Globalization, Nautical Nostalgia and Maritime Identity Politics. A Case Study on Boundary Objects in the Future German Port Museum

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The future German Port Museum is scheduled to open in Hamburg in the late 2020s as one of Germany’s currently largest and best-funded museum projects. It is pursuing an ambitious programmatic agenda that aims not only to narrate the historic dimensions of ports and seafaring, but to assess ports as hubs of globalization and thus help the understanding of a globalized world. This paper approaches the Port Museum’s first and central artefact, the historic four-masted barque Peking, as a crucial organizational and epistemic entity in the museum’s development process. The Peking is of significant interest to actors from diverging social worlds, who approach the ship either as a starting point for critical debates on globalization and colonial heritage, as a symbol of nautical nostalgia, or as a vehicle for Hamburg’s maritime identity politics. Relying on the theoretical concept of boundary objects by Star and Griesemer, it is argued that the Peking’s interpretive flexibility enables it to mediate between these potentially conflicting individual agendas and facilitate a cooperative process between different communities of practice. Thus, the Port Museum is brought into being as a suspenseful, yet stable entity, that is situated in a field of tension between decolonial critique and revisionist maritime heritage politics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)113-132
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 02.08.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Melcher Ruhkopf.

    Research areas

  • Colonial Heritage, Globalization, Maritime Heritage, Material Semiotics, Museum Studies
  • Science of art