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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The Cold War in European museums - filling the 'empty battlefield'
Author(s): Alberti, Samuel J M M
Nehring, Holger
Keywords: Cold War
material culture
Issue Date: 2022
Date Deposited: 17-Aug-2021
Citation: Alberti SJMM & Nehring H (2022) The Cold War in European museums - filling the 'empty battlefield'. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 28 (2), pp. 180-199.
Abstract: Recent historical research has analysed the Cold War as an ‘imaginary war’, an interpretation that poses specific challenges for displaying the conflict in museums. In contrast to well-established representations of the First and Second World Wars in exhibitions, we find that the nature of the Cold War in Europe and the North Atlantic has made it difficult to tell stories of victimhood, heroism and military valour. Moreover, the memory and heritage of the Cold War have often been presented as monolithic and lacking specific chronologies, adding to the difficulty of telling stories through objects. This article explores how selected museums and exhibitions in the UK and Germany have addressed this double challenge. We examine how the conflict is portrayed, how buildings, images, text and artefacts interact in selected museums and exhibitions, and how they generate specific interpretations. We show these interpretations to be diverse and fractured: each museum chose different paths to staging the Cold War. From their comparison, in the context of heritage studies, we make the case for a distinct museology of the Cold War. We argue for a reflective approach that encourages the engagement of museum and heritage professionals with diverse material culture, filling the ‘empty battlefield’.
DOI Link: 10.1080/13527258.2021.1954054
Rights: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
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