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Open access

Report on The Museum as Archive: Using the Past in the Present and Future

Online Symposium Hosted by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, University of Otago, Dunedin, December 2021

Miranda Johnson

In December 2021, the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture at the University of Otago (Dunedin campus) hosted an online symposium, convening Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars to talk about their work in and with museum and archival collections in the Pacific region. Held over three days, with morning and late afternoon sessions timed to facilitate maximum participation, attendees Zoomed in from Rapa Nui, Munich, New York, Honolulu, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Wellington. The symposium brought together practitioners, curators, artists, and scholars in a stimulating exchange that will continue into publication.

Open access

Representation and Self-representation

Archaeology and Ethnology Museums and Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

Marília Xavier Cury and Rebeca Ribeiro Bombonato

The article analyzes experiences in archaeology and ethnology museums in Brazil that promote collaborative actions with Indigenous peoples involving studies of collections, exhibitions, preventive conservation, and collection management policies. We reflect on how these practices supplant thoughts and practices of the past concerning Indigenous rights, especially those related to the dialogic relations between Indigenous people and museum professionals, and the inherent conflicts, disputes and negotiations involved in decision-making. We rely on published articles, documentation of exhibitions, and testimonies from Indigenous people to understand the development of and contributions to collaborative processes, presenting reflections on experiments that point us to circumstances and possibilities of joint/shared activities from representation to self-representation as expressions of the active participation of Indigenous peoples in museums.

Open access

The Representation of “Difficult Pasts” in Military Museums

The Portuguese Colonial War in the Portuguese Armed Forces Museums

André Caiado

This work addresses how the history of the Portuguese colonial war and its mnemonic productions are (non)represented in the Portuguese Armed Forces museums (Army, Air Force, and Navy). Through an analysis of the textual and visual contents of the exhibitions, activity reports, and institutional communication texts; site visits; and interviews with the museums’ staff, I seek to identify and examine the contexts of creation of these spaces and the production of the exhibitions’ content. I conclude that these spaces manifest the complexity of addressing the colonial war and colonial pasts and communicating “difficult pasts” in military museums. When the topic is addressed, the exhibitions tend to focus on the Portuguese perspective of the conflict and elide its colonial nature. I advocate a reformulation of the colonial war musealization, in order to avoid the normalization of warfare and provide more plural and complex perspectives on this historical phenomenon.

Open access

Vibe Nielsen, Henrietta Lidchi, Jesmael Mataga, Annelise Schroeder, Gwyneira Isaac, and Riley Rogerson

How to Practice Decoloniality in Museums: Practicing Decoloniality in Museums: A Guide with Global Examples, Csilla E. Ariese and Magdalena Wróblewska (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021)

Listening to Art as the Voice of Our Time: The Online In-Conversation Series Indigenizing the (Art) Museum (Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge/OCAD University, Toronto)

National Museums in Africa: Some Reflections from the Continent: National Museums in Africa: Identity, History and Politics, Edited by Raymond Silverman, George Abungu, and Peter Probst (London: Routledge 2022)

From Paddock to Peace Garden: Heritage Politics and the Development of the Japanese Memorial Site at Featherston

Shadows, Strings & Other Things: The Enchanting Theater of Puppets

Open access

Special Section

Leading Thinkers in the Field - Howard Morphy

Howard Morphy, Jason M. Gibson, and Alison K. Brown

Anthropology, Art, and Ethnographic Collections: A Conversation with Howard Morphy

Jason M. Gibson (JG): In your book Museums, Infinity and the Culture of Protocols: Ethnographic Collections and Source Communities (Morphy 2020), you begin with an anecdote of visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum as a young child. Did museums play a part in sparking an interest in humanity, and its diversity, or were you fascinated by the Other?

Book Review: Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value, Howard Morphy and Robyn McKenzie, eds. (London: Routledge, 2022)

What does value mean within and beyond museum contexts? What are the processes through which value is manifested? How might a deeper understanding of these processes contribute to the practice of museum anthropology? These questions are explored in Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value, which looks at collaborative work in museums using ethnographic collections as a focus. Most of the chapters involve collections from Australia and the Pacific—reflecting the origins of many of them in two conferences associated with the project “The Relational Museum and Its Objects,” funded by the Australian Research Council and the Australian National University and led by Howard Morphy. Bringing together early career researchers, as well as museum-based scholars who have many years of thinking through and learning with community-based research partners, makes evident how the processual shifts in museum anthropology toward a more collaboratively grounded practice have become normalized, but crucially also highlights the value of “slow museology,” as the editors note in their introduction (3), acknowledging Raymond Silverman’s (2015) term. While the editors caution that the core values of ethnographic collections and museums are not universal, the inclusion of chapters from beyond the Australia/Pacific region highlights that the foundational underpinning values and aspirations for cross-cultural work—“the desire for understanding” and “the desire to be understood” (22) are shaping much of the innovative museum-based work currently being carried out worldwide. Examples include Gwyneira Isaac’s chapter on 3D technologies of reproduction and their value for Tlingit of Alaska, and Henrietta Lidchi and Nicole Hartwell’s examination of how materiality and memory intersect in collections associated with nineteenth-century British military campaigns.

