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MODERNITY AND IDENTITY: The National Museum of Iran

posted on 2023-02-07, 04:45 authored by Ali MozaffariAli Mozaffari
It would seem appropriate for a national museum to embody a narrative of nationalism within its displays. It would also seem appropriate enough that such a public monument embodies sanctioned nationalistic references of its own time in its outward architectural expression. Unlike museum displays, however, which can be adapted to changes of sanctioned ideologies and perceptions of identity by alterations to the curatorial narrative, the aging exterior – the architecture – will gradually transform into a relic, a monument to past times. Abrupt socio-political transformations, particularly revolutions as their ultimate violent form, can almost instantly transform the museum into an anachronistic oddity. Revolution disrupts the assumption of historical continuity upon which museums operate. It redefines the past to which the museum owes its existence, thus challenging and perhaps undermining the relevance of the museum to the present. This problem is compounded when the museum, as a public institution, disseminates an ideology that is largely, if not fully, extraneous to the culture of the public it was meant to address. The National Museum of Iran (NMI) (established in 1937-44) is a case in point. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the museum, a showpiece of the sanctioned nationalistic ideology of the outgoing monarchy, the Pahlavis (1925-79), had to embody a new narrative of identity or be committed to oblivion. Furthermore, it had to attract and indoctrinate the public with its post-revolutionary ideologies in order to counter the effects of the previous establishment. This chapter will discuss the evolution of the NMI, from its inception until the present, in order to examine the relationship between state ideology and the museum. It will reveal the effect of the westernising and modernising state agenda during the pre-Revolution period and the Islamicising and assertion of religious identity in the post-Revolution period, both of which have failed to fully capture the public’s imagination.








Title of book

Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed

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