Martor No. 22 / Year 2017

A Sense of Past: Usages of Objects in Naïve Museology

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Author: Anca-Maria Pănoiu

About the author:

Anca-Maria Pănoiu
MA, Centre of Excellence in Image Studies (University of Bucharest) and Assistant curator of the Image Archive (Museum of the Romanian Peasant)
E-mail: anca.maria_p at yahoo dot com

Pages: 149-164.

Keywords: naïve museums, syntax of objects, local identity, temporality, tradition.


This paper aims to establish a theoretical framework for the analysis of what I propose to call “naïve museums” by making reference to three actual instances of the phenomenon in contemporary Romania. All these naïve museums – as I venture to call them – are quasi-anonymous, private collections, mainly ethnological in character, set up out of passion by people few of whom have any specific expertise. What unites them is the enthusiasm and creativity they bring to the task of gathering, selecting and displaying objects they consider representative of the local culture. Thus, naïve museums must be approached from the perspective of their creators’ intuitive museological discourse, as they most often emphasise one particular type of local identity and are pervaded by their founders’ biography and tastes and strongly marked with their own creative touch.

In something of a contrast with the culturally composite character of the mainly rural areas where such museums are springing up in contemporary Romania, their creators configure a local identity that makes strong references to an undefined, remote and idyllic past. Taking as a guiding principle Eric Hobsbawm’s understanding of tradition as a social construct and practice of modernity, I will subject to analysis three such naïve museums by using the principle of the “syntax of objects,” a theoretical framework designed to reveal the meanings enshrined in these museums by their creators, themselves merely agents who constantly interpret and transform, through verbal and object discourse, both their local culture and their museums.

How to cite this article: Pănoiu, Anca-Maria. 2017. “A Sense of Past: Usages of Objects in Naïve Museology.” Martor 22: 149-164.