Aarhus University Seal

The overall purpose of the project

Based on the competences of the participating institutions and through their cooperation, the project will develop concepts that focus on religion in the collections, documentation processes and dissemination of Danish cultural history in museums.

The project will thus contribute to an increased awareness of the potential of incorporating the religious perspective in this work, thereby enabling the museums to convey contemporary religious diversity and the role of religion in the everyday life of Danes, historically and today through collection, dissemination and dialogue with the museum's audience.

Objectives and research questions of the project

The project will, based on the competences of the participating institutions develop models for how Danish cultural history museums can activate a religion perspective in their work.

The project will contribute to an increased awareness of the potential of cultural history museums in order to convey the role of religion in the everyday life of the Danes, both historically and in relation to contemporary religious diversity. A basis for this work has already been established in an international context and in the initial experiences of a number of museums and university research environments in Denmark.

The main question for the project is:  How can perspectives on religion be integrated and developed as part of the work of cultural history museums?


The approach in the project is to develop and implement four sub-projects that can serve as concrete examples of answering the project's main questions. In addition to the four sub-projects, a PhD project  has been integrated in the project.

More on the project


In Europe and Denmark today, the presence of different cultures within the same population is part of the public debate, often focusing on religion and religious identity. Against this background, it is increasingly necessary for society to find contexts for a discussion of the perspective of contemporary religious diversity.

This project will develop concepts for this through the integration of a perspective on religion as part of the museums cultural history practice.
So far, only a few Danish cultural history museums have religion as responsibility, and only a few have chosen to raise topics about religion and religiousity in their dissemination. The background can be found in the fact that religion is seen as a conflictual subject, where the museums may appear unintentionally positional. Also, there is a lack of integration of religious studies as a discipline in the museum work and, consequently, there is a lack of competences about religion in general and the history of religion in Denmark in particular. In addition to this, there is also a lack of knowledge of the museums own collections in relation to the possible religious context of the objects. This is enhanced by a historically-conditioned registrant which does not allow for the registration of religions other than Christianity, thereby making the objects religious context invisible in the everyday work of the museums.

The museums therefore have a need - and a potential – to use the religious perspective in their work and contribute to society's dialogue about religion as part of Danish cultural history.
In this project, this is expressed through an understanding of the cultural history museum as a contact area: a social space where cultures meet, collide and co-exist (Pratt 1991; Clifford 1997).
Recent research in organized cultural meetings will form the basis for the further development of the museums as contact zones for cultural meetings focusing on religion (Christiansen, Galal and Hvenegård Lassen forth. Galal 2015).

Cultural museums, religion and cultural gatherings in the field of research

In order to ensure the professional basis for integrating a religion perspective in the cultural history museums, it is necessary to create a framework for cooperation between the museums and the relevant university environments.

In general, the study of religion in the university context has not been interested in museum practices, although objects that can be categorized as religious are well represented in museums' collections. These objects are often categorized by historical periods, or as ethnographic objects or as art.

This becomes a challenge for the museum when the religious context is activated, but at the same time, recent museum research points to potential in the religious perspective (Reeve 2012; O'Neill, 2005; Paine 2000, 2013). Museum of Europe has developed the concept of “God (s): A User's Guide” (2006) focusing on the diversity of religious expressions in European cities and in the Religion in Museums (Buggeln, Paine and Plate 2017) explores the issue of international researchers, without the contribution of a Danish or Nordic context.

In a Danish context, this discussion has just begun, for example in Laura Maria Schütze PhD thesis A sense of migration. Place, materiality and religion in exhibitions at the Immigrant Museum and the Copenhagen Museum (Schütze 2014). The involvement of contemporary minority religion in cultural heritage management has been addressed in connection with public museums of the Danish Jewish Museum (Laursen 2013). There have also been exhibitions where religion is involved, for example the new Moesgaard.

So far, this has not led to a systematic reconciliation of university environments and museums from the perspectives of religion and culture in a Danish context. Therefore there is a basis and a need for further development in this field in connection with the Danish and international environments in the university and museum context.

Project concepts and cooperation

The museums which are part of the project, have experience of integrating the religion perspective into their work. These experiences have not yet been brought into play in relation to each other and have not been the subject of cooperation with the university environments included in this project.

The project thus utilizes the special competences and international networks of the collaborative institutions where cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing and exchange of experience create new experiences that can contribute to the work of all cultural-historical museums in relation to religious diversity for the benefit of society. International museum researchers will be involved and contact is established through the partners.

Through workshops, four concepts will be developed and tested. These are designed as formats for use in cultural history museums, based on collaborators' competences in the field of religion and culture in a museum context. 

  1. "The city as cultural memory of religion"
    The concept establishes a common meeting space between people with different religious backgrounds. It takes place through the involvement of diverse user groups meeting the museum and the city through co-curated city walks. The focus will be on the city as a multi-faceted religious memory
  2. "Danish homes with new eyes"
    How can the museum become a context for conversations about Danish culture and society through perspectives on religion?
    The concept will develop a format for conversations in the museum context and how to create new dialogues about religion and culture. The project explores the museum as "safe space" and as a dialogue space for religion and diversity as part of the youth's cultural background. Approaches:  ’Prototyping’ (Marcus 2014; Laursen o.a. 2017) and dialogue formats (Galal 2015).
  3. "View your exhibits from a religion perspective"
    A workshop format for further education/training of museum staff. The concept will develop formats for the implementation of core elements in the already established exhibitions and collections focusing on religion. This involves development, test and evaluation of continuing education services for museum staff. A key element is to promote a critical horizon for the dissemination of religious traditions in their diversity.
  4. "The (local) religious diversity"
    Development of mapping tool for use in museum activities on collecting and documenting religion in the local area. The tool will appear in an open-access format and contain specific instructions, templates, interview guide, in order to enable local museums to work with their local religious stories.

