The Discoveries Museum and the Colonial Gaze in Contemporary Technologies of Display

Carolina Rito, Sandra Vieira Jürgens (Editor)

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Art theorist Tony Bennett (1995) devises a genealogy of the modern public museum, laid out through an account of the birth of the museum and its early drives. Bennett examines how the policies and politics of the museum have played a substantial role in the in the Nineteenth Century European constitution of the Modern project. In this context, he proposes the ‘exhibitionary complex’ as a means to analyse museums beyond mere facts of exhibition-making and the management of their institutions. The consideration and articulation of the ‘exhibitionary complex’ helps to understand disciplinary power structures, their visual strategies, power/knowledge and apparatuses of surveillance in museums (Bennett, 1995, p. 9). The institutions of display are about visibility, as much as they are about the governance of what is kept unseen. Early formats of display (museums and colonial international exhibitions) can be read as technologies of governance that inform the idea of the new citizen, nationalist discourses, and the formation of the ‘public good’.

    Following Bennett’s analysis on the political agenda of museums as technologies of governance, my presentation aims to critically articulate the continuities and actualisation of these technologies in contemporary institutions of display. Specifically, my analysis draws a speculative line between the colonial Exhibition of the Portuguese World in 1940, and the (seemingly) forthcoming Museum of the Discoveries in Lisbon. The relations between both events intend to actualise the perpetuation of a colonial gaze through new political agendas around the ‘touristification’ of culture. Additionally, the technologies of governance via ‘what is given to be seen’ can no longer be understood as state-oriented project only, but rather a consensus-driven identity produced in a more complex network of cultural phenomena, such as the World of Discoveries theme park in Porto.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventMuseum Reader Conference - Nova University of Lisbon and Chiado Museum of Contemporary Art, Lisbon, Portugal
    Duration: 9 Mar 201710 Mar 2017


    ConferenceMuseum Reader Conference
    Internet address


    • museum studies
    • curatorial
    • curating
    • colonialism
    • memory
    • historical legacies

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
    • History
    • Cultural Studies


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