What's at Stake? History Wars, the NMA and Good Government

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Julie Marcus


I want to place the fate of the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in the context of some of the political strategies that underpin the electoral placidity and public acceptance of a government so radically reshaping Australian democratic institutions. A national museum that reaches and engages with a national constituency can be an important place for the vigorous public debate that democracy requires. In such a place, political doctrines and dogmas, cultural fantasies and assumptions, historical interpretations and good old common-sense may all be scrutinised as well as confirmed. Such a place sits beside schools and universities, public libraries and art galleries and festivals, each of which provides the opportunity for reflection as well as for congratulation. As with the other publicly funded but independent sites of public reflection, the National Museum is to be reined in and redirected. It is to become ‘balanced’. Nothing could more surely ring its death knell. In future, the museum’s visitors will reflect along the narrow and limited lines of carefully delineated ‘alternatives’ that in fact confine and constrain rather than enlarge understanding.

Article Details

Provocations (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Julie Marcus, Independent Scholar

JULIE MARCUS is a feminist anthropologist. Formerly Senior Curator of Social History at the NMA, she has published a number of essays on Australian culture, Islam and gender. Her most recent book is the prize-winning biography of neglected Australian anthropologist Olive Muriel Pink.