Open access

Laura Phillips

Decolonizing and Indigenizing work needs to be done in museums and our day-to-day lives. On Turtle Island or so-called North America, the current settler colonial states add urgency to this work. Many settlers live on stolen land and benefit from colonial structures in ways that Indigenous friends, colleagues, and hosts do not. This article presents a self-reflective account of two museum studies courses I have been part of developing and delivering that incorporate decolonizing and Indigenizing principles. From my white settler perspective, I discuss the need for settlers to educate (or reeducate) ourselves as museum practitioners by putting decolonizing and Indigenizing words into conversation with our accountabilities in daily life.

Open access

Toward Repatriation of Human Remains as a Postcolonial Museum Practice

The Return of Toi Moko from France to Aotearoa New Zealand

Simon Jean-Nabbache

On 10 January 2022, the French Senate adopted a proposed law on the circulation and return of cultural objects owned by public collections (Sénat 2022). This may be considered the first step toward repatriation legislation. This law needs to be analyzed, voted on, and possibly amended by the National Assembly before it comes back to the Senate and is finally approved. Assuming the law will be finally voted in, this will be a milestone in the process of clarifying the role and the status of human remains in museums collections.

Open access

Emily Jean Leischner

In this article, I argue that recontextualizing Indigenous cultural heritage through institutional acquisition and cataloging can also be understood as a jurisdictional strategy that upholds the supremacy of US and Canadian legal regimes over Indigenous laws. To do this, I share what I have learned from participating in a Nation-led, community-based research project with the Nuxalk First Nation Ancestral Governance Office, in what is currently British Columbia, Canada. Our work together focused on reinvigorating the Nation’s laws, teachings, and protocols through the evolution of their own database of Nuxalk objects, still held in museum collections worldwide. I discuss this project and how it illustrates the legal context inherent to understanding much Nuxalk material culture. Next, bringing together literature on organizing knowledge in museums, settler colonial theories of dispossession, and archival copyright law, I look at how accessioning Indigenous objects into settler collections in the US and Canada is enacting another legal process, “written on top of” the legal meanings objects hold for the Nuxalk Nation, and reframing them as objects the museum has legitimate control and possession over. I close by reflecting on the strategies Nuxalk people, and other Indigenous artists and scholars, are undertaking to challenge the normative power of museum authority through interventions that are grounded in Indigenous governance and sovereignty.

Open access

Adapting to Crisis

Migration Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Aydan Greatrick, Jumana Al-Waeli, Hannah Sender, Susanna Corona Maioli, Jin L. Li, and Ellen Goodwin


This article draws on our experiences of carrying out PhD research on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all involved with the University College London Migration Research Unit (MRU), and our PhD research explores the lived experiences of migrants and people affected by migration. This is the first of two articles in this issue of Migration and Society addressing the implications of COVID-19 on migration research from the perspective of postgraduate researchers. In this article, we firstly reflect on how “crises,” including the COVID-19 pandemic, inevitably shape contexts of migration research. We then share how COVID-19 has shaped our relationship to “the field” and our formal research institutions. Finally, we share how we have adapted our methodologies in response to COVID-19 and, considering the complex ethical and practical challenges posed by this context, reflect on what it means to make methodological “adaptations” in times of overlapping crises.

Open access

Rine Vieth

This commentary draws on personal experiences, my time spent discussing acts of harm in the academy with activists, and a review of various incidences on issues of academic harm and responsibility. Over the last few years, I have observed numerous high-profile cases in anthropology – in various countries and various contexts – that have elicited a significant public response. Some frame this kind of harm as the proverbial ‘few bad apples’, an approach I reject as it ignores what enables harm. Alternatively, some attempt to use the idea of ‘academic freedom’ as a way to sidestep questions of interpersonal obligations. Recently, I have encountered this line of argument in defences made by some against allegations about John Comaroff, such as media pieces that I note have been later cross-posted to his own website (Comaroff 2022; Walsh 2022). Instead of settling into a debate about what is or is not ‘academic freedom’, I here highlight a different reorientation, a shift in framing: what I have called, in conversations with friends and collaborators, ‘academic responsibility’. This reminds us that whereas academic freedom is frequently framed as a freedom to or a freedom from, academic responsibility emphasises our responsibilities as scholars and the obligations which follow to others. This includes a refusal of what Zoe Todd (2019) calls a ‘failure of imagination’ – we can and must envision different ways of building scholarly spaces beyond what we ourselves have seen or experienced in the academy.