University of Leicester
2018NEGYESIPPhD.pdf (16.06 MB)

How The Motor Museum Saw The Automobile: Curating The Automobile As Commodity, As Design And As Social History In Germany And Austria In The 20th Century – From National Identity To Mobility.

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posted on 2018-11-13, 12:30 authored by Pal Negyesi
The automobile has defined the 20th century. It has brought along radical changes in mobility, altered the landscape, transformed communities and everyday life. Although this complex object has been shown in museums for over a century, an in-depth academic study which looks at the different institutions and changing curatorial practices around the automobile has been lacking. This thesis charts the evolution of the motor museum in Germany and Austria. Here the motor museum is being defined as a museum where automobiles are displayed. It includes science, technical, industrial museums, local history museums and company museums. This thesis draws upon the work of Lubar (Lubar&Kingery, 1993) and Divall (Divall&Scott, 2001) in order to conceptualise the car as a museum object and as an object of material culture. With the help of fifteen case studies it analyses the different type of museums, their development, their curatorial practices and their permanent and temporary exhibitions, in order to understand the different roles the automobile has played (and is playing) in these institutions. The tension between the static museum and the dynamic automobile is highlighted through specific examples. This thesis considers the role of collections, curators and exhibitions and looks at the automobile as a cultural, political and social sign in museum settings. It contends that the automobile is a complex object with different roles and functions. Therefore the automobile has a multi-faceted appearance in museums, where it is curated in many different, sometimes contradicting ways. Working on the assumption that if we understand the past we can plan for the future, this thesis provides examples on how to solve the tension of displaying a dynamic object in a static setting, thus offering curators a roadmap on planning future exhibitions.



Parry, Ross; Knell, Simon

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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