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peace museums


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- synergy
- peacemaking in the 20thc
- peace museums
- engineering the future
- people on war – a survey

After WW1 Ernst Friedrich published War Against War a collection of pictures and text illustrating the suffering the war causes and the hypocrisy of the politicians responsible for it. Later he set up the Anti War museum in Berlin shown here after it was closed by the Nazis. Note the ‘shadow’ of the broken rifle above the door.


When you first hear of a ‘peace museum’ you may be slightly mystified or perhaps even a bit sceptical. It is easy to imagine what goes into a war museum, but what can you put in a peace museum? And if the peace movement is to be represented in a museum, does that mean it is being relegated to the past?

The first question, ‘what can you put in a peace museum’ points out the sad fact that while we are all too familiar with war and what it ‘looks like’, we have trouble envisioning peace. Therefore it is difficult to imagine what might go into a ‘peace museum’

The content of peace museums corresponds to what is, or should be, taught in peace studies programmes. Some of the topics included are:

- pacifism and war resistance
- peace movements
- disarmament
- non-violence
- conflict resolution
- law and international organisations
- human rights and development
- ecology and peace

What can ‘go in’ a peace museum is all the many different kinds of art and artefacts that illustrate these and other themes, such as paintings, drawings, sculpture, posters, banners, tapestries, books, photographs, films, videos, memorabilia and other historical artefacts. Ideally peace museums are active places which bring ‘peace’ to life, visually and experientially, through sight, sound, and movement, using art, film, drama and storytelling.

In answer to the second question – ‘do we want to relegate the peace movement to the past’ – the answer is an emphatic no! However, by looking to the past, we can be inspired to work for peace in the present and promote ways of working for a more peaceful future. The Peace Museum portrays current work for peace, in addition to also portraying peace movement history.

Through exhibitions and educational activities, peace museums aim to help build a ‘culture of peace’ in the here and now. One of the strengths of peace museums is that they can reach out to and involve a broad general public, many of whom might not be involved in the peace movement per se.

peace museums worldwide
There are about sixty peace and peace-related museums in 16 countries worldwide, as listed by the United Nations in Peace Museums Worldwide (League of Nations Archives, Geneva, 1998). Countries with established and developing peace museums include: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uzebekistan and Vietnam.

The number of peace museums increased greatly in the 1980s and 1990s and the international network of peace museums is still expanding. Peace museums are most numerous in Japan and Germany, followed by the United States. They range in size from small, privately-funded museums such as the Grassroots House in Kochi, Japan and the Swords into Ploughshares Gallery in Detroit, Michigan, to large, municipal museums such as the Caen Memorial and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The earliest peace museums, such as the First International Anti-War Museum established in Berlin in 1925, primarily depicted the horrors of war. Most peace museums now attempt to represent more positive and constructive approaches to peace. There is still debate, however, about the extent to which peace museums can depict war without becoming ‘war museums’

As noted by Peter van den Dungen in his article Peace Education: Peace Museums (Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict. Academic Press, 1999), the 20th century has witnessed a steady decline in the glorification of war, yet traditional attitudes to war and its commemoration are still strong. The challenge for peace museums is to tell the ‘untold stories,’ such as the struggles of conscientious objectors and war resisters. The Kyoto Museum for World Peace, for example, powerfully portrays the militarisation of Japanese society leading up to WWII, including propaganda in schools and conscription. It also documents the lives of little-known Japanese anti-militarists of the time.

In any case, peace museums are not only about war. As has often been said, we live in a culture of violence. We see it all around us, from war toys, to violence on television, to the nightly news of atrocities around the world. Peace museums can challenge the dominant view that violence is inevitable by depicting peacemaking in all its manifestations, from the school playground to the international community.

the Peace Museum in Bradford
The Peace Museum in Bradford is the first of its kind in Britain. For some years, it has been operating as a ‘museum without walls,’ creating travelling exhibitions and running an active educational programme which has included workshops for schools, film shows, public lectures and other events. We have opened a Peace Gallery in Bradford city centre where part of the collection is on display.

It is planned that by the end of 2001, the Peace Museum will be housed in an International Peace Centre (IPC), along with offices of related peace and justice organisations and facilities for Bradford University’s Peace Studies Department. The IPC will be an active peacemaking centre which we hope will be used by peace organisations throughout the country for their conferences and events. We welcome comments from individuals and organisations on what they would like to see in this new centre.

The Peace Museum aims to be a national resource in terms of its scope and outreach. Increasingly we are reaching out to other parts of the country through our travelling exhibitions. For example, the exhibition A Vision Shared: Art from the History of the Peace Movement is currently going out to schools and other venues such as town halls and libraries throughout the U.K., This is a colourful exhibition of 48 A-1 size panels which illustrates the history of the peace movement from the First World War to the present, depicting such themes as images and symbols of peace; pacifism and conscientious objection; internationalism; the nuclear disarmament movement and nuclear-free zones; campaign against the arms trade; education for peace, and more. There is no loan charge for the exhibition, and borrowers only need to cover the cost of transport and insurance. The exhibition can be viewed and downloaded from our website.

We hope that individuals and organisations across the country will involve themselves in the development of the Peace Museum by contributing items to the collection, joining the Friends network, using our current exhibitions and working with us on the development of future exhibitions. In the upcoming International Decade for a Culture of Peace of Peace and Nonviolence, there will be many opportunities for us to work together on jointly-planned exhibitions and other activities.
Working in co-operation with peace organisations, the Peace Museum can help inspire and motivate people of all ages to work for peace. It can also help affirm and strengthen the efforts of all the many individuals and organisations already working for peace around the world.
Peace Museum office, Jacobs Well, Manchester Rd, Bradford, W. Yorkshire BD1 5RW Tel: 01274 754009

Carol Rank


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