Under Glass: Museums and the Display of History.

Natalia Indrimi's picture

JANUARY 24, 2017

Museums and the Memory of Nazi-Fascism, the Holocaust and World War II: Toward a Shared European History?

Locations at Columbia University/NYU and schedule will be published on January 15t at www.primolevicenter.org

Morning session: 9:00 am to 2:00 pm (faculty and students from all universities are welcome. rsvp to info@primolevicenter.org specifying affiliation. This session is not open to the general public.)

Evening session: 5:00 pm. Free and open to the public. Italian Academy at Columbia University, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, Calandra Institute CUNY. 

On the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Consulate General of Italy, Centro Primo Levi, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, the Calandra Institute at CUNY, the Alliance of Columbia University and the Italian Cultural Institute present a jointly organized symposium dedicated to European museums of memory and history. In collaboration with the Consulate General of Germany and the Consulate General of France.


This program is part of Centro Primo Levi’s cooperation with the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan and its journal Quest, Issues in Contemporary Jewish History, whose latest issue Holocaust Intersections in 21st-Century Europe, curated by Robert Gordon and Emiliano Perraexplores memory politics and their implementations.


Participants: Guri Schwarz, University of Pisa, Aline Sierp (University of Maastricht), Jan Grabowski (University of Ottawa), Laure Neumayer, (University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne), Gabor Sonkoly, (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Anna Di Lellio, (The New School), Daniel Levy (Stony Brook University), Mark Weitzman (Simon Wiesenthal Center, IHRA).

Advisory committee: Ruth Ben Ghiat (New York University), Silvana Patriarca (Fordham University), Ernest Ialongo (Hostos Community College) in collaboration with Natalia Indrimi and Alessandro Cassin (Centro Primo Levi)



The program will explore a specific aspect of European efforts to foster a shared historical landscape: museums of memory and history. Speakers will take into consideration various museums, analyzing the circumstances in which each was planned and realized, derailed, abandoned or kept in a limbo. Is there a common thread in the rush to portray history as museum display and the crisis that have affected various museums?

Can museums, traditionally meant as monuments to nationhood, tied to the history and memories of particular locations, effectively display the different lenses through which to see a shared past, divided memories, the developments of an increasingly transnational historical research?

How do they shape their narratives in relation to an unprecedented diversity of audiences; to the lingering effects of a history dominated by nationalism and conflict; to large masses of tourists? Are museums, that increasingly rely on communication technology, virtual reality, and the offer of “adventures”, shaping a new concept of “public history”?

Does the generally stated purpose to carry the “lesson of history” and be relevant to contemporary human tragedies that resonate with those of the Nazi-Fascist past, still hold its meaning in relation to the masses of migrants who do not necessarily share the culture and history nor partake in the privileges of citizenship?

As the place of the Holocaust in European memory is increasingly coming under challenge, elements of fascism are becoming politically and socially acceptable, political events signal the difficulty of democratic nation states to sustain the notion of diversity and equality they produced, the very notion of “history” is confronted on grounds as diverse as communication and the law, can the controversies over history museums provide a lens to discuss the implications and background of the political use of memory and the role of history and historical research in our society?