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INSTITUTIONAL ENTREPRENEURS OF A DIFFICULT PAST: THE ORGANISATION OF KNOWLEDGE REGIMES IN POST-SOVIET LITHUANIAN MUSEUMS

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Chapter Summary

This chapter responds to recent critiques of the public uses of histories of the Holocaust and communist crimes in Lithuania by exploring the creation of the Museum of Genocide Victims and Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum in Vilnius. It has become a cliche to argue that Lithuanian public sector organisations, particularly museums, emphasise the terrible legacy of communist crimes and that they tend to forget - and even actively avoid making public - information about the killings of Lithuania’s Jews. Participation of ethnic Lithuanians in the Holocaust, such critiques argue, is particularly obscured. This study provides empirical data which questions this view: it brings to attention the history of Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum, the existence of which has so far been overlooked by many scholars. In addition, this chapter suggests that in order to better understand the development of museum exhibitions about difficult periods in Lithuania’s past, the Holocaust and communist crimes, it is necessary to go beyond the prevailing theoretical framework which analyses museum exhibitions as representations. Given that museums are highly heterogeneous organisations, which function as a result of collaboration (but not necessarily consensus) among many different actors, it is useful to study them as public knowledge regimes, a theoretical perspective developed by Michel Foucault and his followers. This Foucauldian approach is enriched with the organisational theory of ‘institutional entrepreneurs’, promoted by Paul DiMagio, which focuses particularly sharply on the potentially controversial role of individuals in creating and institutionalising organisations.

10.1163/9789401208895_005
/content/books/b9789401208895s005
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