Diaspora Museums: Perspectives, Projects, Prospects

Diaspora museums constitute powerful public venues for the making and dissemination of knowledge about otherness. Creating cross-cultural spaces where the broader public encounters representations of a group and its transnational connections, diaspora museums are of major importance for shaping the perceptions of visitors and raising social and political questions.

Museums produce knowledge in multiple ways. They may initiate oral history projects, collaborate with communities, or translate academic research for popular consumption. Their power lies in their mediating function in civil society.

Despite their importance, museums are understudied and undertheorized in Greek diaspora studies. Because of this neglect, and in view of an unfolding interest in their making and study, Ergon has invited several academic stakeholders for a conversation about their museum-centered initiatives in Greece and Canada. In their contributions we will be reading about their perspectives, projects, and reflections regarding the prospects of museums in and about the diaspora, and the study of their politics and poetics.

It is essential that the discussion expands in the future to include museum curators and directors shaping the representations of their respective diasporas in various continents.

The present conversation consists of five essays:

Matoula Scaltsa and Angeliki Tsiotinou present their archival research on Greek immigration and diaspora in Thessaloniki, Greece, in the context of The Diaspora Research and Immigration Initiative (DRIMMI).

In Keeping the Dream Alive, The DRIMMI Initiative: Narrativizing a Museum of Greek American Immigration and Diaspora, Yiorgos Anagnostou introduces the DRIMMI project and discusses the work involved toward developing a museum narrative in this context.

In Greek Immigration and Diaspora in the United States—Its Museum Representation via Tangible and Intangible Material: Organizing the Narrative, Yiorgos Anagnostou and Nikos Poulopoulos share their proposed museum narrative for DRIMMI.

Tassos Anastasiadis discusses developments associated with the Digital Museum of Greek Immigration to Canada, produced by the “ImmiGrec Project.” (forthcoming)

The conversation concludes with a new initiative. Alexander Kitroeff offers a personal reflection outlining his plan toward the making of a Greek emigration and diaspora museum in Athens, Greece.

Editor’s Note: For scholarship on Greek American museums see:

David Sutton, Review of Sweet Home Chicago: The History of America’s Candy Capital. Exhibit at the National Hellenic Museum. Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters. 30 October, 2017.

Βασιλική Παπαδημητρίου, Ταυτότητα & Υποκείμενο στο ταξίδι «διασχίζοντας τον Ατλαντικό»: Μουσειολογικές προσεγγίσεις για τη μετανάστευση στην Αμερική στον 20ου αιώνα. Διπλωματική εργασία. Διαπανεπιστημιακό Διατμηματικό Πρόγραμμα Μεταπτυχιακών Σπουδών «Μουσειολογία-Διαχείριση Πολιτισμού», Τμήμα Αρχιτεκτόνων-Πολυτεχνική Σχολή, 2020.

Angeliki Tsiotinou, “Museum Poetics and Greek American Pasts. The Hellenic Cultural Museum and the Authority to Represent the Immigrant Past.” 13th International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, 3-5 September, 2020. Lisbon, Portugal.

Angeliki Tsiotinou, “Bringing Official and Unofficial Narratives in Contact: Greek American Museums and the Making of Migrant Pasts.” 12th International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, 7-9 November, 2019. Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Yiorgos Anagnostou, “On Museums.” Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters. 30 October, 2017.