Memory, Religion and Museal Spaces

in Journal of Religion in Europe
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Abstract

For centuries, nativity scenes have been used to illustrate, teach, and commemorate central biblical stories in a tangible display. Oscillating between public crib exhibitions at the museum and crib displays in private homes, the dynamics between individual and collective re-narration, re-construction, re-experience, and re-membering lead to the construction of a collective memory within specific political contexts. The article suggests the term 'museality' as a heuristic tool to capture the vivid interdependences of museal spaces within and beyond the museum as a cultural institution. The construction, decoration, arrangement, and display of crib scenes are a complex example of such museal spaces. Beyond the institutionalised Christian tradition, nativity scenes have their place in the larger context of the European history of religion and invite future research within the analytical framework of the aesthetics of religion.

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