Mirror or Masquerade? On Representational Ethics in Cultural Heritage Museology And Tourism
Master’s Program in Coastal and Marine Management, Faculty of Business and Science, University Center of the Westfjords, University of Akureyri, 400 Ísafjörður, Iceland
Icelandic cultural heritage museology is embedded in a complex of social, political, and economic matters, at both the national and continental levels, that look to tourism as an opportunity for development in rural regions. The present paper draws on master’s research that examined the relationships of Westfjords communities with two maritime heritage museums in the region. Two qualitative case studies based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with heritage producers connected to each site were supplemented with additional qualitative data from a focus group comprised of five Westfjords residents. Open and closed coding schemes based on the condensation of transcripts into thematic units were used to analyze the data, thus producing descriptions of the representational ethos of each museum, and findings were subjected to ethical analysis. Both museums were found to reflect contemporary issues that are subject to debates about cultural identity, heritage, and representational style and ideology, while analysis revealed that there is a persistent danger of oversimplifying or distorting cultural representations, particularly where each museum has stakes in tourism. This was judged a potential disservice to the nuanced identities of local communities, and a recommendation was put forth for museums to engage conscientiously with questions of identity and cultural representation.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2014
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.