Identity on the Line
Identity on the Line

Up YU GO! Stories of Identities on the Line: A Slovene Case Study

By Corinne Brenko, MA and Urška Purg
National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia

Introduction

Thirty years after Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia, the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia started to work with a participatory approach, aiming to shed light on the personal narratives of people who migrated to Slovenia from the other Yugoslav republics between 1945 and 1990.

Migrant workers at the Ljubljana Railway Station. 1974, Slovenia. Photo by Svetozar Busič, kept by the National Museum of Contemporary History.

Even though records are scarce and incomplete, it is estimated that, during the period in question, a total of around 290,000 people were involved in this migration process. A large percentage of those settling down and building a new home in the northernmost republic of the Yugoslav federation gained full Slovenian citizenship upon the country’s independence in 1991. Yet, despite having been the subject of numerous academic research projects, the story of this migration process had previously not been presented within a national museum exhibition. This might be partly attributed to the public discourse regarding the “newcomers” which emerged in the years leading up to the dissolution of Yugoslavia and its aftermath. They were increasingly portrayed as a homogeneous “other”, often equated with the political and ideological system of Yugoslavia from which the newly independent Slovenia sought to distance itself. Discriminatory treatment, ethnic prejudice, and stereotypes had an undeniable impact on these communities, culminating in the affair of the “Erased”, when 25,671 people of non-Slovene origin were erased from the permanent residence record, losing all the rights they had hitherto enjoyed. In recent years, the stigmatisation of individuals and groups with an immigration background is resurfacing in Slovenia and other European countries, contributing to a climate of exclusion and scapegoating. It is therefore not surprising that the migrants themselves (as well as their descendants) were often reticent to share their story publicly, fearful that their own multi-faceted and diverse experiences would be reduced to damaging or trite clichés. 

Historical background of the project

In the aftermath of World War II, the so-called second Yugoslavia emerged in Southeast Europe, composed of six socialist republics – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia (with its two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo). It comprised six nations, three major religious groups (Orthodox Christians – to which most of the Serbs, Montenegrins, and Macedonians belonged; Roman Catholics – mostly Croats and Slovenians; and Muslims – predominantly inhabiting the regions of Bosnia and Hercegovina, south-western Serbia, and the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija), and many more nationalities and ethnic groups. Migrations within its borders soon became very common: some were incentivised by the central government, others by budding industrialisation, urbanisation, and post-war rebuilding. Some moved to find employment, others to pursue specialised education, independence, or to fulfil professional requirements. Many followed their partners or joined family members, while others wanted a change of scene or sought new opportunities. Slovenia’s immigration pattern was dominated by migrations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia.

As Yugoslavia was conceived as a community of equal nations and nationalities, the guiding principle of its post-war inter-ethnic policy was summarised by the slogan “Brotherhood and Unity”. The policy prescribed that Yugoslavia’s nations and national minorities were equal groups that co-existed peacefully in the federation. In spite of the official doctrine advocated by the Yugoslav leadership and promoted by official state propaganda, national tensions – which were rooted in memories of World War II, as well as in the different perceptions of the character and meaning of the short-lived inter-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia – did not cease to exist. However, it was only in the years leading up to the dissolution of Yugoslavia amid the Yugoslav wars and Slovenia’s independence in 1991 that attitudes towards newcomers in Slovenia became increasingly hostile, as they started to be seen as unwanted foreigners or even enemies of the newly formed national state.

Citizenship laws, which were changed and/or passed in the 1990s in all the former Yugoslav republics, were among the leading “legal” mechanisms behind the disintegration of Yugoslavia. At the same time, they deprived or excluded groups of citizens who resided in republics from which they did not originate. On 26 February 1992, 25,671 people of non-Slovenian origin were erased from the permanent residence record, losing all social, civil, and political rights. Frictions also arose within individual communities that were affected by the ideological conflicts and the divisions of the Yugoslav wars that were fought, on and off, for almost a decade. It is estimated that 140,000 people lost their lives in the conflict, among them many relatives, friends and acquaintances of those who had settled in Slovenia. Often, their ancestral homes were destroyed, and once familiar places became theatres of war (and war crimes). Family ties as well as habitual, frequent mobility across the larger area were severed or severely hindered. 

