Appel à communication : « Mars and Museum » (18-20 septembre 2014, Berlin)

Mars and Museum. European Museums during the First World War (working title)
International Conference

organised by
Bénédicte Savoy (Technische Universität Berlin),
Petra Winter (Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz),
Christina Kott (Centre Marc Bloch Berlin, Université Panthéon-Assas Paris)

Date: September 18, 2014 – September 20, 2014

Location: Technische Universität Berlin, Strasse des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, and the Museum Hamburger Bahnhof, Invalidenstrasse 50-51, 10557 Berlin

Submission deadline: April 30, 2013


Today it has almost been forgotten that not only the Second World War but also the First World War constituted a crucial break in the history of European museums. As a matter of fact, the Louvre was almost completely evacuated and the holdings sent to Toulouse and Blois. The Hermitage, in Saint Petersburg, was transformed into a military hospital for several years, and its collections were transported to Moscow. In Berlin, the marvelous coin collection from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum (today’s Bode Museum) was endangered since the Reichsbank, the National Bank of the German Reich, had made a claim on it as a guarantee for its gold. And the British Museum in London lost 11 of its curators to the war. On the Western as well as on the Eastern Front, museum activities were interrupted or disordered for many years due to destruction and evacuations. The acquisition of new works of art was difficult during and especially in the aftermath of the war. However, in many museums the war opened up unexpected opportunities to undertake museum reforms, create new displays, and make architectural changes. The history of European museums during the First World War has not yet been written, or if so then only within the framework of institutional histories of some of the large and middle-sized museums.
The aim of the scheduled conference is to highlight, for the first time, the fate of museum buildings, museum collections, and museum collaborators during the First World War in a transnational and comparative perspective. Structural similarities, as well as national characteristics, in the different museum war histories will be analyzed. The conference aims not only to reflect the transnational turn of museum studies but also intends to promote it by identifying gaps and desiderata for research.

The focus of papers – which may be case studies or comparative studies – should be on one of the following aspects:

1) Actors
Lines of action, scope, circulation, and experiences of museum collaborators within their home institutions or behind the front line. The role of women. Political and scientific positioning in the European “Cultural War.” Museum activities in war areas and occupied territories. Development of war-associated exhibitions.

2) Discourses
Involvement of museums as “temples of culture” in the battle against the “barbarian enemy,” by means of propagandist writings and lectures made by the different warring parties. Shaping of museum-specific argumentation lines in ethnological museums. Development of special terminologies at the interface between “art protection” and “art looting.” Museums and museum collections in the visual propaganda.

3) Art Works and collections
Evacuations and war losses, protective measures at and in museums. Restitution claims for single works of art or whole collections, looting plans. Maintained or interrupted exhibition activities. Transformation of museum buildings for war purposes. Art collections as financial factors. Organization of war exhibitions behind the front line. Acquisition politics, art market, and war. Plans for museum rearrangements and new buildings. Dealing with excavations under museum administration in front areas and in non-European regions.

Please send your submissions (approx. 1000 characters) for a 30-minute lecture as well as some short biographical notes by April 30, 2013 to Bénédicte Savoy ( and Christina Kott ( Conference languages are German, English, and French.


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