B OO K R E V I E W : E X H I B I T I N G T H E P A S T Jocelyn Chey – TAASA Review June 2014


This article was originally found in the June 2014 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 23, Issue 2, Page 28).

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Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China Kirk Denton University of Hawai’i Press, 2014 RRP US$59.00, hard cover, 350 pages “Not another museum!” is a familiar refrain from someone participating in a tourist visit to China, only equalled by the alternative, “Not another temple!” A recent survey of Chinese museums listed a total of 2,200 across the country and undoubtedly most people have spent time in several, some with first-class displays and excellent explanatory material and some with boring poorly-lit glass case displays and information only in Chinese language text. Back in Cultural Revolution years, I was once asked to take a group of Australian jockeys round the National History Museum (don’t ask me why, it is a long story).

The material was organised in what was then standard Maoist/Marxist sequence, beginning with Primitive Society, then moving through Slave Society to Feudal Society.

It was hard to hold my charges’ attention through rooms of oracle bones and clay pots...