16nov19:00Artefacts and Identities
Dr. Theodor E. Ulieriu-RostásRecovering the Provisional. Musealization and Photography in the Early Years of the Museum of Ethnography and National Art in Bucharest (1906 – 1912)
IMPORTANT NOTICE: To attend this online lecture via Zoom, prior registration is necessary: Please send an email specifying your
IMPORTANT NOTICE: To attend this online lecture via Zoom, prior registration is necessary: Please send an email specifying your name and academic affiliation to email@example.com by 14 November 2022 (Monday) at the latest. For technical reasons, the number of participants is limited. You will be informed about the organizational and technical procedure before the lecture starts.
Dr. Theodor E. Ulieriu-Rostás
(Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Ethnological Archive)
Recovering the Provisional. Musealization and Photography in the Early Years of the Museum of Ethnography and National Art in Bucharest (1906 – 1912)
Wednesday, 16 November 2022, 19:00 (Turkish time, GMT + 3)
The 1900 Exposition Universelle and the 1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition brought renewed interest in defining Romanian national specificity in visual and applied arts for wider audiences at home and abroad. In this context, German-trained art historian Alexandru Tzigara-Samurcaș was appointed director of the newly established Museum of Ethnography and National Art in Bucharest (1906). Central to Tzigara-Samurcaș’ museal practice were his frequent acquisition trips in rural areas and his interventionist stance, which informed the relocation of large, freestanding structures to the museum – including an entire peasant house rebuilt indoors by its original maker. The museum and its collections were accommodated on the premises of the former State Mint, an ensemble shared with other public institutions on the northern outskirts of the city, while Tzigara-Samurcaș championed the project of a purposefully designed edifice in grand “national style” to be built on the same site, or preferably closer to downtown Bucharest. As such, the first ethnographic exhibition set up for about four years (April 1907 – spring of 1912) was caught in a peculiar state of fluidity: its existence was needed as a proof of validity for the museum as a large-scale project, but its setup at the old Mint was intended to remain provisional. Moreover, the incipient state of the collections left taxonomies, aesthetics and the underlying cultural narrative of the exhibition in constant negotiation, with displays reworked and artefacts permutated in the pace of new entries to the museum’s inventory.
Judging by his published work, it would seem that Tzigara-Samurcaș was not interested in memorializing his early museal experiments. While his militant articles from the 1900s included several views of the provisional exhibition, none was reproduced in his Romanian Museography (1936). The surviving photographic fonds of the museum comprise nonetheless several series of glass-plate negatives documenting the exhibition rooms, as well as details and individual artefacts put on display. TzigaraSamurcaș’ own production as an amateur photographer includes early film negatives taken on his acquisition trips and in the early setup of the museum. This presentation will draw the outlines of a comprehensive approach to this largely unstudied corpus. It aims to recover, as much as possible, the concreteness of these inaccessible spaces, to shed light on the intertwined microhistories of musealisation captured herein, and to reflect on the uses of photography in an early 20th century museum.
Theodor E. Ulieriu-Rostás has studied history and archaeology at the University of Bucharest, the University of Montpellier and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris). He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Bucharest (2013) and was subsequently a research fellow at the New Europe College (2015 – 2016) and the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest (2018 – 2019). He also received research scholarships from the French Government, the French School at Athens, and the Hardt Foundation for the Study of Classical Antiquity (Vandoeuvres). Theodor E. Ulieriu-Rostás currently holds the position of assistant researcher at the Ethnological Archive of the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Bucharest), where his research centres on 19th and early 20th century photography in Central and Southeast Europe.