It is this we wanted to shed light on with our project “Up YU GO!”. We wanted to take a closer look at the personal consequences for the people involved, and how the changes affected their lives.

The work process 

Social theorists claim that ‘identity’ is crucial to all of us: identity contributes to how individuals and groups perceive and construct society, how they give meaning, and how they (re)act, think, vote, socialise, buy, rejoice, perceive, work, eat, judge or relax. They do so by referring to economic, social, cultural and political conditions, events and expectations, and, while doing so, they affect the economic, the social, the cultural and the political.[1]Scholliers, Peter, editor. Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe Since the Middle Ages. Oxford, New York, Berg, 2001. Academia.edu, … Continue reading

As “an increasing number of psychologists argue that people living in modern societies give meaning to their lives by constructing and internalising self-defining stories”[2]Bergen, Teresa. Transcribing oral History. New York, Routledge, 2020, p.15.

identities thus become stories told, imagined, absorbed, and shared. Stories that shape the relationship with our own self, past and present, as well as with our family, and larger communities (as well as relationships among groups/communities). Thus stories can be collected not only as source material for historical research, but also as museum artefacts. As the methodologies of oral history enter museum spaces, they prove particularly valuable in investigating intangible concepts, as well as animating exhibitions for which material artefacts or other assets might be missing. Among the key ways oral history contributes to our understanding of the past – and the human experience in general – is that it brings to the surface previously hidden, silenced, or suspended voices (otherwise known as “history from below”), and then includes them in the historical record.[3]Gazi, Andromache and Nakou, Irene. “Oral History in Museum and Education: Where do We Stand Today?”. MuseumEdu 2. University of Thessaly, 2015, p. 15.

Collecting interviews. 2021, Slovenia. Photo by Urška Purg

Following these principles, the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia collected personal testimonies of people and their descendants who moved from the former Yugoslav republics to settle in Slovenia in the period after World War II. Seven interviewers with different academic training (ethnology and cultural anthropology, history, clinical psychology) identified potential informants within their informal networks and conducted qualitative interviews loosely following Identity on the Line’s common questionnaire. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. At the same time, the museum issued an open call inviting everyone to share with us their personal or family migration story and their experiences, in any format they wished. We received photographs, objects, audio material and short texts. When we ended the process of collecting stories and objects, we had 42 personal stories. Of those, 11 referred to the first generation, 29 to the second, and 2 to the third. The informants stemmed from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, covering all former Yugoslav republics. At the time the interviews were collected, the older informant was 89 years old, the youngest 17. 

The collected material was then analysed and common motifs and themes were identified, which the project team compiled into the first draft of a narratological arc. Relevant issues that would otherwise have been overlooked, such as the Yugoslav wars, were brought to the attention of the project team.

Almost all the witnesses said that although they were only indirectly involved in the conflicts (through relatives and acquaintances), the consequences of the war left a big mark on their lives and influenced the process of self-conception of their own identity. Most also speak of having been stigmatised, stereotyped and discriminated against because of their origin during their lives. In particular, they highlighted first names and surnames –  especially those ending in -ić. In recent years, they have also noticed an increase in verbal discrimination at work and on social media. 

It is telling that 12 of the 42 witnesses wished to remain anonymous. The reasons were varied: some cited pressure from family members who did not want to be identified or did not want the witness’s immigrant background to be publicly exposed. Three witnesses also withdrew from the project after the interviews had already been conducted. One did not want his name to appear in any museum documentation and consequently refused to sign the contract, even after being assured by museum staff that the document would be placed in a sealed envelope and kept in the archives until the project was completed. One witness, moreover, withdrew from the project after the museum’s management changed in February 2021. The guiding principle of respecting the wishes of the community and Article 6.5 of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, which states that “acquisition should be based on a clear and mutual agreement with the owner or informant and not to his detriment”, were taken into account. We therefore excluded all the acquired material from our process.

