Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

‘Las Edades del Hombre’

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Nathalie Cerezales from Paris has published a fascinating article on the Spanish ‘Las Edades del Hombre’ project. This has organised, over the past twenty-seven years, a whole series of major religion/art exhibitions in the cathedrals of Castille and Leon. The full text can be found via this summary: http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=078;article=022.

Nathalie’s English abstract reads:

This article examines the narrative and the museographical model of the exhibition cycle named Las Edades del Hombre in Castilla y León (Spain), through the study of the first display in Valladolid (1988-1989). It analyses how a religious and evangelical exhibition became one of the major components of the cultural scene of the region for the past thirty years and a model for other autonomous regions or cities in a country affected by secularisation.

The cycle Las Edades del Hombre tended towards the mode of an « exhibition-show ». Various types of objects from the religious heritage of the local Church are displayed in religious buildings transformed into “ephemeral museums”, using unprecedented means of display. Presenting works of art in such exhibitions defines them as heritage to be preserved.

It appears that the aim of the exhibition is to remember that the Church plays a heritage role model in local history and collective memory. Furthermore, often accused of not taking enough care of its cultural heritage, by playing the role here of the guardian that preserves and restores its heritage for the local population, the Church improves its image.

Although these exhibitions are, for the Catholic Church, a new way to evangelize people, they are also a way of attracting a national audience and contributing to the development of regional tourism. Moreover, the coalition of local government and the Church in the financing of the exhibitions establishes these events as a privileged means of building a sense of community and a means of letting religious heritage become a tangible witness to the regional past.

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