This article was released in the ICOM Canada September 2019 e-newsletter on Cultural Diplomacy. See more articles from this issue here.
Simge Erdogan (Queen’s University)
Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and the Polycentral Museum by Lee Davidson and Leticia Pérez Castellanos
What is an international exhibition? How can museums work internationally through international exhibitions? What roles do international exhibitions play in our society? Cosmopolitan Ambassadors is a treasure trove of theory, practice, exploration, and insight, which provides in-depth answers to these questions. Authors Lee Davidson (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and Leticia Pérez Castellanos (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico) examine international exhibitions as mobile contact zones which not only mobilize objects but also people, ideas, and experiences around intercultural understanding and a cosmopolitan worldview. To read the full book review, please click here.
The book starts with a rich discussion of the history, issues, and models of international exhibitions which are put against the backdrop of an interdisciplinary framework that encompasses museum studies, cultural diplomacy, visitor studies, and international cultural relations. These theoretical discussions are followed by an in-depth and well-documented survey of two international exhibitions that were exchanged between New Zealand and Mexico: E Tū Ake: Standing Strong, an exhibition of Māori taonga (cultural treasurs), which was toured internationally by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa), and the exhibition Aztecs that was developed by Te Papa in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) of Mexico.
Davidson and Pérez Castellanos draw a vivid picture of international exhibitions as a form of intercultural exchange, interest, and understanding. Through interviews with museum staff involved in the development and production of these exhibitions, and with visitors who experienced them, the authors provide important insights into the complex processes of collaboration between Te Papa and INAH, illustrating how international exhibitions can apply collaboration and reflection as core elements of museum practice. Viewing international exhibitions through the lens of cultural diplomacy, Cosmopolitan Ambassadors provides a rich narrative of international exhibitions, which can advance a cosmopolitan view on the world stage.
Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and Polycentral Museum was published by Vernon Press in 2019. ISBN: 978-1-62273-174-9