These phenomena highlight the sensitivity of the material and speak to a sense of discomfort with public exposure of an immigrant identity, pointing to a discrepancy between individual and collective values, and at the perceived inconsistencies of the museum as an institution bearing collective values and exerting institutionalised cultural power.

Workshops or: inviting the informants to co-curate an exhibition

At this point, we should keep in mind, as Bernadette T. Lynch has pointed out that, “museums have been complicit in the construction of physical and cultural hierarchies that underpinned racist thought from the Enlightenment until well into the twentieth century, in marked contrast to the inclusionary role that many now seek to fulfil”[4]Lynch, Bernadette T. “Neither helpful nor unhelpful – a clear way forward for the useful museum.” Museums and Social Change: Challenging the Unhelpful Museum. Routledge, 2020. Academia.edu, … Continue reading

The informants, the curators and the improv specialist at one of the exhibition co-creation workshops. 2021, Slovenia. Photo by Urška Purg

As a means of mitigating unavoidable societal bias, the museum professionals of the National Museum of Contemporary History looked closely at the participatory museum theory posited by Nina Simon (2010), as well as at the theory of museums as social arenas[5]Širok, Kaja, et al., (ed). Integrating a Multicultural Europe: Museums as social arenas. Vienna: Edition Mono/Monochrom, 2016. enabling the informants not only to entrust their personal narratives to the museum professionals, but also to actively co-create the exhibition. Thus, the informants themselves were invited to take part in several rounds of consultations and to co- curate the exhibition through a series of experimental and experiential joint creation workshops. With the help of an expert in theatre improvisation and impro pedagogy, the members of the project group, together with the participants, explored the museum, the exhibitions and the elements of storytelling (i.e. the object as a cue for the story, how the story travels from the storyteller to the audience, how the story changes, how it is remembered, and what catches our attention) offering an insight into the exhibition process and how people perceive others’ stories. This allowed us to become aware of the fact that participatory projects are not only for museums and participants, but also for all non-active individuals – spectators or visitors.[6]Simon, Nina. The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, Museum 2.0, 2010, p. 21. At the same time, we encouraged mutual learning, provided insights into the process of exhibition-making, built mutual trust, empowered the informants by giving them control over their own story and made them aware of the curatorial aspect of the exhibition-making process. The activities encouraged participants to think and discuss in a creative way attitudes, culture, emotions, food, language, memory, reminiscence in relation to the theme of migration and identity, and thus to suggest objects (and other material) that could be included in the exhibition. The informants were thus encouraged to think about objects as bearers of meaning and came up with different suggestions: in the end, they suggested 5 objects and accompanying stories to include in the exhibition. 

We experimented with themes, titles, and settings. The tools of improvisational theatre (the so-called Games) brought to the surface memories, emotions, and ideas, which we wrote down according to Crawford’s Slip Writing Approach. Together, we then created an “exhibition prototype”. In addition, a new working title was proposed, discussed and adopted by the informants. The workshop leaders also actively participated in all the exercises and shared their personal stories with the participants, who then stated that they had gained a strong sense of ambassadorship (“There are at least 20 people ready to see the exhibition, just so you know!”, one of the informants shared) and a sense of being active joint creators of the exhibition (“That was great! I don’t feel like a museum artefact anymore!” another told us).

These workshops thus helped foster a sense of belonging with the participants and to build connections between the participants and the museum curators, which laid the groundwork for cooperation that continued throughout the entire exhibition-building process. A basis was thus established for further dissemination of the project and, later, for the exhibition. A close, trust-based, mutually respectful relationship was established between curators and participants, guaranteeing real transparency and openness throughout the process, and ensuring a final product the participants would be proud of. As a result, the participants may also become the advocates of the exhibition, reaching audiences that a museum would not normally be able to reach.

