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Beloit College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans

Abstract

Visitor impression book are often overlooked objects in museums. However, a study of these books can provide insight into a whole range of topics regarding museum and/or memory studies, especially in consideration of the larger socio-political climate. By nature, the books are both intensely personal and inherently collective – as they constitute an assembly of personal emotions and evaluations of the exhibit. This allows us to examine the books on a microscopic, individual level and in a global context.

My research involved an examination of the visitor impression books at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and focused on the museum’s Besieged Sarajevo exhibit. I supplemented my analysis of these books with observation of and conversations with visitors to the museum, as well as conversations with a number of people living in the city (from a variety of backgrounds), and two ‘war tours.’ These outside interactions were crucial in helping to contextualize both prior literature and the comments in the museum book.

I found that that visitor books, indeed, can be a useful analytical tool in museum studies, and that the visitor impression books at the Bosnian Historical Museum allowed for three main conclusions: 1) the exhibit serves the dual role of providing both a memorial and a museum, 2) this dual role is representative of contemporary Sarajevan politics of memory, and 3) museum visitors, for the most part, were able to benefit from the double identity of the museum.

Disciplines

Eastern European Studies | Inequality and Stratification | Social and Cultural Anthropology

 

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