visitors’ Responses to Histories of Migration

19.01.2018

Seminar in National Museum of Iceland “Migrants-Immigrants-Museums”

Open Lecture by Professor Rhiannon Mason, Newcastle University.

Migration and migrants have got extensive attention in the recent decades. Economic, social and cultural impact of mobility on individuals and groups has been global, effectively challenging ideas, places, communities and knowledge production. The influence of mobility on the museum work will be discussed on the seminar with three invited speakers from Newcastle University and the editors of the book “Museums, Migration and Identity in Europe: Peoples, Places and Identities” (Routledge, 2015) – Rhiannon Masson, Christopher Whitehead and Susannah Eckersley. The seminar is organized by Mobilities and Transnational Iceland (project of excellence supported by Rannís) in cooperation with National Museum of Iceland.

Experiencing Mixed Emotions in the Museum: Empathy and Memory in Visitors’ Responses to Histories of Migration

This paper explores visitor responses to museum histories of migration, particularly regarding empathy. We argue that unanticipated, wider memory discourses interplay with the emotional responses expressively invited by the museum display. This raises important questions about the complexity of understanding the museum visit in terms of affective practices. It asks us to consider to what extent different kinds of emotions may come into conflict with, frame, or support, one another. It also alerts us to the importance of attending to the interplay between individual, personal emotional responses to specific displays and those which are connected to broader discourses of identity circulating within certain memory communities. This research was undertaken with: Dr Katherine Lloyd, Glasgow University, Dr Areti Galani, Newcastle University, and Dr Joanne Sayner, Newcastle University