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
How a Māori Meeting House in England cultivated relationships and understanding
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.
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.
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.
The Revamped Hong Kong Museum of Art
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.
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.
The Lengnangulong Sacred Stone from Vanuatu in France, Revisited
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.
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.
The Case of Hawaii's Plantation Village
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.