War Exhibit at the Ruhr Museum in Essen

The Ruhr Museum in Essen, Germany, is an ideal venue for an innovative exhibit on the difficult memory of modern warfare. The Ruhr Museum is the premier site for cultural and historical exhibits in the Ruhr Valley. This project Germany’s most densely populated urban region. The museum is housed at the site of the former coalmine Zeche Zollverein, a UNESCO world heritage site. It attracts over 400,000 visitors per year and ranks in the top ten of Germany’s history museums. The museum’s director, Theodor Grütter studied with Germany’s most prominent philosopher of history, Jörn Rüsen, and is equally well versed in historical theory, museum didactics, and memory culture. The Ruhr Museum is thus an excellent site to launch a close cooperation between museum practitioners and memory studies specialists for the purpose of developing and testing agonistic memory strategies.
The exhibit will present controversial agonistic encounters on the level of form and content. We will showcase diametrically opposed opinions about the same events and expose history to a provocative media ‘cross-fire’ for instance by featuring in close proximity authentic battle gear, explicit casualties photos, and cutting-edge video game entertainment. Rather than arranging objects and interpretations of warfare from one consistent narrative vantage point, for instance the perspective of pacifism, we will present to our visitors a constellation of dialogical clusters without a priori privileging one perspective/interpretation over another. Moreover, rather than focusing on one conflict we will cover different wars of the 20th Century. All the while, we will maintain a clear focus on Ruhr Valley history to enhance the visitors’ affective ties to the material at hand.