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Objects as Archives of a Disrupted Past

The Lengnangulong Sacred Stone from Vanuatu in France, Revisited

Hugo DeBlock


Objects that were estranged from ex-colonies and are now kept in overseas museums serve as archives of the past, a past largely disrupted by colonialism. For Vanuatu, some objects of cultural heritage that are kept in museums have been recently reconnected to their original places, lineages, and even individual owners. The Lengnangulong sacred stone of Magam Village in North Ambrym is one such object, even though it is only one example in a rich tradition of carved sacred stones. As alienated and contested property in Vanuatu, Lengnangulong is kept and exhibited in the Pavillon des Sessions of the Louvre Museum in Paris, which is a contested exhibition space in itself. Here, I provide an update on discussions regarding ownership and kopiraet (Indigenous copyright) that have been accelerating in Vanuatu in recent years and on claims for repatriation of this important valuable.

Open access

Sheila K. Hoffman

In the mid-1990s, when many museums were beginning to take their first hesitant steps toward building online personae, the worry still holding many back was that if a collection or experience were available online, in-person visitation would invariably decline (; ; ). In the 25 years since, that fear has largely been dispelled even as our technical ability to digitally capture and disseminate cultural collections has improved exponentially, even to the point that the online experience in some ways exceeds the in-person experience. Indeed, museums have moved far beyond the ability to show a few images of the major works in a collection, adding opportunities that mirror almost all the offerings of the in-person experience. But even this “Mona Lisa” effect has not driven in-person visitation down. Rather the opposite. Anyone who has elbowed through the crowds at many of the world's best-known museums can attest to that. Indeed, having been among this ubiquitous press of people, I could not help but think on such occasions that it would take an act of God to reduce the numbers and improve the quality of viewing.

Open access

Cristiana Bastos


Plantation museums and memorials play different roles in coming to terms with a past of racialized violence. In this article, I briefly review the academic literature on plantations, refer to the plantation–race nexus, address the critical and acritical uses of plantation memories, discuss modes of musealizing plantations and memorializing labor, and present a community-based museum structure: Hawaii's Plantation Village. This museum project is consistent with a multiethnic narrative of Hawai‘i, in that it provides both an overview of the plantation experience and a detailed account of the cultural heritage of each national group recruited for the sugar plantations. By providing a sense of historical belonging, a chronology of arrival, and a materialized representation of a lived experience, this museum plays an active and interactive role in the shaping of a collective memory of the plantation era, selecting the more egalitarian aspects of a parallel coexistence rather than the hierarchies, violence, tensions and land appropriation upon which the plantations rested.

Open access

The Politics of Indigeneity and Heritage

Indonesian Mortuary Materials and Museums

Kathleen M. Adams


This article contributes to comparative museology by examining curation practices and politics in several “museum-like” heritage spaces and locally run museums. I argue that, in this era of heritage consciousness, these spaces serve as creative stages for advancing potentially empowering narratives of indigeneity and ethnic authority. Understanding practices in ancestral spaces as “heritage management” both enriches our conception of museums and fosters nuanced understandings of clashes unfolding in these spaces as they become entwined with tourism, heritage commodification, illicit antiquities markets, and UNESCO. Drawing on ethnographic research in Indonesia, I update my earlier work on Toraja (Sulawesi) museum-mindedness and family-run museums, and analyze the cultural politics underlying the founding of a new regional Toraja museum. I also examine the complex cultural, religious, and political challenges entailed in efforts to repatriate stolen effigies (tau-tau) and grave materials, suggesting that these materials be envisioned as “homeless heritage” rather than “orphan art.”

Free access

Conal McCarthy

Museum Worlds: Advances in Research Volume 7 (2019) is an open issue, covering a rich variety of topics reflecting the range and diversity of today's museums around the globe. This year's volume has seven research articles, four of them dealing with very different but equally fascinating issues: contested African objects in UK museums, industrial heritage in Finland, manuscript collecting in Britain and North America, and Asian art exhibitions in New Zealand. But this issue also has a special section devoted to Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, which contains three articles and an interview.

Free access

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

Free access

Conal McCarthy and Sandra H. Dudley

After special issues of Museum Worlds: Advances in Research in 2016 and 2017, Volume 6 (2018) is an open issue. In the last two years, the journal has canvassed issues to do with museum archeology, repatriation, and engaging anthropological legacies, as well as with its annual scan of books, exhibitions, conferences, and other events around the museum world, not just in the Anglophone North Atlantic but also in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific.

Open access

Exhibition Review

Venenum, un Monde Empoisonné, Musée des Confluences

Mariana Françozo

The Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France, recently organized a remarkable exhibition: Venenum, un Monde Empoisonné. It ran from April 2017 to April 2018 and was located in one of the museum’s five large temporary exhibition spaces. Venenum did justice to the multidisciplinary and multi-thematic nature of this newly founded museum, bringing together objects otherwise classified separately as natural history, art, ethnography, or history.

Free access

Stefan Berger, Anna Cento Bull, Cristian Cercel, Nina Parish, Małgorzata A. Quinkenstein, Eleanor Rowley, Zofia Wóycicka, Jocelyn Dodd, and Sarah Plumb

War Museums and Agonistic Memory

Within the EU-Horizon-2020-funded project Unsettling Remembering and Social Cohesion in Transnational Europe (UNREST),1 one work package (WP4) analyzed the memorial regimes of museums related to the history of World War I and World War II in Europe. An article by Anna Cento Bull and Hans Lauge Hansen (2016) entitled “Agonistic Memory” provided the theoretical framework for the analysis. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s work (2005, 2013), the authors distinguish three memorial regimes: antagonistic, cosmopolitan, and agonistic.

Unexpected Encounters: Museums Nurturing Living and Ageing Well

As the world’s population ages, how can museums nurture living and aging well? The conference Unexpected Encounters: Museums Nurturing Living and Ageing Well, organized by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) from the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, set out to interrogate this question, and invited conference delegates to consider how museums unconsciously make assumptions about older people and perpetuate the dominant societal view of aging as a “problem.”

Free access

Art of Solidarity

Cuban Posters for African Liberation 1967–1989

David Fleming