Ḥaylä Śəllase I Military Museum first opened its collections to the public on 5 May 1972, on the 31st anniversary of the Victory Day against the Italians. The selection of this particular date indicates the interest of the state to exploit history for personal glorification. In the displays of the museum, the emperor’s central role was highlighted and his imperial artifacts prominently exhibited. Although the museum claimed to depict the military history of the country, it did not have any display that represented the heritage and history of opposition groups. Another important issue of cultural politics in the museum was the issue of how defeat and victory were celebrated in the museum’s displays. The collapse of the imperial regime in 1974 was followed by a period of confusion and instability in the country. The military socialist government ordered the demolition of all heritage related to the ancien regime. The philosophy of the museum was shaped by this socialist ideology. The museum faced a further predicament when the rebel groups organized under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) overthrew Mängəśtu’s regime and took control of the country in 1991. This paper considers the cultural politics connected to the history of the museum. In particular, it examines the role of heritage in the process of modern nationbuilding: the appropriation of history and heritage for the purpose of political legitimacy; the celebration of selected heroes and the silencing of others deemed discordant with dominant narratives of the politically powerful; and elite imagination of the history of the Ethiopian empire state as a timeless phenomenon.


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pp. 67-82
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