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Open access

Bringing Slavery into the Light in Postcolonial Portugal

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.

Open access

Cannabis Culture on Display

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.

Open access

Decolonization and Restitution: Moving Towards a More Holistic and Relational Approach

Report on the Panel on Ethnographic Museums and Indigenous People, ICOM Kyoto, September 2019

Michèle Rivet

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.”

Open access

Conal McCarthy

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.

Open access

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

Open access

Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito

How a Māori Meeting House in England cultivated relationships and understanding

Michael Upchurch


This report discusses the overriding significance of cross-cultural relationships in heritage management and conservation with regard to Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito, the whare whakairo (“carved meeting house”) “displaced” in the late nineteenth century from Te Wairoa in Aotearoa New Zealand to Clandon Park in England. Looking at the history and meanings of the meeting house through the relationships of those who interacted with her, it demonstrates how listening, learning, and understanding are at the heart of improving professional practice in museums and heritage practice globally. This article is derived from and expands upon an assignment written for the course MHST507 “Museums and Māori” taught by Awhina Tamarapa as part of the PG-Dip in Museum and Heritage Practice at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington in May 2020.

Open access

Interruptions: Challenges and Innovations in Exhibition-Making

The Second World Museologies Workshop, National Museum of Ethnology (MINPAKU), Osaka, December 2019

Laura Osorio Sunnucks, Nicola Levell, Anthony Shelton, Motoi Suzuki, Gwyneira Isaac, and Diana E. Marsh


Anthropology and its institutions have come under increased pressure to focus critical attention on the way they produce, steward, and manage cultural knowledge. However, in spite of the discipline's reflexive turn, many museums remain encumbered by Enlightenment-derived legitimating conventions. Although anthropological critiques and critical museology have not sufficiently disrupted the majority paradigm, certain exhibitionary projects have served to break with established theory and practice. The workshop described in this article takes these nonconforming “interruptions” as a point of departure to consider how paradigm shifts and local museologies can galvanize the museum sector to promote intercultural understanding and dialogue in the context of right-wing populism, systemic racism, and neoliberal culture wars.

Open access

Paula Mota Santos and Hugo DeBlock

The articles for this special section of Museum Worlds first started to gain their present form as presentations in the panel “Voices Out of The Dark: Contemporary Museum-Like Practices and Culturalized Politics” during the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in San José, California. Those were very different times from the ones in which this introduction is being rewritten. Now, in late July of 2020, the world has been living for several months with the full consequences of a major globalized public health crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted and changed people's lives in almost every aspect of their daily routines and actions. Also now, in late July of 2020, we have been living through times of increased calls for change: the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum and a global reach after the unlawful killing by a police officer of George Floyd this past May in the city of Minneapolis.

Open access

The Misrepresentation of Hong Kongness

The Revamped Hong Kong Museum of Art

Vennes Cheng


Established in 1962, the Hong Kong Museum of Art was the first public museum in the city. It closed in August 2015 for a four-year renovation and spatial expansion of the facility, and reopened its doors in November 2019. The renovation happened precisely in the interstices of two important historical ruptures in recent Hong Kong history: the Umbrella Movement of 2014 and the ongoing Anti-China Extradition Movement that started in 2019. These movements are redefining the identity of the city and its people in contrast to the conventional Hong Kong cliché of transformation from fishing village to modern financial hub. Without addressing recent changes in cultural identity, the revamped museum rhetorically deploys obsolete curatorial narratives through exhibitions of Hong Kong art. This report critiques the representation of Hong Kongness in the revamped museum and argues that the latter is a soulless entity that overlooks the fact that both politics and art are now reconstructing local identities.

Open access

Museums in the Pandemic

A Survey of Responses on the Current Crisis

Joanna Cobley, David Gaimster, Stephanie So, Ken Gorbey, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Bruno Brulon Soares, Nuala Morse, Laura Osorio Sunnucks, María de las Mercedes Martínez Milantchí, Alberto Serrano, Erica Lehrer, Shelley Ruth Butler, Nicky Levell, Anthony Shelton, Da (Linda) Kong, and Mingyuan Jiang

Throughout human history, the spread of disease has closed borders, restricted civic movement, and fueled fear of the unknown; yet at the same time, it has helped build cultural resilience. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. The novel zoonotic disease, first reported to the WHO in December 2019, was no longer restricted to Wuhan or to China, as the highly contagious coronavirus had spread to more than 60 countries. The public health message to citizens everywhere was to save lives by staying home; the economic fallout stemming from this sudden rupture of services and the impact on people's well-being was mindboggling. Around the globe museums, galleries, and popular world heritage sites closed (). The Smithsonian Magazine reported that all 19 institutes, including the National Zoo and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), would be closed to the public on 14 March (). On the same day, New Zealand's borders closed, and the tourism industry, so reliant on international visitors, choked. Museums previously deemed safe havens of society and culture became petri dishes to avoid; local museums first removed toys from their cafés and children's spaces, then the museum doors closed and staff worked from home. In some cases, front-of-the-house staff were redeployed to support back-of-the-house staff with cataloguing and digitization projects. You could smell fear everywhere.