Your museum is changing
Thank you very much for your participation in the search for a new name for MEG. Between 25 March and the end of April 2021, more than 1,400 people took part in the "MEG is changing" campaign and submitted almost 1,500 name proposals!
As part of this call for participation, we also received many questions about the future of the Museum. Subscribe to our social networks to follow the news of the MEG and discover the videos we produce on the projects of the Museum and its evolution. We will also keep you informed of the next steps in the name change of the MEG.
In the video below, published in mid-April on our social networks, Boris Wastiau, Director of MEG, gives an update on the name change campaign and answers questions about the Museum's future exhibitions.
An unprecedented transition
MEG is undergoing an unprecedented transition since the museum was founded in 1901. Two years ago, we initiated an in-depth transformation that matches the reality of our practices with the innovation expected of a 21st century museum.
Discover the MEG's Strategic Plan [PDF in French 1.25 Mo], developed within the roadmap of the Department of Culture and Digital Transition.
An evolution of our practices
To bring our Museum into line with contemporary reality, we have chosen several strategic axes of change that contribute to the cultural and and social policy of the City of Geneva.
The essential axis of change for MEG is the decolonial process. This process concerns both the approach and the use of our collections, acquired in a colonial context, as well as our daily museum practices, inherited from the 19th century, or our commitment to the service of society.
These changes in our internal strategy have an impact on our upcoming exhibitions, which will now address of global and societal significance and will be treated in an interdisciplinary manner. This new approach is very different from that of the 'classic' ethnographic museums, which represent themes linked to a culture, a people, a country or a region.
The evolution of our practices will also lead us to completely redesign our permanent exhibition by 2024, to reflect the wealth of new perspectives on these collections of colonial origin.
In our autumn exhibition, we will address the diversity of indigenous perspectives on the environmental changes that affect them, the injustices that result and the alternatives they propose. Then in other exhibitions, we will question our relationship with life, we will question the means of projecting ourselves into the future, we will reflect on the exploitation of natural resources and their sustainability, and integrate the question of the question of territoriality and modes of governance.
A necessary change
We do not change for the sake of change.
We are changing out of conviction and responsibility, not only to you, our audiences, but also to the countless cultures in the world, many of whose cultural heritage is to be found in museums like ours.
We are changing to offer you spaces and moments of critical reflection on our future.
We are changing to offer you a more active museum experience focused on content creation, encounters and shared moments.
We are changing because we are convinced that it is sometimes necessary to tackle the past head on in order to better build the future.
Why change ?
The observation of an 'exotic' world, with an ethnocentric view, has long since ceased to be relevant. Relationships with the indigenous people are intensifying globally and at MEG we seek to ensure that they are based on fair and inclusive exchanges. The relationship with objects, as it was in a colonial and neo-colonial context, is now clearly challenged. We have embarked on a process of decolonisation through dialogue with the source communities to illuminate the history of our collections and to deepen our knowledge of where our objects come from and how they were acquired.
The themes addressed in our future exhibitions will focus on cross-cutting societal issues, on the dynamics and convergences between societies, rather than on what distinguishes them from one another. Our vision focuses on interculturality, on what connects and brings people together, rather than on what separates and distinguishes. We always work in a translocal approach, i.e. one that brings together points of view, rather than perpetuating unilateral and often eurocentric visions.
Our institution, whose disciplinary field was defined according to the categories prevailing at the end of the 19th century, and whose term "ethnography" remains like a stigma, no longer reflects the diversity of the disciplines practised there. The MEG freely brings together the most diverse forms of artistic production, the human, social and natural sciences, as well as the most varied forms of philosophical, political, literary or militant expression. Our Museum is fully in tune with contemporary society and proposes approaches that are much more global than those inherited from the "ethnographic" period.
A new name for MEG ?
The name of a public institution is a symbol. A name is also a promise. Today, the name of MEG, the Museum of Ethnography in Geneva, is no longer in line with our vision for the future. We are asking ourselves a lot of questions about the resonance of this name, about what it represents and about the usefulness of changing it. This name was the promise made in 1901 to the Geneva public. Can this name be the promise of the Museum and the public service in 2021 ?
The evolution of thinking and practices within the Museum is increasingly rapid, and we believe that changing the name of MEG would allow us to move decisively towards the future. It is an opportunity to offer you a new perspective, a new promise and to support the strategic changes of the Museum.
The new name is a symbol of profound and inevitable change, not just a change of symbol.
Why change the name of MEG?
The word "ethnography" refers to a 19th century discipline. It is a relic of a colonial past that we no longer wish to value today.
Ethnography as a discipline alone has become a name that is far too limiting to reflect the Museum's activities and its new strategic orientations. The term does not generate the idea of a Museum that projects itself into the future.
The name "ethnography" is not well known to the general public and is a hindrance to the creation of links with visitors who are not familiar with the institution and who are reluctant to visit it.
The acronym MEG is only recognised by a small number of people, and has little or no meaning beyond our regions.
The word "museum" can even be questioned, and is widely questioned in the museum world, where many "museums" do not have this word in their name.
Over the past few months, we have been working in depth on the name of the Museum to understand and evaluate the issues surrounding such a change.
If the name of the Museum changes, here is what does not:
Our history !
We are proud of our Museum's history and the step we are taking is in no way an act to erase the past. We will continue to explain our heritage and discuss the origins of our collections.
Our collections !
We will always care for the collections entrusted to us and shed light on their history by learning more about the provenance of the objects, in particular the reason for their acquisition and how they were acquired. Today, we are renewing our dialogue with the cultures of origin, engaging in discussions about our objects with the communities that are linked to them and wish to be included in the reflection.
Our audiences are always at the heart of the concerns of the Museum, which is a public service of the City of Geneva. While these initiatives are based on internal intentions, they also respond to questions, and even criticisms, that are becoming increasingly important, both in Switzerland and internationally. For these reasons, we sincerely invite you to participate in this decisive stage in the history of your Museum by expressing your opinion on the question of a name change.