Archaeology and Ethnographic Collections

Disentangling Provenance, Provenience, and Context in Vanuatu Assemblages

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 University of Sydney james.flexner@sydney.edu.au
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ABSTRACT

The archaeological value of museum collections is not limited to collections labelled “archaeology.” “Ethnology” or “ethnography” collections can provide useful information for evaluating broadly relevant theoretical and methodological discussions in the discipline. The concepts of provenience (where something was found), provenance (where the materials for an object originated), and context (the ways an object is and was interpreted and used within a cultural milieu) are central to much archaeo-logical interpretation. Archaeologists have often looked to living societies as analogues for better understanding these issues. Museum ethnographic collections from Vanuatu provide a case study offering a complementary approach, in which assemblages of ethnographic objects and associated information allow us to reconstruct complex networks of movement, exchange, and entanglement.

Contributor Notes

JAMES L. FLEXNER is Lecturer in Historical Archaeology and Heritage at the University of Sydney, where he teaches primarily in the Master of Museum and Heritage Studies Program. His main research interests are in landscape archaeology and historical archaeology, with a geographic focus on Oceania. His PhD, from the University of California, Berkeley, studied the archaeology of the Hawaiian leprosarium at Kalawao, Moloka‘i. James was an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University, where he focused on a major research project on the archaeology of southern Vanuatu missions.

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