Museum and Languages

Maia Wellington Gahtan's picture
February 9, 2017 to February 10, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Languages, Linguistics, Social History / Studies
MUSEUMS OF LANGUAGEExperimenting Language Exhibitions

9 – 10 February 2017


We all recognize that monuments, landscapes, borders are symbolic containers of identity and landmarks of a nation’s culture and offer represent a key for the interpretation of a nation’s past. But which nation and whose past? Monuments and cities are set confidently in a given space, and they carry a date usually established with certainty. There are however other, no less fundamental components of our cultural heritage, such as language and narratives which are harder to pin down. They often function as justification of a community’s existence or claim to independence, and they may be used to state exclusive rights over a territory at the expenses of others.

However immaterial cultural heritage happens in a continuum, stretching across time and space. Its most fundamental component, shared by everyone without exception, with no discrimination of gender, class, origin or status are languages. No human being lives without them and no community defines itself as such unless there is a thread of words binding it together. Europe is made up by this chorus of voices which define identity and are yet the result of complex processes and identity negotiations which are in constant flux. Common knowledge goes that each nation has its own language. However, it is not possible to define exclusive boundaries where a language happens: German (Italian, English, French) is not spoken in Germany, Italy, England or France alone, nor is France-Italy-Germany-England only populated by native speakers of the respective national languages, nor do European literatures only embrace writers which were native speakers of the national languages which today seem to be exclusive competence of their respective states or territories.

The languages of Europe are dynamically displaced across the continent. We figure rather easily their position across space. Less easily figured is, however, their making across time and the overlap between them across both time and space. There are two types of projects around language museums: museums of national languages and identities (e.g. Afrikaaner, English, German, Portuguese, Lithuanian) and more wide ranging projects which negotiate with ideas of multiculturalism, or the idea of language itself (e.g. MundoLingua,Paris Musée Champollion – Les Ecritures du Monde, Figeac). Recent exhibitions such as “Dove il sì suona”, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy, 2004 or “Evolving English,” British Library, London, UK, 2011 have also elicited enormous interest. In this workshop we are inviting individuals/institutions who have been involved in the creation and projection of language exhibitions and museums of all types with the idea of creating an international cooperation that can benefit all projects. The acts of the conference will also be published.

A major purpose of this workshop is to aid in the elaboration of a general template of a prospective museum of European voices which may take the form of an itinerant museum, web portal and/or most promisingly, a ‘museo diffuso’.

The goals of our language museum project, provisionally entitled ‘Eurotales’ are to:

  • – Disseminate hard core research and knowledge in a form suitable for its appreciation on the part of scholars and students as well as the general public
  • – Encourage the active participation on the part of the public in the discussion of matters concerning their cultural identities
  • – Encourage the public to contribute information on their linguistic heritage and literary cultures and therefore to became active proprietors of this shared heritage
  • – Create innovative devices to store, elaborate and exhibit the wealth of the materials available – both the result of scholarly research and its rich tradition and the data resulting from the active contribution of the public of visitors

This conference is organized by Prof. Nadia Cannata (Sapienza, Università degli Studi di Roma) and Prof. Maia Wellington Gahtan (Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici).




Thursday 9 February 2017

Auditorium, San Jacopo in Campo Corbolini, Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici

9.00 Saluti and Opening Remarks
Nadia Cannata, Università degli Studi di Roma
Maia Wellington Gahtan, Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, Firenze
9.30 Elaine Gold, Director, Canadian Language Museum, Toronto, Canada
Mark Oremland, Founder, Mundolingua, Paris, France
  *Coffee break*
11.30 Ottar Grepstad, Director, Ivar Aasen Centre, Ørsta, Norway
Stéphanie Lebreton, Director of Collections, Musée Champollion, Figeac, France
Bernhard Tuider, Teamleader, Esperanto Museum at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria
14.30 Michael Jonas, Director, Die Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en Monument, Paarl, South Africa
Jolanta Zabarskaite, Director, Language Museum, Vilnius, Lithuania
Rosella Pellerino, Scientific Director, Espace Occitan, Dronero (Cuneo), Italy
  *Coffee break*
 16.30 Uta Seewald-Heeg, Director, Erlebniswelt Deutsche Sprache, Köthen, Germany
Marcus Barrett, Board of Trustees, The English Project, Winchester, UK


Friday 10 February 2017

Auditorium, San Jacopo in Campo Corbolini, Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici

10.00 The Eurotales Project – Nadia Cannata (Rome), Maia Wellington Gahtan (Florence), Margaret Sonmez (Ankara)
Roundtable and Discussion