Performing the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums

By Tamar Katriel | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Contextualizing Settlement Museum Discourse

ON THE TEXTURE OF SETTLEMENT MUSEUM NARRATION

Settlement museum narration can be said to involve a multilayered relationship between stories and objects. Essentially, these museums are constructed around the master-narrative of Israeli pioneering and it is the narrative logic of this tale that shapes the nature and the limits of the collecting and exhibiting practices that generate the display. In other words, museum making in this context has to do with visualizing the story of Zionist settlement. Museum guides then operate within the parameters set by the display, injecting narrative segments into their interpretive accounts at chosen junctures along the tour route. The objects serve as triggers and alibis for the act of narration, and through narrating the objects the tour guides concretize and usually multiply and reaffirm the meanings and values encoded in the master-narrative that grounds the museum project as a whole. The object stories are not linked together in an associative way, nor are they integrated in terms of an overarching narrative structure. They comprise evocative signs couched in an idiom of materiality whose power lies mainly in the narrative potential an object holds for a particular guide on given occasions. The evocative sense of presence attached to settlement museum artifacts has to do with the shared cultural symbolism related to the pioneering era that is propagated in the museum context as part of its intramural conversation, as well as with the guide's fund of personally meaningful stories.

Therefore, museum narrations are always both collaboratively constructed and individually inflected. In the storytelling context of the guided tour -- as in the historical discourse of the Mexicano elders studied by Briggs

-144-

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