In 2015, (refugee)history was written along Europe’s external and internal borders. During this year’s WIENWOCHE 2018, this history becomes a part of the permanent exhibition at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art.
¡Hola Banana! is printed on a brown cardboard box – inside it is children’s clothing sized 80 to 86. A transit relic of refugees in Austria in the year 2015. In the course of WIENWOCHE, this story becomes a fixed part of the exhibit at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art.
Revised permanent exhibitions are currently a must in Europe’s ethnological museums. In the museum in Vienna’s Laudongasse, a group of external curators – all currently undergoing the asylum process – have not only updated the existing collection but also incorporated a new collection of objects. Right next to traditional wardrobes from Tyrolean farmhouses, packed travel bags that had to be left behind while crossing the Mediterranean become relevant artefacts of Austrian cultural anthropology. The new exhibits bear witness to how Europe and Austria function at the beginning of the 21st century.
A broken life jacket as a museum piece? To a large extent, collection objects of ethnology are “genuinely worthless”, the curatorial team explains. “An object gets its collectible value only through interpretation and contextualisation.” Perhaps these collection pieces found on the coasts of Europe will be the ones that bring museums their desired European identity. For where governments and border patrols want to batten down the hatches, Europe has such clear contours as nowhere else.