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John Reeve, Ian Wedde, Elizabeth Plumridge, and Conal McCarthy

BIENKOWSKI, Piotr, Communities and Museums as Active Partners: Emerging Learning from the “Our Museum” Initiative

CLIFFORD, James, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century Ian Wedde

MATHUR, Saloni, and Kavita SINGH, eds., No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia; AHMED, Hilal, Muslim Political Discourse in Postcolonial India: Monuments, Memory, Contestation; PETERSON, Derek K., Kodzo GAVUA, and Ciraj RASSOOL, eds., The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, Histories and Infrastructures; BARNES, Amy Jane, Museum Representations of Maoist China: From Cultural Revolution to Commie Kitsch

SILVERMAN, Ray, ed., Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges; ONCIUL, Bryony, Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonising Engagement; LEVITT, Peggy, Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation on Display; MURAWSKA-MUTHESIUS, Kataryna and Piotr PIOTROWSKI, eds., From Museum Critique to Critical Museum; BALZAR, David, Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else

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Civilizing Museums

Editorial

Sandra H. Dudley

This volume of Museum Worlds opens with Howard Morphy reflecting on his involvement in the development of the British Museum’s recent Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation exhibition. Morphy begins his commentary by ruminating on the idea of civilization and its complex relationship to museums. Historically these institutions have—together with academic disciplines—drawn upon the notion of civilization, explicitly or implicitly, to categorize objects as art or antiquities on the one hand versus craft, ethnography or material culture on the other. Of course this has also meant—still means—classifying peoples as civilized or not civilized, however directly or indirectly, intentionally or otherwise. Museums are, as Morphy points out, still “struggling with categories that have their origins in past histories.”

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Collecting the Asante

African Agency in a Pre-colonial Assemblage

Fiona Savage

In 1818 Thomas Edward Bowdich presented a small collection of artifacts to the British Museum that was assembled during the first diplomatic mission to Asante in 1817. Unfortunately, Bowdich did not disclose how he went about forming this collection but circumstantial evidence contained in his published account (1819) and archival records strongly suggest that a small number of these items, including seven examples of gold work, were given by the King of Asante to Bowdich for the British Museum. This article will present new research that calls into question the artistic, economic, and technological interpretations that have dominated the public display and reception of these items since their acquisition. By reexamining the social and political contexts within which these objects were collected and donated, an undeniable African agency is revealed that demonstrates that efforts were made to self-promote and represent.

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(Dis-)Embedding Museums

On the Creation of New Urban Museumscapes in Hong Kong and Seoul

Birgit Mersmann

Driven by global economic and cultural competition, Asian megacities seek future-oriented local and global self-representation using cutting-edge museums of contemporary art. This article analyzes the embedding of two vanguard museum projects, the “Museum+” in Hong Kong, China, and the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea, into long-term urban planning strategies and concepts. In order to understand the intended purpose and process of how the new museums of contemporary art are devised as public spaces of cultural selfrepresentation and urban identity building, the study monitors the complete design process from the city government’s urban and institutional planning strategies over architectural design to the museum’s mission statement and collection strategy. By comparatively tracing the museum projects in Hong Kong and Seoul, the evidence shows that, although they share a common global cities agenda, their pathways of urban place-making and community-building vary greatly. These variations depend on the historical role and current geopolitical repositioning of each city.

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Aparna Kumar, Mary Bouquet, Alexandra Woodall, Paulette Wallace, Arjmand Aziz, Elizabeth Edwards, and Petra Mosmann

EXHIBITION REVIEW ESSAYS

Unsettling the National in South Asia: My East is Your West, Venice Biennale, and After Midnight, Queens Museum, New York

Nonstop Modernity: Renovating the Rijksmuseum

A Storehouse of Unimagined Treasures: York Art Gallery and the Centre of Ceramic Art, York St Mary’s

EXHIBITION REVIEWS

The Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, British Museum, London

Photography: A Victorian Sensation, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, and Framed: People and Place in Irish Photography, Ulster Museum, Belfast

Girls at the Tin Sheds: Sydney Feminist Posters 1975–1990, University Art Museum, Sydney, and Girls at the Tin Sheds (Duplicated), Verge Gallery, Sydney

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Mark Thurner

Museums everywhere now display fragments of their own past displays, often in the form of ancestral cabinets presented as autobiographical introductions. What is the meaning of this introspective and retrospective “return to curiosity” in museography? Reconnoitering a fistful of iconic museums in and around London and Madrid, I suggest that the all-encompassing metatrope of curiosity begs a deeper question: What is the museum a museum of?

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Indigenous Australia

Enduring Civilisation—A Personal Reflection

Howard Morphy

Over the past few years I have been fortunate to be part of a team of people working on an exhibition at the British Museum. The curator of the exhibition is Gaye Sculthorpe, Curator of Oceania at the Museum. Lissant Bolton, Keeper of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, came up with the exhibition title, Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation. The word civilization had been part of our discussions all along and her wording resolved any doubt we might have had. Civilization came to mind because it was the British Museum, because of Ancient Greece and Rome, because of Oriental Civilization, because of Kenneth Clarke, and in my case because of the title of the book A Black Civilization by the anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner.

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Material Proximity

Experimenting with Material Strategies in Spatial Exhibition Design

Ane Pilegaard

A museum exhibition allows for close encounters with material objects. However, the distancing effect of the glass surfaces of display cases, as well as twodimensional text and picture panels, often seems to counteract the visitor’s sense of experiencing the three-dimensional material qualities of museum objects. In order to challenge this distancing effect, this article proposes an approach to spatial exhibition design that takes material aspects of both museum objects and exhibition design practices into close consideration. By developing the concept of material proximity, the article investigates the intimate space between museum object and visitor in which the object’s material qualities can be activated and interpreted. Based on an interdisciplinary bridging between different concepts of materiality from museum studies and architecture, the article concretizes the concept of material proximity through empirical analysis of a series of experimental display designs carried out at Medical Museion (the medical museum of the University of Copenhagen).

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Silvia Forni

By looking at the numerous small palace museums founded in the Cameroonian Grassfields since the early 2000s, this article interrogates the meaning and function of displays of objects and narratives in the shifting social, political, and economic landscape of contemporary Cameroon. Museums in postcolonial Africa stem from very specific colonial premises, which are still relevant to the understanding of national narratives and displays. However, palace museums in the Grassfields engage in a different and somewhat contrasting use of objects and collections to present a more nuanced and complicated image of local societies. Through their eclectic and non-canonical display, these museums challenge ethnographic taxonomies and linear narratives, while serving effectively as ways to enhance the visibility and prestige of local kingdoms both nationally and internationally.

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Anna Edmundson, Margo Neale, Michèle Rivet, Brett Mason, Katie Kyung, Rebecca Gibson, Alison K. Brown, Tatiana Argounova-Low, Maria Lucia de Niemeyer Matheus Loureiro, Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius, and Fredrik Svanberg

MEETING REPORTS

Return of the Native: Contestation, Collaboration, and Co-authorship in Museum Spaces, Australian National University, 18–19 June 2015

Access Is a Human Right: The Federation of International Human Rights Museums Conference, Te Papa, Wellington, 23–25 September 2015

PROJECT REPORTS

Narrative Objects: The Sakha Summer Festival and Cultural Revitalization

Object, Document, and Materiality: Outline of an Ongoing Research Project

Museums Beyond Homogeneity: Museums and Diversity in Sweden