Peggy Levitt is the author of Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You write about the different approaches to their museums and their changing populations in Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, Doha, New York, and Boston. How did you pick these locations, and did one country’s or city’s approach particularly stand out?--Marshal Zeringue
A: I picked these places because I was interested in looking at pairs of countries at different stages of nation-building projects, and where they were in their status in the world.
Sweden and Denmark are old imperial powers. They’re over that; they’re not trying to be great world powers. The United States is, depending on who you talk to, at its height or on its way down. Singapore and Doha are really using museums to build their nations and stake out a more prominent position in the world.
It’s interesting to compare the three sets, and include settings outside the West…You have to be fair in comparing. Each country is very different in its demography, its history, its way of managing diversity.
It’s not surprising that some of the more innovative programming in the United States is not [found in the] the central focus—the Brooklyn and Queens museums are not like the Met; they have more freedom.
The [world culture] museum in Sweden is doing really innovative programming. That has to do with a commitment to creating global citizens.
Q: You write, “What museums do in New York and Boston also says something about how the United States sees itself in the world.” What do you think the Boston and New York approaches say about that?
A: I think comparatively speaking, each of the museums I focused on is...[read on]