"Museums for Peace and Harmony in Society"
year's theme, "Museums
for Peace and Harmony in Society",
reflected the United Nations's declaration of the
year 2000 as "International Year for a Culture of
Peace". The first issue of ICOM News this year was
dedicated to the role of museums in creating and promoting
a culture of peace, and many museums followed this
theme in their celebrations.
for Peace and Harmony in Society.
for peace, peace museums...
Duffy, Director of the Irish Peace Museum Project
and teacher of Peace Studies at the University of Ulster,
gives us an overview of the emergence of the peace museum
concept and its current developments, and broaches how "conventional"
museums are working for peace.
is becoming a central theme in the programming of many national
museums, and among museum professionals. However, while
there are few countries that do not possess either museums
or monuments commemorating war, peace museums have, until
recently, been comparatively scarce. Precisely because of
the historical attention devoted to national "deeds of battle",
peace museums have far to go before they can achieve the
kind of civic attention that is still devoted to museums
of war. More must be done to recover and exhibit aspects
of our society's history that might constitute a "culture
of peace", and in this light it is pleasing that ICOM is
devoting this issue of ICOM NEWS to the "culture of peace"
in the museum world.
birth of the peace museum
the comparative scarcity of peace museums, there has emerged
a distinct "peace museum concept" which is recognisable
both in a unique family of museums, and also in an emerging
Identifying the first example of a "peace museum" is difficult,
but probably it was the Hague Peace Palace, founded by Andrew
Carnegie in the early 1900s. It personifies "peace through
international law". The Peace Palace is a notable exception
to the vociferously "anti-war" message of the earliest peace
museums, such as Jean de Bloch's International Museum of
War and Peace, which was founded in 1902 in Lucerne, Switzerland.
He had taken the view that "war itself is the strongest
testimony against war" but ironically the museum was destroyed
by the war it sought to prevent. Ernst Friedrich's famous
Anti-War Museum, established in 1923, suffered the same
fate. Through photographs of mutilated soldiers and war
paraphernalia, Friedrich had hoped to convey "war's true
nature". Predictably, the Nazi government destroyed the
museum. In 1940, another peace exhibition he had established
in Brussels did not survive the German invasion. Thus, these
early precursors of the peace museum tradition were enveloped
by global war.2
Nevertheless, they helped formulate the concept, and the
same "anti-war" message is kept alive by museums established
much later in the century. In Germany one thinks of Berlin's
Anti-War Museum under the German Anti-War Museum Society;
and the Peace Library and Anti-War Museum of the German
Evangelical Church, both formed in the early 1980s. One
also notes the Bridge at the Remagen Peace Museum, Germany,
founded in 1980 on the famous "war bridge"; and the Anti-War
House which opened at Sieverhausen in 1981. The Caen Memorial
Museum, France, and the World Centre for Peace, Freedom
and Human Rights at Verdun, (which commenced in 1988 and
1993, respectively) are also constructed on twentieth-century
peace museum developments
peace museums certainly reach beyond the restrictive "anti-war"
message of their predecessors, by positing a global search
for peace. At this very moment, plans are well under way
for a new African Peace Museum in Kenya, and a national
peace museum in the United Kingdom is a real possibility.
In Oslo a museum is soon to preserve the history of Nobel
Peace Laureates, and a new museum opened in May 1999 in
the Hague, exhibiting that city's many associations with
international peace. There are plans for museums of UN peacekeeping;
the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York has launched an
exhibition on their founder's legacy to peace culture; and
in Costa Rica, the Oscar Arias Foundation has ambitious
plans for a Peace Museum for Central America. In November
1998, the third in a series of international peace museum
conferences was held in Kyoto and Osaka, Japan, including
fieldwork visits to peace sites in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and
Okinawa. The emergence of a network of such museums and
kindred institutions marks a land-mark in the maturation
of the peace museum idea as we enter the new millennium.
