Cultural and Communicative Role of Estonian National Museum in Permanent Exhibition Production
The PhD project is based on an anthropological interest to investigate the logic of the museum production field and the ways the National Museum’s role (both cultural and communicative) is being reinvented, planned and entextualised in Estonia through the ongoing process of producing a new permanent exhibition on Estonian culture. Museums are increasingly seen as a form of media and a lot of studies focus on researching the ways that museums frame the relationships between artefacts and human beings. The Estonian National Museum (ENM) is currently being reinvented and reframed through constructing a contemporary building, for the first time in a building designed for museum purposes. The process is taking place in a post-transitional society influenced by a number of significant socio-cultural changes. The public has until recently viewed ENM largely as a repository of material peasant culture of the ethnic Estonians from the 19 th century. This function has served the state and ethnic Estonian population well in the process of regaining independence and implementing the national agenda. Now, however, both museology and socio-cultural changes suggest new roles for a national museum, to create content of the contemporary life-environment and build intercultural ties, etc. The new permanent exhibition on Estonian culture, which will be the centrepiece in the new ENM, is the primary tool facilitating these new roles and communicating them to the public. As the production process of the permanent exhibition is under way, there is ample ethnographic research material available to investigate the continuities and changes in several fields of interest: How is the historic mission of the ENM retained while setting new aims in the agenda? Where are the sources for the new initiatives, and which mechanisms and power will put these into effect? How is Estonian culture represented in the final product? How are producers roles and competences constructed and practiced and which fields of production intersect and influence the process and how? How are audiences articulated and interaction and engagement practices modified or remodelled? How is participatory research influencing the production process (increasing reflexivity) and does it contribute to the theoretical framework of production ethnography? Methodologically, the approach is best characterised as production ethnography with research questions and underlying theoretical framework being relatively flexible in order to adjust where necessary to the logic of the field and process as they open up during the participatory observation.