This collection of conference papers examines the different narratives that museums have; since the beginning of the nineteenth century and up until the present day; developed as monuments to and of national histories. The aim has been to identify how narratives and their impact might have changed over time and more particularly how this can contribute to our understanding of how they might be changing today. The expression "great historical narratives" was chosen to avoid being tied down to the more ideologically specific defined notions "grand" and "master" narratives. Indeed; the perspective of these conferences was to consider the principles that have allowed the national museum to coherently present great histories in a literal sense – vast and spanning major chronological and geographical subjects. The collection places emphasis on the idea that narratives of the past are accounts based on the diversity of materials or factual sources used to illustrate them; constrained by conventions that bestow particular values or meaning upon them.
It is produced within the three-year research programme EuNaMus – European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; coordinated at Tema Q at Linköping University (www.ep.liu.se/eunamus/). EuNaMus explores the creation and power of the heritage created and presented by European national museums to the world; Europe and its states; as an unsurpassable institution in contemporary society. National museums are defined and explored as processes of institutionalized negotiations where material collections and displays make claims and are recognized as articulating and representing national values and realities. Questions asked in the project are why; by whom; when; with what material; with what result and future possibilities are these museums shaped.
The collection is based on the presentations made by researchers that came together from across Europe during two separate events organised by EuNaMus directed by Dominique Poulot at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne: Great historical narratives in European museums (1750-2010): Building National; Looking across Borders and Remembering the Past; Paris; Institut national d’histoire de l’art; 29th of June to the 1st of July; 2011; Great historical narratives in Europe’s National Museums; CRRMF; Louvre and Institut national d’histoire de l’art; Paris; 25th and 26th of November 2011.