One hopes that the role of peace museums might receive wider
public recognition during the "international year for a
culture of peace" which is being enthusiastically supported
by UNESCO, the UN system, and by the efforts of agencies
such as ICOM. Increasingly, in numerous countries, peace
museums are receiving governmental support, and the museum
public has probably never been more responsive to the "peace
diversity of peace museums
is clear that peace museums encompass a range of diverse
museums and institutions. For that reason, it is important
to offer an inclusive "umbrella" definition. It is also
possible to formulate broad observations about trends in
the creation of "peace museums". First, there are named
"peace museums", such as Chicago's Peace Museum, and indeed
more than twenty such museums exist across the world. Their
specialities span issues of regional peace (such as Germany's
Meeder Peace Museum), the global emphases of the League
of Nations Museum in Geneva and the search for peace "within
peoples", as in the desire for harmony among Koreans, expressed
by the Yi Jun Peace Museum in Holland. Then there are entities
which have been formed in response to specific events. One
thinks of museums of the holocaust (such as Yad Vashem in
Israel) and the interpretative centres at the many former
concentration camps (such as those at Dachau in Germany,
and Auschwitz in Poland). These entities too deserve to
be treated as part of the encompassing traditions of the
peace museum movement.
Then there are museums which focus on humanitarian action,
such as the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, or the
International Red Cross Museum in Geneva. One should also
include "museums of non-violence", notably the collection
of Gandhi museums dotted across India, with satellite entities
in Europe, Australia and the USA. Finally, it can be argued
that any museum which concentrates on peace issues has the
potential to serve as a "museum of peace". It will, of course,
be realised that certain museums cut across definitions
and fall under a number of these categories. Taken together,
these diverse entities share a common commitment to the
preservation of the history of peacemaking and thus of peace
many "conventional" galleries and museums have in recent
years chosen to prioritise exhibitions which include materials
directly related to peace and to the peace movement. What
distinguishes "war museums" from "peace museums" lies less
in the physical heritage - the content of the museum - than
in the approach of the curators. "Conventional" museums
are increasingly contributing to the promotion (directly
and indirectly) of a "culture of peace". The work of museum
professionals in conflict zones or in multi-ethnic societies
(see the report from the Sarawak
Museum Department) points to the potential
of museums to contribute to this "culture of peace". Likewise,
museums have the burden both of preservation and of presentation
of history, a challenge in which the stakes of a "culture
of peace" are directly involved (see the report from the
Heritage Institute in Tunis). There is much
good news to report, both from the activities of national
museums and from the growing phenomena of peace museums.3
T.M. Duffy, 'Civic Zones of Peace' in Peace Review: A Transnational
Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 1997, pp. 199-205.
All of this encouraging work does much to confirm the belief
expressed by Federico Mayor, former Director-General of
UNESCO, that "not only is a culture of peace both feasible
and indispensable...it is already in progress".4
UNESCO's new Director-General, Mr Koichiro Matsuura has
written that his war-time childhood "inspired me to commit
myself to doing all that I could for world peace".5
This is the personal commitment that has sustained so many
museum professionals and peace activists in the creation
of dedicated museums of peace as well as a "culture of peace"
within "conventional" museums.
2. T.M. Duffy, 'The Peace Museum Concept'
in Museum International (UNESCO), Vol. XLVI, No. 1, 1993,
3. T.M. Duffy, 'Exhibiting Peace' in Peace
Review: A Transnational Quarterly, Vol. 5. No. 4, 1993, pp.
4. Federico Mayor, in UNESCO and a Culture
of Peace: Promoting A Global Movement, (UNESCO, Paris, 1995)
esp. p 5.
5. Koichiro Matsuura, The Times Higher Education
Supplement, 29 October 1999. p. 9.
Magee College, University of Ulster, Londonderry, BT48 7JL,
Tel. (33 1504) 375 223. Fax (33 1504) 375 207.
articles around the theme:
The Sarawak Museum - A
century of multi-ethnic Sarawak
National Museum of the Bardo - Interwoven
histories in the Mediterranean basin