Examples of some cases/stories collected

The migration analysed in our case study happened within the framework of a common country (Yugoslavia) and was therefore understood as a process of internal migration, which informed the experience of the informants. Overall, the migration process as such was not conceived as a traumatic/difficult experience. A shared “Yugoslav identity”, which – in many cases superseded the particular and diverse local, national, ethnic, religious, and class identities – appeared to have an equalising effect between the “newcomer” and the “natives” thus resolving identity questions that could have been impacted by a migration experience.

“We never talked about nationalism or asked who’s who. We might have asked where someone was from, but that’s where it ended. We didn’t even talk about faith.” 

Boris, age 53. 

The second generations especially, stressed that they were raised within an ethics and value system that did not tolerate exclusion or nationality-based discrimination. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the attitude towards the immigrants as well as their sense of personal identity started to shift. Citizenship laws, which deprived or excluded groups of citizens who had their place of residence in republics from which they did not originate, deeply impacted the sense of belonging and personal identity of those who lost the rights enjoyed up to that point. 

“Slovenia, my new country, did not want me. Or, in the uncertainty of a newly formed country, it did not wish me well. And years of complete uncertainty came for me, without any valid documents, health insurance, social or physical security. Grey years, years of struggle. Struggles for survival, struggles for identity. As I lost battle after battle against the almighty bureaucracy for eight years, I was gaining strength, perseverance, love, empathy, softness, and the ability to forgive. Of course, I was not alone. Without the unconditional support and love of parents, sisters and partners, who knows where I would have gone…”

Dragan, age 58

This process of exclusion, however, was not limited to the legal framework, but seeped deep into the fabric of society and influenced, in many ways, the sense of belonging and the self-image of those who managed to settle their status in Slovenia after the country’s independence in 1991. At the same time, this process also engendered a generalised feeling of being ‘Other’ everywhere they went, not belonging anywhere:

“Overnight, we became strangers, as if we hadn’t known each other before. At the time, we also thought we were at home in our hometowns. After so many years, we became strangers everywhere. If I really think about it, I am a foreigner everywhere, in Slovenia, in Croatia, and today also in Serbia.”

Dragica Dobrila, age 63 

The informants also experienced pronounced expressions of intolerance and exclusion. Mostly characterised as lower, working class, they were marked with the labels “čefurji” ([an offensive term used to describe the inhabitants of Slovenia originating from other regions of former Yugoslavia, or their descendants] and “Jugosi” – words that were used to exclude, differentiate the Yugoslav ‘immigrants’ from the ‘native’ Slovenian population. They were also stigmatised because of the endings of their last names. In their own words, every interviewee expressed how they were reminded of not being accepted as fully fledged citizens of Slovenia, and treated as “second class citizens”, even if they were born and raised in Slovenia:

“These are those small things that are initially not outwardly hurtful, but they pile up over the years. And then it starts to come out. For me it was a feeling of being “less than”. And you start asking yourself why you feel inferior. 

Amra, age 25. 

Almost every interviewee expressed also the difficult period in their lives, when they faced being stereotyped and experienced cultural racism:

“Yeah, I didn’t want any children, just so they wouldn’t be stigmatised. I always had a feeling it would have been different for me if I had a different surname. It’s funny that I told (my future husband) on my first date: “How glad I am that you’re not a čefur“. I remember my mother-in-law once telling me to change my name after the wedding to make it sound less Bosnian.”
Anonymous, age 42 

A public demonstration drawing attention to the plight of those still waiting for the redress of injustices, seventeen years after erasure from Slovenia’s permanent residence record. 2009, Slovenia. Photo by Tomi Lombar, kept by the National Museum of Contemporary History/DELO.

Frictions also arose within individual communities which were affected by the ideological conflicts and the divisions of the Yugoslav wars. In this context, it is worth mentioning that immigrants and their descendants were often indirectly involved in the conflict, either affectively (family members, friends and acquaintances were in imminent danger of violence or hosted refugees in their homes) or materially (family-owned property, etc.). What’s more, identities, personal and collective, were weaponised by the battling sides, and the processes of belonging/exclusion became fraught with existential danger, entangled in often contrasting emotions.

