Document Type



Published by Routledge in International Journal of Heritage Studies Special Issue: Memory in the Maritime Museum: Objects, Narratives, Identities, volume 18 issue 4, 2012.


Brittany; material culture; ecomuseum; death; Ouessant; Sein; mourning


Routledge: Taylor and Francis group

Publication Source

International Journal of Heritage Studies


This is an essay about the interplay of objects, art and visual culture in several community museums and historical sites dedicated to local social history in coastal Brittany. There, in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Breton maritime culture invented a range of compensatory ritual objects, sites and practices to account for loss of life at sea. The presentation of this material culture of mourning in small museums, regional museums and ecomuseums on the Breton North Coast and the islands of Sein and Ouessant are examined in this essay. These material objects once bore material witness to crucial moments in the life of the family and today serve to represent the community’s collective memories and to narrate the community’s heritage to the outside world. In several cases examined in this essay, literary representations, art and visual culture are compared to heritage sites and museums. Methodologies are drawn from social art history, studies of tourism and collecting, museum studies, material culture studies, and feminist interests in the politics of the everyday.