Research and dissemination output

  • Development of theoretical and methodological perspectives from research in contemporary religions and cultural meetings in museum context, including methods for mapping religious diversity and approaches to involvement of users in relation to religion.
  • Publications: a joint book publishing; research articles in relevant journals and final conclusions from the project.
  • Exemplary models for user involvement through urbanization and dialogue spaces.
  • Development of education / training formats for the museum area regarding religion in collections.
  • An open access platform with process material regarding local religious diversity.
  • Inclusion of students from education at AU and RUC. The project will shape potential employees of the future, with insight into religion at museums.
  • PhD project: Religion and cultural meeting at the museum - An analysis of the expressions of religion that arise during user involvement in religion in cultural history museums. The access is participant observation and interviews with the users who actively participate in the concepts developed in the project.
  • International Conference 2020.
  • Exhibition (after 2020 - outside of application)
  • The museums contribute with its own materials: dialogue-based stories that can be used on different platforms.
  • Project progress

2018: Project group and local workshops, development of concepts, PhD
2019: Project group and local workshops, test of concepts, PhD
2020: Project Group Workshops, Evaluation of Concepts, Reporting, Conference, PhD.


Ahlin, L, Borup, J, Fibiger, MQ, Kühle, L, Mortensen, V & Pedersen, RD 2012, 'Religious diversity and pluralism' Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol 27, nr. 3, s. 403-418

Bugglen G., C. Paine, S. Brent Plate. 2017. Religion in Museums- Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Bloomsbury Academic

Christiansen, L., Galal, L.P., & Hvenegård-Lassen, K. (forthcoming) (red.) “Organised cultural encounters: Interculturality and Transformative Practices; Special Issue” Journal of Intercultural Studies, 38 (6) (publiceres i december 2017)

Clifford, J. 1997. “Museums as Contact Zones.” I Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Gabriel, M. 2015. ”Fortiden, fremtiden og det etnografiske museum: Samtidsindsamling, videndeling og medkuratering.” I U. J. Dahre og T. Fibiger (red.) Etnografi på museum: Visioner og udfordringer for etnografiske museer i Norden, s. 25-53. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag

Galal, Lise Paulsen (2015), “Dialogens arrangement. Når muslimer og kristne mødes’. Tidsskrift for Islamforskning, Vol. 9, Nr. 2, 12.2015, pp. 48-67.

Golding, V., & Modest, W. (red.) 2013. Museums and communities: curators, collections and collaboration. London ; New York: Bloomsbury.

Laursen, J.. 2013. ”Dansk Jødisk Museum - Minoritetsmuseum eller kulturmuseum?” Mindretallenes selvbillede, Sønderborg.

Marselis, R. (forthcoming): Bridge the Gap: Multidirectional Memory in Photography Projects for Refugee Youths, Special Issue Journal of Intercultural Studies, 38 (6) (publiceres i december 2017)

Marselis, R. 2016. “On Not Showing Scalps: Human Remains and Multisited Debate at the National Museum of Denmark” i Museum Anthropology39(1), 20–34.

Nightingale, E., and M. Greene. 2010. “Religion and Material Culture at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Art and Design: The Perspectives of Diverse Faith Communities.” Material Religion 6 (2): 218–35

O’Neill, M. 2005. “Making Histories of Religion”. I G. Kavanagh (ed.), Making histories in museums. London: New York.

Paine, C. 2000. Godly Things: Museums, Objects and Religion. London: Leicester University Press.

Paine, C. 2013. Religious objects in museums:Private lives and public duties. London: Bloomsbury.

Pearce, S. M. 1995. On Collecting. An Investigation into Collecting in the European Tradition. London: Routledge.

Pratt, M.L. 1991. Arts of the contact zone. Profession: 33–40.

Reeve, J. 2012. “A Question of Faith: The Museum as a Spiritual or Secular Place.” In Museums, Equality, and Social Justice, red. R. Sandell and E. Nightingale. Museum Meanings. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge.

Sandell, R., J. Dodd, R. Garland-Thomson. 2013.  Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum. London: Routledge

Schütze, L. M. 2014. En fornemmelse for migration. Sted, materialitet og religion i udstillinger på immigrantmuseet og Københavns Museum (upubl. ph.d.-afhandling). Det Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet.


  • Marie Vejrup Nielsen (projectmanager)
    Aarhus University
  • Anneken Appel Laursen
    The Old Town (Den Gamle By)
  • Catherine Kyø Hermansen
    The Immigrant Museum 
  • Janne Laursen
    Previously attached to The Danish Jewish Museum   
  • Laura Maria Schütze
    ROMU (Roskilde Museum)   
  • Lise Paulsen Galal
    Roskilde University  
  • Martin Djupdræt
    The Old Town (Den Gamle By)  
  • Randi Marselis
    Roskilde University
  • Sara Fredfelt Stadager 
    The Danish Jewish Museum   


Project manager

Marie Vejrup Nielsen

Associate Professor, Acting Head of School

Advisory Board

Partly funded by