“The war affected our lives enormously. Our house was burgled and left in ruins. We stopped visiting Bosnia. Our relatives were expelled at the end of the war. Today, we have almost no relatives in Bosnia”.

Lidija, age 41

“I would say that after the war some differentiation started to arise. Even if you were born in Slovenia, you would now be identified with it [your national background]. But, basically, how much of this did we kids / teens even understand this? Nothing!”

Alenka, age 32

With a family history of migration as a background, the process of forging a personal identity within the newly formed Republic of Slovenia thus became fragmented, pressurised. It was influenced by ideological conflicts and divisions brought to the foreground by the Yugoslav wars, as well as the tendency of the newly-formed Slovenia to form its own national identity. 

“Not that they don’t accept me, I am accepted – here as a čefur and there as a Slovene. I am accepted, but for me as such I am not accepted anywhere. Because no one grabs you by the hand and says, you are ours. […] And then you’re somewhere in between. In the end, you ask yourself, well, where do I belong? And so my identity is determined everywhere without me being asked about it. Everywhere they have an opinion about me that I didn’t suggest or say. No one ever asked me “Are you a čefur or a Slovene?”; or on the other hand, “Are you a Slovene or one of us?”

Boris Denić, age 54 

If the first generation’s sense of identity and belonging remained somehow fragmented, the second and third generation of immigrants have generally come to recognise Slovenia as their “home”. They have also reconciled their sense of identity which many identify as changeable. Thus personal identities underwent a process of transformation from one generation to the other: after fragmentation and pressurisation, they finally became fluid and transnational. 

“I find it very positive that one can be whatever one wants, at the same time. So that you are not weighted down by a national identity.”

Aleksandra, age 33

In general, informants value their immigration background and state that the experience (lived or transferred) has made them more “open”, “adaptable”, “empathetic”, and “flexible”.

“Today, I don’t see this as a problem anymore, but as something that enriches me. Because of this, I can get along with different people and environments. With migration and unconditional support, my parents gave me a broader perspective”.

Lidija, age 41

The most important findings

After tying all of the steps together, we realised how present and relevant this issue, seemingly resolved and concluded after thirty years of independence, still is. Until now, this topic was mostly addressed through the most visible, polarising cases, representing a small percentage of the population, either emphasising stories of extraordinary personal success (politics, sports, music or other types of public performance) or reinforcing the representation of minority groups and stereotypes in conjunction with violent and criminal activities. Focusing on the silent and integrated majority revealed the need for a part of society to voice their opinions and present their struggles and mind sets, which are usually ignored. This need is obvious, but it is usually overlooked, especially because establishing trust and contacting participants is not always straightforward.

The “Up YU Go. Stories about Identities on the Line” exhibition at the Slovenian National Museum of Contemporary in Ljubljana. 2021, Slovenia. Photo by Sašo Kovačič.

The case study showed that each individual interviewed has a different approach in re-establishing their identity. It also showed what they all emphasised during the interviews – that each individual’s identity is extremely diverse, and as a result, they cannot be viewed as a homogeneous group. In addition to the fear of revealing their identity still evident in some interviewees, they have a low level of trust for society, politics, and museums as representatives of cultural organisations. Consequently, all decisions within the project were made in full transparency, in agreement with all participants, and in a participatory way. 

Experiencing and going through all of this has been an arduous, gradual and challenging process. At the same time, it was an emotional, touching and beautiful experience. The curators working on this project were fully aware of the fact that it is impossible to begin such a project purely on a rational and emotion-free level. For this reason, regular supervision and discussions took place between the curators throughout the process. To ensure the highest level of professionalism, proficiency, and safety for the participants, curators had to be aware and take care of their human, emotional side. To make this possible, the curators had to be open and honest and establish a safe circle among themselves in order to communicate the difficult topics and struggles on the way. The professional workshop and webinar within Identity on the Line, as well as the safe space for all the partners to share all of this simultaneously, were invaluable to the project’s integrity.

