Suffering and Survivorship: Mythologies and Contested Narratives of War in Serbian Museums

Rebecca Damjanovic, Robert Mason


Museums that commemorate war have a uniquely influential role in determining how the nation approaches its past, and navigate highly politicized issues of loss and victimhood. Far less understood is how curatorial approaches to historical conflicts can influence museum practices regarding more recent wars. In this article, we explore how three museums of national history in Serbia narrate historical wars. Each museum is focused on articulating the story of the nation, albeit with markedly differing emphases in their collecting practices and curatorial strategies. Analysing objects and narrative texts, we suggest that Serbian historical museums engage visitors in ethical questions and topics that are often otherwise silenced. We draw attention to the resurgence of deep historical narratives, emphasizing Serbs’ connection to the environment, faith, and landscape, as a means to assert the continued relevance of historical wars to contemporary national identity. In doing so, museums seek to engage in the fraught politics of memory relating to the Yugoslav Wars.


Historical injustice; Serbia; Yugoslavia, Civil War

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Copyright (c) 2023 Rebecca Damjanovic, Robert Mason

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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