Karen Shelby on Belgian museums of the Great War

Memex WW1 has the pleasure to invite you to a lecture of and discussion with art historian Karen Shelby. She will be presenting her current book project History, Memory or Commerce?: Belgian Museums of the Great War, in which she examines several prominent museums along the Western Front in Flanders, Belgium, within the framework of the centennial of the Great War.

The history of the Belgian experience is relatively unknown outside of the country. English-language accounts of the war focus on Great Britain, France, and Germany (and usually in that order). In the years leading up to the centennial, a surge in research on the war was paralleled by a wider non-academic interest of the conflict. In preparation for the anniversary, many of the Belgian museums and other institutions dedicated to the war overhauled exhibition content, redesigned education programs, and reorganized their archives. As 2014 approached, the directors and curators noted a need to re-evaluate the ways in which the war was presented to a contemporary public. Many were influenced by the “new museology,” which addresses the relationship between museums and their societies and communities. I analyze the recent changes in the museums and demonstrate how a political and historical framework has influenced the content of these intuitions to address the war from a local, Belgian and Flemish experience. The focus on only museums in Flanders, Belgium, allows for an in-depth evaluation of how each museum in Flanders works with, as well as competes against, one another in the memory and tourist industry in the region.

Karen Shelby is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Baruch College, City College of New York. She holds a M.A. from The Ohio State University with a concentration in Southeast Asian Buddhist Art and Architecture and a Ph.D. in art history from the Graduate and University Center of the City College of New York. She is currently a visiting professor at the Universiteit Gent for Fall 2015 sponsored by a Fulbright/Terra Foundation of American Art Fellowship. Her research focuses on the visual culture of the Great War with an emphasis on the memory of the conflict in Belgium, specifically Flemish nationalism. Her book, Flemish Nationalism and the Great War: The Politics of Memory, Visual Culture and Commemoration, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.


Friday, November 27, 10 pm until 1 am
Venue : Belspo, avenue Louise/Louizalaan, 231, 1060 Bruxelles
Free entrance, but please register by emailing genevieve [dot] warland [at] uclouvain [dot] be