Exhibiting Refugees: The 1915 War Aid Exhibition in Vienna

History Seminar Series

School of Humanities and Social Science

The University of Newcastle

2012, Semester 2

Held in the Cultural Collections (near the Information Common)

Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus

Friday 19th October, 10:00am, followed by morning tea

Julie Thorpe (University of Western Sydney)

‘Exhibiting Refugees: The 1915 War Aid Exhibition in Vienna’

The 1915 War Aid Exhibition in Vienna put the Habsburg Empire’s wartime refugees on display in an exhibition that was as much about the Empire’s own legitimacy as it was about aid to displaced victims of war. The paper situates the 1915 exhibition within a broader relationship between empire, ethnography and museums at the turn of the century, addressing the ways in which the monarchy, museums and national elites all sought to foster the empire’s supranational identity of ‘unity-in-diversity’ and superimpose that identity on local populations in both metropolitan and local public spaces. Governing practices at both the imperial and local level relied on this visual representation of the empire’s constituent populations to legitimize relations between and across the empire’s nationalities and the monarchy itself. Museums and ethnographic work thus acted in their own as well as other (often mutually compatible) interests by creating an embodied landscape of governed diversity in the empire. The paper concludes on a contemporary lens ¾ digital, coloured, archived, mobile ¾ to speculate how the story of wartime refugees might be woven into other stories about trauma, materiality, humanitarianism, internationalism, memory and commemorative practices across boundaries of time and space.

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