(Im)material practices in museums
In 2002, once the Alqueva Dam is finished, what is announced as Europe’s largest artificial lake will begin to appear. A possible inventory of what will be lost follows.
Luz village Estrela village (partially) 25 000 hectares of Alentejo land 14 000 hectares of National Agricultural Reserve Our first kiss hidden by the night your eyes remained closed my body levitated the stars alone smiled 360 archaeological sites Vila Velha de Mourão Several Roman bridges We raced each other to dive into the river we thrashed the waters like a shoal of tuna fishes caught in the net climbed out exultant – naked and shiny – like river gods Xerês cromlech Lousa’s Roman castle Cuncos’ Roman settlement On returning from school I would meet you in the yard and on my request you would do a handstand the white knickers – the contour of your legs heavenly vision gifts from a girl to a kid Senhora do Alcance Convent Outeiro do Castelinho’s Roman villa
Xerês 12 Neolithic habitat Do you remember when we used to fill the stream with paper boats a full crusade set on conquering the sea Mercator 5 Calcolithic settlement Monte do Tosco’s Calcolithic settlement Santo António Country House Running away from home to Outeiro do Marôco we returned in the evening dirty and scratched we were beaten soundly – and never learned The Watchtower of Portel’s Port 80 Watermills The largest heron colony in Portugal Sitting on a bench in Rossio Square all the time belonged to us we would imagine bright futures for our children Protected habitats of Black Storks Egyptian Vultures Bonelli’s Eagles Golden Eagles Otters Wildcats 13 kinds of rare or near extinct plants Card-playing nights at the Sports Association – and all the dancing I would glide my hands under your woollen jacket press your thighs to make you feel my desire your mother would crane her neck the accordion accompanied our fugitive whirl 15 060 hectares of holm-oaks 951 hectares of cork-oaks 703 hectares of olive-groves I would wake up frightened by the cracking of rockets these were joyful days, the festivities of Our Lady of Luz the mass – the procession – the bulls running I would listen entranced to the night songs and softly fall asleep on my mother’s lap 245 hectares of grain 585 hectares of eucalyptuses We would spend hours on end watching the storks flying right above the river we would lie on the castle’s paving stones – and then turn around and contemplate the clouds trying to guess their shapes 82 hectares of vine and orchard 28 hectares of stone pines That day I saw you come by Rua da Igreja
carrying under your arm the confirmation of all our fears your eyes were screaming in your silence we clung to each other 25 000 hectares of memory of water (Luís Campos, Luz Village, 3 July 2001)1
The reworking of the museum concept during the past few decades, in relation to the theories and practices of the new museology, has offered us new and critical models for the representation of memories, pluralism and difference. The growing affirmation of local distinctiveness, changes in the styles of governance (which involved, for example, a move from centralised decision-making and funding to local support, from top-down to bottom-up organisations, from the undervaluing of local distinctiveness to its vigorous affirmation), of sensibility towards the nature and uses of heritage itself and a profound discussion about museum roles are essential contexts to understand the shift from a paradigm of aesthetics to a paradigm of representation in museums. New roles emerge as museums operate as central nodes in a network, bringing various elements, ideas, people and different types of interactions together in a border zone where different systems of representation meet. They are, indeed, shifting spaces of practice and cultural meaning.