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Authors:Arne Amundsen Bugge:
Publication title:National Museums in Sápmi
Conference:Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1
Publication type: Abstract and Fulltext
Article No.:031
Abstract:A case of high complexity; when discussed in a national museum perspective; is Sápmi; the accepted name of the multi-state area of the ’Sámi nation’ of Northern Europe. In the Sápmi case; museum history should be told in a retrospective manner. It is quite a recent phenomenon that the Sámi population in Norway; Sweden; Finland and Russia – after centuries of political suppression and decades of systematic assimilation strategies from the governments – is regarded as a nation and with Sápmi – the transnational area where the Sámi population has its traditional centre – as its geographical location. In this case; ‘the nation’ is conceived as a cultural and social entity with strong political ambitions both within and across established national borders in the region. Hence; there are no old national museums and no politically acknowledged Sámi state but explicit ideas on ‘national identity’. On the one hand; the Sámi population and the Sámi culture to a certain extent were included in the national narratives of Norway; Sweden and Finland in the nineteenth century; then mostly as an exotic element of the nation and exemplifying ‘primitive cultures’ of the north. On the other hand; the Sámi nation is a cultural construction of recent origin; albeit with some political institutions within and across established states.

The Sámi museums chosen to be presented in this report are museums that; in most cases; have a past as ethnic-local or ethnic-regional museums but in the last decades have been established with some sort of representative status on behalf of the Sámi culture or nation within the National States of the north or as museums with national responsibility for Sámi culture.

In most cases; Sámi organisations or local communities dominated by the Sámi people started to collect objects and immaterial culture. The oldest initiatives were around World War II when many Sámi settlements shared the war tragedies of this region. The most important wave of Sámi museum founding was; however; the 1970s and 1980s; when the Sámi people mobilised a great deal of political; symbolic and cultural strength in order to establish an indigenous identity across old national borders. Especially in Norway; with the largest Sámi population in Northern Scandinavia; many local and regional museums were established. As a consequence of the growing formal and cultural obligations of the Norwegian state towards its Sámi indigenous population; the first Sámi museum with national responsibility for Sámi culture and history was appointed in 1996 (museum 1). Yet there is no single Sámi museum institution designated to the role of leading national museum of Sápmi. Since 2002; the Norwegian Sámi Parliament has declared all Sámi museums national Sámi museums and organised them into regional clusters. In Finland and Sweden; the initiatives behind Sámi museums (museums 9-10) have also been private; local and/or regional. The State in all three countries acted more actively in the Sámi museum field in the 1980s and 1990s and dominantly for the same reason; i.e. growing obligations towards the Sámi populations as either national minorities (Finland; Sweden) or indigenous people (Norway).

Nation-building aspirations of the Sámi museums were not explicit from the very beginning; but developed from local or regional statuses into some form of national or nationally representative status. Apart from that; the Sámi case is an interesting example of the close relationship between political struggle for cultural recognition; judicial rights and reformation of historical narratives.

No. of pages:14
Series:Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):1650-3686
ISSN (online):1650-3740
Publisher:Linköping University Electronic Press; Linköpings universitet

Arne Amundsen Bugge (2011). National Museums in Sápmi, Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1;article=031 (accessed 2/14/2016)