The Romanian Peasant?s Museum and the Authentic Man
Vintilă Mihăilescu
Premise: The Romanian Peasant Museum is not a museum of the Romanian Peasant.

Problem: For Romania, any process of (re)thinking the national and identity issues has to go through a ?vision? on ?the Romanian peasant.?  What role does it and may it have in the future the Romanian Peasant Museum, within this process of (re)thinking Romania itself?

Perspective: ?In this museum we are experimenting with something old.?

?Your museum displays a polemic vision; it stages a concept of museology that must be explained and defended; most absent are the debates on this concept? (Gerard Althabe, 1997). The French anthropologist who spent much time in our museum and in Romania knew what he was talking about: the Romanian Peasant Museum was accused, protected, and awarded many prizes, but its structure was less debated in the profound sense of this word. But this goes for all Romanian ethnographic museums in general, whose statute does not pose any problem, and for those that enjoy this statute since their national foundation: as patrimony curators, museographs have a clear and obvious goal, and all they have to do is fulfill it with devotion. But staging culture is never and nowhere a feat without issues, as it always illustrates a vision and serves a cause to the loss of other visions and causes ? thus always (and also) being an act of power. From this perspective, this presentation paper raises the following question: what vision and what cause are we talking about, where the Romanian Peasant Museum is concerned, and what significance do they bear within the Romanian cultural and political context?

The Romanian Peasant Museum ? a museum of the European autochthonous?

We must start our analysis by clarifying a possible misunderstanding regarding the very name of our museum: who is, in fact, the ?Romanian peasant? of its name?

?We are starting to set up lists with possible names for the new museum?, Irina Nicolau recalled in her diary, one of Horia Bernea?s main collaborators. ?How should we call it? What would be the appropriate name? God, why didn?t I keep that paper? I know for sure that Horia had numbered those names and that we had reached more than 20. He oversaw The Romanian Peasant Museum, but he didn?t like it. A few hours later, this very name was chosen, a name which annoyed many people during the first years. Peasant?  It?s derogatory, said the French. Romanian? It?s limiting and politically incorrect, said others. Later, we were also sorry not to have called it just The Peasant?s Museum? (Nicolau and Huluţă, 2001:17, the underlined phrases belong to the authors). And, later: ?After more than one year, we still struggle to add a subtitle to this name - A National Museum of Crafts and Tradition. We give up. All for the better: we would have entered a European family of museums with which we have nothing in common? (idem). Therefore, whose is this museum, to whom does it refer and who is the ?Romanian peasant? of its title?

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