‘Permanent Displays’ as Unsettling Layers of Epistemologies, Politics and Aesthetics

Sigrid Lien, Hilde Wallem Nielssen


This article argues that museum exhibitions often are formed through multiple layers. It presents readings of two contrasting exhibition narratives, the ethnographic display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and the national history exhibition at Lillehammer Museum. While the latter speaks about the national self, the museum in Oslo addresses the nation’s radical other. In spite of this contrasting thematic focus, they have much in common. As centres for research and dissemination of knowledge, they are connected to the development of the academic disciplines history and anthropology. This evolution with its shifts and ruptures are visible as traces, or layers, in the exhibitions. We argue that such multi-layered museum stories may be understood as intersections of shifting disciplinary knowledge regimes, curatorial practices, and concrete political agendas. Such layers may appear as unintended subtexts that often create a sense of ‘unsettlement’ within museum exhibitions.


Museology, ‘permanent displays’, exhibition aesthetics, politics, epistemologies, exhibitionary layers, curatorial practice, National history, ethnographic exhibitions

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v17i3.2802

Copyright (c) 2019 Sigrid Lien, Hilde Wallem Nielssen

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360