How do we thoroughly historicize the voice, or integrate it into our historical research, and how do we account for the mundane daily practices of voice . . . the constant talking, humming, murmuring, whispering, and mumbling that went on off stage, in living rooms, debating clubs, business meetings, and on the streets? Work across the humanities has provided us with approaches to deal with aspects of voices, vocality, and their sounds. This article considers how we can mobilize and adapt such interdisciplinary methods for the study of history. It charts out a practical approach to attend to the history of voices—including unmusical ones—before recording, drawing on insights from the fields of sound studies, musicology, and performativity. It suggests ways to “listen anew” to familiar sources as well as less conventional source material. And it insists on a combination of analytical approaches focusing on vocabulary, bodily practice, and the questionable particularity of sound.
Methods for Historians Attending to the Voices of the Past
The Work of Culture, Heritage, and Musealized Spaces in “Unprecedented Times”
Writing at the midpoint of 2020, it has become cliché to say we are living in unprecedented times as the world copes with a confluence of events and challenges near cataclysmic proportions—the COVID-19 pandemic, civic unrest, social and political upheavals, and disrupted economies. In these times, what should be the work of culture, heritage, and musealized spaces and those that study them? I reflect on the articles in the special section, which stand as examples of engaged research and scholarship that seek to make visible troubled histories and presents, and to amplify voices that have for too long been silenced or ignored. Such visibility work surfaces what does and does not have precedent, what has and has not changed, and what is truly different and revolutionary. The articles draws on historical, comparative, and global perspectives to enrich knowledge gained from firsthand observation and engagement with local communities. Using Donna Haraway's concept of “tentacular thinking,” I argue that we need not only to shed light on difficult chapters in our histories, but also to offer tools for understanding, guidance, and thoughtful actions in the present.
The Emergence of a Community of Practice
Esther Helen McNaughton
This article describes the unprecedented coming together of New Zealand art gallery educators to respond to the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This newly formed community of practice met virtually three times at critical points. At each stage, new concerns were discussed and understandings evolved. The gallery educators were able to approach shared issues cooperatively, enabling mutual support to a degree that had hitherto not been possible. By the end of these meetings, gallery educators were reestablishing their regular teaching practice with the integration of many of the innovations of the period. Additionally, the meetings fulfilled a preexisting desire for closer contact and professional support, and thus proved to be the foundation of an ongoing national professional group for New Zealand art gallery educators.
What Is Public History Globally? Working with the Past in the Present. Paul Ashton and Alex Trapeznik, eds. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
The Disobedient Museum: Writing at the Edge. Kylie Message. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2018.
A Museum in Public: Revisioning Canada's Royal Ontario Museum. Susan L. T. Ashley. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2020.
Anti-Museum. Adrian Franklin. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2020.
Collecting Activism, Archiving Occupy Wall Street. Kylie Message. Museums in Focus series. London: Routledge, 2019.
Greagh Smith, Conal McCarthy, Bronwyn Labrum, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Jill Haley, Jun Wei, and Safua Akeli Amaama
Women in the Museum: Lessons from the Workplace. Joan H. Baldwin and Anne W. Ackerson. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Museums and Anthropology in the Age of Engagement. Christina Kreps. London: Routledge, 2020.
Te Papa to Berlin: The Making of Two Museums. Ken Gorbey. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, 2020.
What Are Exhibitions For? An Anthropological Approach. Inge Daniels. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
The Museum as Experience: An Email Odyssey through Artists’ and Collectors’ Museums. Dario Gamboni. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.
Comradely Objects: Design and Material Culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s. Yulia Karpova. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.
Museum Development in China: Understanding the Building Boom. Gail Dexter Lord, Guan Qiang, An Laishun, and Javier Jimenez, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019.
Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses. Philipp Schorch with Noelle M. K. Y. Kahanu, Sean Mallon, Cristián Moreno Pakarati, Mara Mulrooney, Nina Tonga and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020.
The rhetoric and poetics of a slavery exhibition
Paula Mota Santos
In 2009, in Lagos, Portugal, the remains of 158 bodies of fifteenth-century enslaved Africans were unearthed. In 2016, Lagos City Council inaugurated a slavery-themed exhibition in collaboration with the Portuguese Committee of UNESCO's Slave Route Project. Through an analysis of the exhibition's rhetoric and poetics, I argue that the former is yet another instance of Lusotropicalism, a theoretical construct developed by Gilberto Freyre throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s to support the construct of Brazil as a racial democracy, and appropriated by Portugal to support the “benign” character of its colonial system. As a consequence, slavery and Portugal's role in the transatlantic slave trade, although apparently brought into the light in this exhibition, are in fact hidden in plain sight because both the rhetorical and poetic devices at play conspire to evade addressing the colonial order and its historical consequences, both past and present.
Deviant Heritage Comes Out of the Shadows
Rachel F. Giraudo
Amid changing state laws to legalize the growing, selling, and use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in the United States, activists and advocates continue to help legitimize cannabis through museum-like practices and heritage work. They recognize the importance of destigmatizing the plant and its users, and effectively use exhibits to educate the public as one means of spreading their message. Given the rapid commodification of legal cannabis, some are also documenting its prohibition in order to protect members of cannabis subcultures whose livelihoods are now threatened. Through engaged scholarship, I examine efforts of two museums and two groups of advocates to represent and make visible the heritage of cannabis in the United States.
Report on the Panel on Ethnographic Museums and Indigenous People, ICOM Kyoto, September 2019
At the twenty-fifth triennial ICOM International General Conference, which took place in Kyoto, Japan, on 1 to 7 September 2019, decolonization and restitution were discussed during a whole afternoon under the heading “Decolonization and Restitution: Moving Towards a More Holistic Perspective and Relational Approach.” Two consecutive sessions with simultaneous translation in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese were attended by almost one thousand people in each session. Speakers for both sessions were representatives of their respective ICOM National Committees. ICOM's Code of Ethics for Museums, adopted in 1986 at the fifteenth General Conference in Buenos Aires, is recognized worldwide and serves as a guideline in museum work, especially the sixth principle: “Museums work closely with both the communities from which their collections originate and those they serve.”
The world has changed. In early 2020, when COVID-19 spread around the globe, closing museums and universities and disrupting life as we know it, Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, like many academic and professional journals, was also affected. Of course, in a pandemic with so many lives lost, and many others exposed to illness, unemployment, and the disruption of the economy, travel, and trade, the tertiary and cultural sectors were bound to be adversely impacted as well. With the shutting of museums and galleries, university teaching going online—resulting in increased workloads for academics, the laying off or furloughing of staff, the delaying of the production of books and journals (with publishers unable to send books out), and the cancellation and/or delay of conferences and research projects—it was natural that we would also struggle to get together an issue for 2020. It was indeed a challenge compiling Museum Worlds 8 as the virus raged, but thanks to our hard-working team of editors, our generous and patient contributors, our tireless readers and peer reviewers, and the expert advice of Janine Latham and her colleagues at Berghahn, we got there. I want to thank everyone involved in this issue for their help in seeing it into print, and especially Dr. Susette Goldsmith, my editorial assistant, for being there in the final stages.
Sara Selwood and Lillia McEnaney
Hogarth: Place and Progress, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 9 October 2019 – 5 January 2020.
Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1 November 2019–28 February 2021