The worldwide success of museums has relegated their original function to the background - collecting and researching. On 22 February 2018 Prof. Dr. Anja Grebe thus appealed in her inaugural lecture to remember again the museums’ initial mission and to promote their scientific functions. As to Grebe, an appointed professor of cultural history and museum collection science at Danube University Krems, museums are to preserve cultural memory.

Numerous members of the University and various museums attended Prof. Grebe’s inaugural lecture titled “The necessary museum. Collection Research and Society in the 21st century” and followed her thoughts on a strategy to continue to see the museum as a necessary institution for society in the future. According to current EGMUS statistics, there are about 20,000 registered museums in Europe, but the real number is likely to be much higher. Although collection, research and preservation were the major tasks of museums, they played a role in the fewest statistics, Grebe says. The social relevance of museums seems to be primarily measured in sales, visitor numbers and public expenditure – with fatal consequences. According to the expert on collection science, it is apparent that money is rarely invested in research and the preservation of the collected cultural heritage, but often only in economically “successful” museums and special exhibitions as tourist attractions.

Focusing on preservation
If the museum’s social significance should be preserved for the future, it is therefore of the utmost importance to take into account the museum’s actual core competence – collecting and researching. Besides the objects, the focus should also be on the collections as a knowledge carrier with innovative, transdisciplinary methods. “A person without memory has no identity either”, says Grebe. Collection research as a new discipline based on cultural studies is devoted to exploiting the potential of museum collections for the society of the 21st century.

Anja Grebe studied French literature, history and art and media studies at the University of Constance and the Université Paris-Sorbonne. In 2000, she obtained her doctorate in art studies at the University of Constance and qualified as a university lecturer in art history at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. The Albrecht Dürer specialist and museum curator for many years took up the chair of cultural history and museum collection studies at Danube University Krems.

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