Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

Museo Occidens / Catedral de Pamplona

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Museo Occidens has just won a Special Commendation from the European Museum of the Year Award 2014, ‘For the outstanding way in which it presents the values that underpin the civilization of the “West” and challenges us to rethink our collective future, and our concepts of democracy, solidarity, justice, peace and freedom.’

This is a permanent exhibition that takes up large parts of the ancillary spaces around Pamplona Cathedral. Judging from its very beautiful but not desperately informative website, http://www.expo-occidens.es, it sings the praises of western civilisation.

It seems perhaps an odd choice of theme for a Catholic cathedral to promote, and perhaps it doesn’t really deserve mention in this blog. Except that I suspect this is a game-changer. Increasingly, great churches (and other major places of worship in other parts of the world) are resorting to museums to tell their story to visitors, as well as to display their treasures. Museo Occidens does this so very differently, so very imaginatively, and on such a large scale, that surely no-one developing such a museum from now on can ignore it.

Crispin

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