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Meetings Reports and Project Reports

Julie Gough, Jonathan Jones, Kelli Cole, Shari Lett, Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Billie Lythberg, Jennifer Walklate, Jeanine Nault, Jake Homiak, Joshua A. Bell, and Natasha Barrett

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Obligations to Objects

Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings

Brit Asmussen, Lester Michael Hill, Sean Ulm, and Chantal Knowles

ABSTRACT

This article discusses changing obligations toward objects from an archaeological site held by the Queensland Museum, through a long-term, 40-year case study. Between 1971 and 1972 a selection of 92 stone blocks weighing up to 5 tons containing Aboriginal engravings were cut out of the site and distributed to multiple locations across Queensland by the State Government under the provisions of the then Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1967. The site was subsequently flooded following dam construction and the removed blocks became part of the Queensland Museum’s collection. This article chronicles the history of the site and its “salvage,” the consequences of fragmentation of the site for community and institutions, the creation of 92 museum objects, the transformation from immobile to mobile cultural heritage, and community-led requests for their repatriation back to country.

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Repatriation as Inspiration

Multigenerational Perspectives on American Archaeology-Museum Relationships

April M. Beisaw and Penelope H. Duus

ABSTRACT

At the turn of the twentieth century, American museums helped to legitimize archaeology as a scientific discipline. By the next century, repatriation legislation had forced archaeologists to confront the dehumanization that can take place when bodies and sacred objects are treated as scientific specimens. Charting the future(s) of archaeology-museum relationships requires us to (1) recognize where, when, and how harm has been done, (2) confront those harmful precedents, and (3) restructure collections and exhibits in ways that heal wounds and advance research. Current research on the 1916 Susquehanna River Expedition, an archaeology-museum project funded by George Gustav Heye, provides insight into how our predecessors viewed their work. Using the expedition project as backdrop, an archaeology professor and an undergraduate student engage in a dialogue that explores the changing roles of American museums as the public faces of archaeology, training grounds for young professionals, and cultural centers for us all.

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Steamships to Suffragettes

A Case Study of Interpretative Museology, Public Engagement, and Digital Development

Nicolas Bigourdan, Kevin Edwards, and Michael McCarthy

ABSTRACT

Since 1985 the shipwreck site and related artifacts from the steamship SS Xantho (1872) have been key elements in the Western Australian Museum Maritime Archaeology Department’s research, exhibition, and outreach programs. This article describes a continually evolving, often intuitive, synergy between archaeological fieldwork and analyses, as well as museum interpretations and public engagement that have characterized the Steamships to Suffragettes exhibit conducted as part of a museum in vivo situation. This project has centered on themes locating the SS Xantho within a network of temporal, social, and biographical linkages, including associations between the ship’s engine and a visionary engineer (John Penn), a controversial entrepreneur (Charles Broadhurst), a feminist (Eliza Broadhurst), and a suffragette (Kitty Broadhust), as well as to Aboriginal and “Malay” divers and artists. Achieved with few funds, the project may be a valuable case study at a time when funds allocated to museums and archaeological units are rapidly diminishing.

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Why Is It Necessary to Include the Gender Perspective in Archaeological Museums?

Some Examples from Spanish Museums

Lourdes Prados Torreira

ABSTRACT

Through the items in archaeological museums’ collections, it is possible to create inclusive narratives and discourses in which different social groups, ethnicities, age groups, and genders can and must be present. With this in mind, we shall focus our attention on some Spanish archaeological museums inaugurated in recent years, with the aim of analyzing how they have represented and represent women, which roles are assigned to women within the collective community, and how gender relations in past societies are illustrated.

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With an Open Mind and Open Heart

Collections Care at the Laboratory of Archaeology

Kate Roth

ABSTRACT

Archaeological repositories are active spaces that preserve the archaeological record for future research and care for the cultural and ancestral heritage of Indigenous communities. Repositories therefore have the potential to be sites of continued collaborative engagement between scholars and communities. The Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA) at the University of British Columbia is a repository that now works with communities to respectfully care for their cultural material, while still remaining committed to research and education. Drawing on interviews with LOA members and my own experience working at the lab, I explore the ways LOA’s practices and policies work to mitigate power asymmetry and facilitate sharing knowledge between communities and scholars.

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Book Reviews

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.