Oct 25, 2016 10:17 AM
(RNS) The place of religion in museums has a long, troubled, and often strange history.
In the 1930s, the Soviet Union established a series of “anti-religion” museums. Several decades later, objects from the museums were transformed for use in the Museum of the History of Religion, now in St. Petersburg. And in response to ethnic and religious clashes across Scotland, the government there helped create the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which is dedicated to “understanding and respect between people of different faiths and of none.”
Sep 10, 2016 8:13 AM
In 1938, on the cusp of World War II, the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) opened in Paris, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. It would never have come to fruition without the efforts of Paul Rivet, an ethnologist working alongside Marcel Mauss and Émile Durkheim between the wars, who was committed to antifascist cultural and political work. In contrast to the Nazi ideology sweeping Germany at the time, Rivet wanted the museum to portray “man as an indivisible whole in space and time.”
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Musée de l’Homme underwent a massive renovation, spanning several years, and reopened in the fall of 2015. The new layout, in the same architectural shell at the Trocadéro, is a beautiful, uncluttered space. The exhibition rooms and exhibit cases display archaeological discoveries, cultural curiosities, scientific data, and artistic takes on human existence. All of them speak to the questions set up by the museum coordinators: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we headed?