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The Inertia of Collections

Changes against the Grain in the Rosenlew Museum of Pori, Finland

Francisco Martínez

Abstract

The first aim of this article is to study the persistence of the collection's positive presentation of Rosenlew's industrial heritage, and the second is to anthropologically reconsider what kind of knowledge is generated therein through the preservation and display of factory-made artifacts, which give a sense of concreteness and gravitas to the industrial past. By studying the permanent exhibition and the collections of the Rosenlew Museum and by organizing a workshop with schoolchildren, I reveal the presence of various inertia effects. Long-term corporate values continue to influence the development of the museum's permanent collection not only through the arrangement of industrial artifacts into a collection but also—at a heuristic level—through epistemological frames and the indexing power of the museum assemblage.

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Interpreting a Tatanua Mask

Bruno Haas, Philipp Schorch, and Michael Mel

Abstract

This article introduces the art historical method of functional deixis into the study of material culture in anthropology. Functional deixis begins with a thorough empirical description of communicative effects—visual and embodied—produced by a material thing on the beholder. It then proceeds by tending to a kind of formalisation that enables us, on the one hand, to sharpen our intuitive reaction to the thing and, on the other, to obtain detailed knowledge about the ways material things produce significance. Here, the method is applied to a tatanua mask originating from present-day Papua New Guinea and currently housed at the Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig, Germany. Based on a thick description, we propose an in-depth interpretation of the mask as a complex response to a fundamental injury, articulating a symbolic expression of grief (left side) with an iconic expression overcoming grief (right side) after a passage through a real word expressed through the front of the mask. In doing so, the article offers a tool to study with rather than a text to read off.

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Making Space for Jewish Culture in Polish Folk and Ethnographic Museums

Curating Social Diversity after Ethnic Cleansing

Erica Lehrer and Monika Murzyn-Kupisz

Abstract

Looking beyond Poland's internationally lauded new Jewish museums, this article asks how Jews are represented in longer-standing folk and ethnographic museums whose mandates have been to represent the historical culture of the Polish nation. How have such museums navigated growing internal pressures to incorporate Jews and reconsider the boundaries of “Polishness” alongside external pressures to rethink the function and approach of ethnographic museology? Based on three museums that have taken three different approaches to Jewishness—what we call cabinet of Jewish curiosities, two solitudes, and ambivalent externalization—we assess the roles played by inherited discourses and structures as well as human agents within and beyond the museum. We illuminate how social debate about the character of the nation (and Jews’ place in it) plays out in museums at a moment in their transition from nineteenth- to twenty-first-century paradigms and how a distinctively Polish path toward a “new museology” is emerging in conversation with and resistance to its Western counterparts.

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Meeting Reports

Sheila K. Hoffman, Conal McCarthy, and Billie Lythberg

25th ICOM General Conference. International Conference Center, Kyoto, Japan, 1–7 September 2019 by Sheila K. Hoffman

Interaction, Integration, and Flow. Researching the Museum in the Global Contemporary, Shaanxi Normal University, Xian, 15–20 September 2019 by Conal McCarthy

‘Amui ‘i Mu'a: Ancient Futures Conference Tanoa International Dateline Hotel, Tonga, 7–12 October 2019 by Billie Lythberg

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Reviewing Oceania

Nicholas Thomas, Adrian Locke, Noelle M. K. Y. Kahanu, Simon Jean, and Lagi-Maama

Curating Oceania at the Royal Academy of Arts by Nicholas Thomas

An Internal Response to Oceania from the Royal Academy of Arts by Adrian Locke

“Exhibiting Oceania” : Conversing with the Curators (or Truth-Telling in Real Time) by Noelle M. K. Y. Kahanu

Océanie in Paris by Simon Jean

Oceania Catalogue by Lagi-Maama

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A “Safe Space” to Debate Colonial Legacy

The University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Campaign to Return a Looted Benin Altarpiece to Nigeria

Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp and Chris Wingfield

Abstract

In February 2016, students at Jesus College, Cambridge voted unanimously to repatriate to Nigeria a bronze cockerel looted during the violent British expedition into Benin City in 1897. The college, however, decided to temporarily relocate Okukor to the University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. This article outlines the discussions that occurred during this process, exploring how the Museum was positioned as a safe space in which uncomfortable colonial legacies, including institutionalized racism and cultural patrimony rights, could be debated. We explore how a stated commitment to postcolonial dialogue ultimately worked to circumvent a call for postcolonial action. Drawing on Ann Stoler's and Elizabeth Edwards's discussions of colonial aphasia, this article argues that anthropology museums risk enabling such circumvention despite confronting their own institutional colonial legacies.

