Museums and mortality

This article applies the idea that culture is a response to human awareness of mortality to museums through the lens of two contrasting approaches to understanding death and dying: Terror management theory (TMT), based on the work of Ernest Becker; and The Social History of Dying by Allan Kellehear....

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Material religion
Main Author: O'Neill, Mark
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: [2012]
In:Material religion
Year: 2012, Volume: 8, Issue: 1, Pages: 52-75
Further subjects:B Terror Management Theory
B Immortality
B Death
B Museums
B Dying
B Culture
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
Description
Summary:This article applies the idea that culture is a response to human awareness of mortality to museums through the lens of two contrasting approaches to understanding death and dying: Terror management theory (TMT), based on the work of Ernest Becker; and The Social History of Dying by Allan Kellehear. A composite theory is constructed and used to review some aspects of museum history and policy. An important factor in the origin of museums was "death planning" among private collectors who pressured the state to create institutions which could assure their afterlife through the preservation of their collections. While much contemporary theory sees museums primarily as hegemonic institutions, this suggests that they are only effective instruments of power if they carry out the primary cultural task of creating meaning in the face of mortality. Many recent museum policies claim that showing a range of cultures promotes understanding and tolerance. If, however, museums trigger unconscious awareness of death, these displays are as likely to generate intolerance. A recent development in the theory—transcendence management—however, suggests that, depending on how death awareness is triggered, the responses can be creative and open-minded rather than defensive or hostile. An important implication for recent controversies about the social impact and value of museums is that these effects can be the subject of experiment, and not just of speculation.
ISSN:1751-8342
Contains:Enthalten in: Material religion
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.2752/175183412X13286288797890