Paleizen van het volk. Stemmen voor de democratisering van het museumbezoek in België (1860-1914)
Palaces of the people. Lobbying on behalf of the democratisation of museum visits in Belgium (1860-1914)
In the second half of the nineteenth century Belgian museums increasingly came under fire. They were heavily criticized for having become lifeless institutions that failed to fulfil their educational role. The mundane and overcrowded manner in which they presented their collections and their failure to provide any background information for visitors concerning their exhibits resulted in them being viewed as rather boring establishments by most people. A handful of museum reformers who wanted to help museums lose their reputation for stuffiness and elitism came up with all kinds of proposals to make the process of visiting museums more democratic. This article examines those proposals. The case of the Koninklijke Museums voor Sier- en Nijverheidskunst, established in 1889 in Brussels, is used to illustrate how the museums themselves dealt with the criticism and plans for reform. In this way it is hoped that some light may be shed on a relatively unexplored area, namely the history of cultural consumption and museum attendance in Belgium in the nineteenth century.
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