The primary message of the case study is the value of respecting the life of others and coexisting with them. Despite it being evident that people have migrated for centuries, there is also the fact that people from Europe have migrated for a variety of reasons in the past and today. Immigration often leads to the creation of a collective identity via divisions between “us” and “them.”. The result of this division may be the creation of a group of invisible and silent people, who are left feeling they do not fit in anywhere, each of them reacting in a way that is familiar to them, disputing stereotypes, and struggling to find their place. In Europe, it is striking how many of the consequences of such processes from the last century are still present and remain unresolved on a collective level. Museums can therefore serve as a safe and respectful forum for dealing with such (often neglected or invisible) issues, presenting a new and noteworthy perspective that may lead to democratic coexistence, a goal we all strive towards. 

Main challenges & our reflections upon them 

As we collected and prepared the local exhibition based on the Slovenian case study, we encountered a number of challenges, many unexpected. Getting in contact with the informants was not easy, and many did not want their story told publicly. The lives of several witnesses had been marked by incidents of stigmatisation, stereotypes, and discrimination due to their origins. Some wished to retain a certain level of privacy for themselves and for their family members or friends; others did not want their immigrant background to be publicised.

An intangible, yet real challenge arose out of the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the sensitivity of the topic surfacing gradually throughout the process. Because of the restrictions put in place to curb the pandemic, it was challenging for us to interview those who were willing to share their stories in person. Consequently, it made the establishment of trust and a connection between the interviewer and the interviewee more difficult. After an initial stalemate, we were able to interview a number of informants online. Obviously, it was not an ideal situation. We were fortunate to catch an opening during the summer, when we could once again collect stories in person, face-to-face. We used every opportunity to meet with the people online and in person to jointly create the exhibition after learning how to cope with Covid-19. Under the conditions and circumstances mentioned, it was much harder to develop the participatory and open exhibition concept. So, many compromises had to be made. Finding safe and appropriate meeting options, such as Zoom meetings, one-on-one meetings, and small number workshops in more repetitions, was the best way to go.

Having reflected deeply on the stories collected, curators were forced to question the role of the curator and the role of the museum as an institution, an anticipated challenge after taking a decision on the form of the process. By highlighting oral histories in exhibits – large and small – big history becomes personal, and even more so if the stories included involve sharing sensitive, taboo-related information. Incorporating oral histories into museums, however, poses a new set of challenges to both curators and oral historians: How much can curators “curate” the stories shared and interpret them for a larger public? How can we “transform” episodes of a person’s life into “museum artefacts” while making sure not to impinge upon the dignity of the informants, preserving their self-narrative and encouraging manifestation of personal identity, while guaranteeing their safety within a public space that has a proven record of being hostile towards them? Curators must also contend with how oral history can be used to challenge official narratives. Do these personal memories complement the exhibition’s narrative or complicate it? Furthermore, sometimes oral history is the only way that marginalised communities can be represented and acknowledged in museum spaces. Thus, what can curators do to not only present oral histories, but also to give priority to the stories they reveal, particularly if these narratives do not appear in the museum’s artefacts or image collections?

Finally, what is the responsibility of oral historians in developing content for museum exhibitions? Knowing that oral history might become part of a museum exhibit, how should interviewers reframe these conversations? This provides curators and oral historians with an opportunity to collaborate on projects that reveal new information or unique points of view. The practice of oral history should consider not only what museums present, but how they do it as well.[7]Tewes, Amanda. “Curating Oral History in a Museum Setting.” Update – Berkeley Library, University of California, 31 July 2018, … Continue reading Since the purpose of the museum is not to hand out assistance – meaning we should not try to help people or act on their behalf – it only makes sense to create circumstances by which they can do so themselves, building their own abilities. The capability of people is expressed in the phrase ‘freedom to choose’, where people are free to reach their own conclusions, debate the consequences, and change their lives according to their own preferences.[8]Lynch, p.3.

