An excellent recent study; entitled Inventing Luxembourg: Representations of the Past; Space and Language from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century ; published in 2010 describes and analyses the historical master narrative of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by looking successively at the discourses relating to its history; territory and language. However; we might add that it pays little attention to projects related to its national museums. It does however; very usefully describe the major traits of national historiography â an analysis that we have relied upon and which has proved extremely fruitful and concordant in our consideration of the countryâs museums. The authors state in the introduction that: âthis book sets out to examine whether the more recent supranational narrative meshes with the classical national master narrative or whether it represents a paradigm shift. Has an exclusive narrative been replaced by an inclusive one? Has the ethnocentric viewpoint given way to a Eurocentric outlook? What elements of (dis)continuity are there between the traditional and the new strands of the master narratives? Both seem to rely on two concepts: particularism and Mischkultur (mixed culture)â (Pit; 2010: 9). This report will consider to what extent we can ask ourselves these same questions in relation to the development of Luxembourgâs national museums and their narratives.
Luxembourg; as an independent sovereign state; free of any foreign occupation since 1867; began establishing national collections at a relatively late stage in comparison to other countries. It did however; immediately appear as a priority to the Grand Duchy; with a decree that established the administrative basis for such an institution in 1968 to create the Grand-Ducal Institute. The two main collections of History and Art and of Natural History; though occupying a modest display area in the AthĂ©nĂ©e from the 1850s onwards; only became independent institutions in the 1920s and opened their doors to the public shortly before the Second World War.
In 1988; the state museums and archives were officially given the title ânationalâ; reflecting along with the 1984 Language Law and the construction of the National Monument of Remembrance in 1985; an âupsurge of interest in representations of the past (both memory and history)â; (Pit; 2010: 8). In terms of cultural policy for national museums; a major turning point was Luxembourgâs role as European Capital of Culture in 1995; an event that crystallised national interest and implication in cultural affairs; allowing the state to measure its âtardiness in matters of cultural infrastructureâ (Consulate general of Luxembourg in Shanghai; 2011; online). The city has since invested in major cultural projects including a Philharmonic Hall; National Audiovisual Centre; a National Centre for Literature; but also a new home for its already existing national museums; a new municipal museum dedicated to the cityâs history and two new national museums: the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the Fortress â all of which we will consider as case studies further on. The last two examples will show how the notions of Particularism and Mischkultur (mixed culture) have found an expression in this new master narrative reflecting an old image of the city symbolized and envisioned as a fortress; âseen as both oppressive and protectiveâ (Pit; 2010: 4). The fortress represents Luxembourg but also the influence of all the foreign powers who ruled the country as successive occupants; from âVauban to Wenceslasâ (Consulate general of Luxembourg in Shanghai; 2011; online). In the last decade; this image of the country has been materialised through the installation of two museums; one resolutely modern and international; the other clearly national and local.