Aiming to start conversations on different topics relevant to museums and heritage community, we bring you the English translation of an article which was published in Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 13 (3), 575–594 by Tatjana Cvjetićanin (National Museum, Belgrade) titled “Museum Archaeology in Serbia and the Myth of Museum Neutrality”.
The article presents the standpoint according to which museums present objective and unbiased facts dominates both the public and professional discourse. However, the widely accepted idea that museums can be trusted – because they are prestigious authorities, independent research institutions, morally and intellectually neutral, in constant quest for knowledge – is essentially wrong. From the inception of museums, over their many types, till today, not a single museum nor a museum professional, has been neutral. Museums are social constructs, and politics is a part of their base. Nevertheless, the myth of museum neutrality perseveres, especially thanks to a large number of museums whose staff still proudly use their knowledge in order to collect and represent the museum material in an allegedly neutral and objective fashion, without interferences of reality and everyday life. The hypocrisy is evident in Serbia too, particularly in the case of historical narratives, but also obvious in permanent displays and exhibitions of archaeological material, as well as in the domain of museum archaeological research. The paper investigates the examples of apparent neutrality, the national, regional and local museums authorizing the achievements and superiority of the nation, glorifying the mediaeval history or celebrating the link to the Roman Empire, the ones that are the prestigious demonstration of authority, but as well the examples of personal interests and values that have formed the public discourse. These considerations raise the issue of ethics in museums.