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“[W]hat Beauty in Oriental Art Means”

Asian Arts, Soft Diplomacy, and New Zealand Cultural Nationalism—The Loan Exhibition of Oriental Art, Christchurch, 1935

James Beattie and Louise Stevenson

Abstract

This article presents new historical research on Asian art—particularly Chinese art—in New Zealand through the examination of the content and reception of the Loan Exhibition of Oriental Art, which was held in Christchurch from May to June 1935. It situates the exhibition within the context of Depression-era New Zealand, examines the place of Chinese art, in particular, in the developing cultural nationalism of New Zealand of this period, and highlights the role of one local connoisseur in the making of the exhibition. Moreover, the article's focus on the southern hemisphere fills a gap in global histories of Chinese art exhibition in this period.

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Between Practice and Theory

Dialogical Teaching and Art as Performative

Nathaniel Prottas

In this article, I consider the definition and use of the term dialogue in museum education, focusing on the work of Rika Burnham and Elliot Kai-Kee, whose ramifications for art itself have often been sidelined by educators. First, I examine the relationship between Burnham and Kai-Kee’s theory of education and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s and John Dewey’s writing on art, arguing that dialogical museum teaching implicitly relies on a definition of art as performative. Then, I explore the ramifications of Gadamer’s and Dewey’s definition of art as performative for the field of museum education. Finally, I argue that by understanding art as an active participant in our encounters with it—and by refocusing our attention on art’s role in museum educational practice—we create a radically new argument for museums as educational institutions that bring people and art into dialogue with each other.

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Books

Sven Grabow, Dominique Poulot, Emma Waterton, Sheila K. Hoffman, and Masaaki Morishita

Book Review Essays

Sustaining the Past into the Future: Some Reflections on Mechanisms to Keep Heritage Meaningful and Sustainable

Theory and Practice in Heritage and Sustainability: Between Past and Future. Elizabeth Auclair and Graham Fairclough, eds. London: Routledge, 2015.

Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage, Mia Ridge, ed. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.

Museums, Power, Knowledge: Selected Essays. Tony Bennett. London: Routledge, 2018.

Book Reviews

Collecting, Ordering, Governing: Anthropology, Museums, and Liberal Government. Tony Bennett, Fiona Cameron, Nélia Dias, Ben Dibley, Rodney Harrison, Ira Jacknis, and Conal McCarthy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

The Museum of the Senses. Constance Classen. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

New Museum Practice in Asia. John Reeve and Caroline Lang, eds. London: Lund Humphries, 2018.

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Collections without End

The Ghostly Presences of Captain Matthew McVicker-Smyth and his Western Australian Mineral Collection in the State Library of Western Australia

Andrea Witcomb and Alistair Patterson

The discovery of five photographs in 2018 in the State Library of Western Australia led us to the existence of a forgotten private museum housing the collection of Captain Matthew McVicker Smyth in early-twentieth-century Perth. Captain Smyth was responsible for the selling of Nobel explosives used in the agriculture and mining industries. The museum contained mineral specimens in cases alongside extensive, aesthetically organized displays of Australian Aboriginal artifacts amid a wide variety of ornaments and decorative paintings. The museum reflects a moment in the history of colonialism that reminds us today of forms of dispossession, of how Aboriginal people were categorized in Australia by Western worldviews, and of the ways that collectors operated. Our re-creation brings back into existence a significant Western Australian museum and opens up a new discussion about how such private collections came into existence and indeed, in this instance, about how they eventually end.