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Museumification of Cultural & historical sites: a way to authenticate “Geography of Heritage”

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    By Dinberu Tamire Woldemariam

    The idea of authenticity is highly related with heritage sites/places (Andriotis, 2011). Proving and keeping its originality has its own impact on its attractiveness for tourists (Debary, 2004). The concept of museumfication related with ecomuseum since the goal is keeping the heritage alive or breathing life into a heritage site (Dellios & Paulette, 2002). Museumification can be defined as “transition from a living city to that of an idealized re-presentation of itself, wherein everything is considered not for its use but for its value as a potential museum artifact” (Di Giovine, 2009; pp261). It can be a combination tangible heritage (artifacts: buildings, tools, industrial centers and market places (Di Giovine, 2009)) and intangible heritage (life style, nation, ethnicity and other immaterial activities (Dellios & Paulette, 2002). The process of museumfication needs genuine local’s participation in order to differentiate from that of the regular museums one and to keep it alive for generations ahead (Di Giovine, 2009).

    The National Museum of the American Indian as a cultural heritage and District six Museum as a historical heritage can be taken as practical examples to elaborate the connection of museumfication with authenticity and geography of heritage. The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) was established in 1989 in Washington DC with the objective of celebrating the cultures of aboriginal Americans rather than putting their artifacts in the observation room (ICOM, 2014). During the process active participation of indigenous was needed, and they were successful even they managed to design the museum by an architect from the indigenous to put their finger print on the building structure as well (Cobb, 2005). Now the museum has more than 800000 artifacts, which were contributed by the natives (NMAI, 2014) . This could not be done if the indigenous were not involved. The main reason for considering NMAI as a living museum is because its considerable outreach community service and it promotes and assists for the continuity and creativity of indigenous cultural communities (Cobb, 2005). By doing this, NMAI authenticate the aboriginal’s culture while considered American Indian as a native inhabitant in the country.

    The other example is District Six as a historical heritage site. It was considered as a museum after the disintegrations of apartheid regime in South Africa in 1994 (Wikipedia, 2014). It commemorates the events of the apartheid period and its culture and history in that period (Wikipedia, 2014). These story tellers of this place are those who had been there in the apartheid era. “The very stuff of the museum is the resurrection of memories kept alive in the hearts and minds of its former residence” (ICOM, 2014). The reason for being as a living museum is that, the owners of the story are alive and they are the one who taking care of the place. The linkage between authenticity and geography of heritage can be elaborated in this situation as well. The originality of the story and the place, where the history took place, can easily be authenticated by the society, since the story has told by the one who was in the story.

    In general, I strongly believe that, the above mentioned to practical examples can depict how  museumfication play important role in order to authenticate the originality of the heritage site and its practices, since the main objective of museumfication is keeping heritage sites as a living museum.                                   


    Andriotis, K. (2011). Genres of heritage authenticity. Annals of Tourism Research, 38(4), pp.1613-1633.

    Cobb, A. (2005). The National Museum of the American Indian: Sharing the Gift. The American Indian Quarterly, 29(3), pp.361-383.

    Debary, O. (2004). Deindustrialization and Museumification: From Exhibited Memory to Forgotten History. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 595(1), pp.122-133.

    Dellios, Paulette (2002) "The museumification of the village: cultural subversion in the 21st Century," Culture Mandala: The Bulletin of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article 4.

    Di Giovine, M. (2009). The heritage-scape. Lanham: Lexington Books., (2014). ICOM - The International Council of Museums- ICOM. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014]., (2014). Home Page | National Museum of the American Indian. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].

    Wikipedia, (2014). District Six Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Nov. 2014].

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    Interesting read Dinberu. You are right. Museumification is one way of keeping our heritage alive, preserving it for the future generation.
    Posted 11:13, 2 Dec 2014
    Thank you Wilhelmina for your comment,
    I believe so, even if it has its own complication on the process. But it is the best way to keep its originality on the right place with the right story tellers.
    Posted 15:38, 2 Dec 2014
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