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Exhibiting the PastHistorical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China$
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Kirk A. Denton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824836870

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824836870.001.0001

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Exhibiting the Revolution

Exhibiting the Revolution

The Museum of the Chinese Revolution

(p.45) Chapter 2 Exhibiting the Revolution
Exhibiting the Past

Kirk A. Denton

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines modes of exhibiting revolution and revolutionary history in the post-Mao reform era. After looking at some Republican-era examples as a way of suggesting links between Guomindang (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) revolutionary narratives, the analysis focuses on the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the most official exhibitionary space for interpreting and propagandizing the meaning of the communist revolution in China. Over its more than fifty-year history, the museum's representations of the revolution have changed considerably to reflect political and economic shifts. In the post-Mao era, curators have sought to enlarge the exhibits into a more general history of modern China, one less centered on the party-led revolution, but those efforts have always been circumscribed by the state's continuing allegiance to the revolution as its central legitimizing myth. Many of the basic tropes and narrative strategies developed in the original exhibits from the early 1960s can be found in post-Mao iterations, even in its most recent exhibit, Road to Revival. Still, the changes in the museum's representations of the modern past are significant and hint at more radical representational transformations occurring in other exhibitionary contexts.

Keywords:   museum exhibits, revolution, revolutionary history, Chinese history, post-Mao era, Museum of the Chinese Revolution

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