(Movement): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

City museums, as a means of social representation, were born in 19th century to show a stabilizated and encapsulated past. Their mission has deeply changed and nowadays they debate how to represent city and citizens in a dynamic and explanatory way. New challenges appear in order both to deal with historical change and to incorporate movement as a constitutive element of urban modernity. 

City museums, as a means of social representation for citizens and citizenship, were born in Brussels and Paris in the 19th century to show through objects an urban past which was disappearing, as a way to keep a nostalgic sense of the city, legitimating its elites in times of great bourgeois change. 

The mission of city museums has deeply changed and nowadays city museums are debating how to represent city and citizens in a dynamic and explanatory way, within the museum but also around the city in urban tours, open exhibitions and other formats.

City museums are tackling new ways of approaching heritage to incorporate new historical pasts (opening the museum to alternative approaches) and new geographical spaces (from the city centre to the great periphery, and the reverse) in order to incorporate the processes of motion as a central category to relevant narratives of urban history.

There is a need in city museums for historical new research approaches to the urban longue durée, showing its continuities and discontinuities - motion! - in themes like watering, feeding, migrants, refugees, epidemies, social mobility and social unrest, power and war.

And, at the same time, there is a need for more historical geography resarch concerning movement as a key category in contemporary city and urbanism, in a wide range of topics from, say, the impact of elevators and suburban trains in social zoning to the impact of large population movements that cities have to cope with.

The aim of the session is to promote the crossroad between urban history, among other social urban disciplines, and museology, towards new ways of tackling citizenship in city museums, which are experimenting a deep renewal all over Europe.

  • Spokesperson: Joan Roca-i-Albert, MUHBA (Barcelona City History Museum)
  • Co-organizer(s): Jari Harju, Helsinki City Museum | Joana Sousa-Monteiro, Museum of Lisbon | Elena Pérez-Rubiales, City History Museums and Research Network of Europe
  • Keywords: City museums | Historical change | Urban movement
  • Time period: All periods
  • Topic(s): Cultural | Heritage
  • Study area: Europe