Summarising: 

In reviewing the case study, notions of gratitude and a sense of value emerge. The museum’s goal of establishing and reinstating its role in the society is a long-term endeavour that will require a long and demanding process in order to deal appropriately with a sensitive subject like this one. It is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle ensuring respect for human values and human rights within society. Furthermore, it questions not only the role of the museum but also that of the curator, who must encompass different understandings of the topic and the people involved, as well as the unpredictable nature of working once the participatory path is chosen. For the curator, working closely with the informants and their sensitive stories while meeting the standards of contemporary museology requires a great deal of work and energy.

The most important lessons learned sound very logical and simple, but should not be taken lightly: 

  • A participatory, interdisciplinary and shared curating approach takes a lot of time and a lot of management.
  • People are different and react differently to similar events. None of the reactions should be underestimated or neglected.
  • Often, people’s stories are the only way a museum can tell the full story of a topic, adding artefacts and supporting documents from the museum depots to present a unified vision of the situation and its multi-faceted history in an understandable and interesting way.
  • Throughout the entire process, respect, openness, transparency, and sincerity must be guiding principles. By sacrificing one of these for what seems like a shortcut might be too risky for the project, the curator’s and museum’s reputation, and more importantly, people’s safety and trust in museums. A curator or museum that takes on such a project bears a great deal of responsibility.
  • The curators should not ignore or skip out on the importance of finding support for their work. In many cases, colleagues in the museum can offer a different view on the situation and provide valuable feedback.
  • Museums today must address the current issues in society. This is a necessary function of museums and gives additional meaning to their existence.

Working on this case study and capturing it in an exhibition was an important step for the National Museum of Contemporary history in order to follow its mission and purpose in building the bridge between the institution and societies. There was a feeling of support from the museum’s leadership and colleagues, especially in a form of uninvolved experts who offered their feedback on presented stages of work during regular working meetings. The exhibition and the work process was well accepted also by the media, where celebrities and influencers who were among the informants and joint creators played a significant role.

In some ways, migration is intrinsic to human existence – people have been moving since the beginning of time, yet we tend to forget about this over and over again. There exist numerous myths regarding migration in contemporary times. These misconceptions often arise because migrant communities themselves are rarely given space to express their own stories and experiences in public forums. Rather than “speak about”, the way forward must necessarily entail the principle of “speaking with”. Thus this case study was a step in that direction by the National Museum of Contemporary History and hopefully it is a harbinger of the many more to follow.

References

References
1 Scholliers, Peter, editor. Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe Since the Middle Ages. Oxford, New York, Berg, 2001. Academia.edu, https://www.academia.edu/224003/Food_Drink_and_Identity_Cooking_Eating_and_Drinking_in_Europe_since_the_Middle_Ages. Accessed 30 July 2021, p. 5.
2 Bergen, Teresa. Transcribing oral History. New York, Routledge, 2020, p.15.
3 Gazi, Andromache and Nakou, Irene. “Oral History in Museum and Education: Where do We Stand Today?”. MuseumEdu 2. University of Thessaly, 2015, p. 15.
4 Lynch, Bernadette T. “Neither helpful nor unhelpful – a clear way forward for the useful museum.” Museums and Social Change: Challenging the Unhelpful Museum. Routledge, 2020. Academia.edu, https://www.academia.edu/43963067/Neither_helpful_nor_unhelpful_a_clear_way_forward_for_the_useful_museum_Dr_Bernadette_Lynch. Accessed 15 March 2021, p.13.
5 Širok, Kaja, et al., (ed). Integrating a Multicultural Europe: Museums as social arenas. Vienna: Edition Mono/Monochrom, 2016.
6 Simon, Nina. The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, Museum 2.0, 2010, p. 21.
7 Tewes, Amanda. “Curating Oral History in a Museum Setting.” Update – Berkeley Library, University of California, 31 July 2018, https://update.lib.berkeley.edu/2018/07/31/curating-oral-history-in-a-museum-setting/. Accessed 15 March 2021.
8 Lynch, p.3.