This volume of Museum Worlds opens with Howard Morphy reflecting on his involvement in the development of the British Museum’s recent Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation exhibition. Morphy begins his commentary by ruminating on the idea of civilization and its complex relationship to museums. Historically these institutions have—together with academic disciplines—drawn upon the notion of civilization, explicitly or implicitly, to categorize objects as art or antiquities on the one hand versus craft, ethnography or material culture on the other. Of course this has also meant—still means—classifying peoples as civilized or not civilized, however directly or indirectly, intentionally or otherwise. Museums are, as Morphy points out, still “struggling with categories that have their origins in past histories.”
Sandra H. Dudley
Anna Edmundson, Margo Neale, Michèle Rivet, Brett Mason, Katie Kyung, Rebecca Gibson, Alison K. Brown, Tatiana Argounova-Low, Maria Lucia de Niemeyer Matheus Loureiro, Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius, and Fredrik Svanberg
Return of the Native: Contestation, Collaboration, and Co-authorship in Museum Spaces, Australian National University, 18–19 June 2015
Access Is a Human Right: The Federation of International Human Rights Museums Conference, Te Papa, Wellington, 23–25 September 2015
Narrative Objects: The Sakha Summer Festival and Cultural Revitalization
Object, Document, and Materiality: Outline of an Ongoing Research Project
Museums Beyond Homogeneity: Museums and Diversity in Sweden
Kylie Message and Sandra H. Dudley
Whether or not museums can live up to the ideal that they provide a public forum has become something of a moot point, if not a stereotype of the past three decades. Museum studies researchers, scholars, and professionals have been proactive in their attempts to understand whether museums can or do provide a physical manifestation of what has been generally considered an aspirational concept or model of practice. Some have been directly inspired by philosophers and sociologists such as Jürgen Habermas (1991), Nancy Fraser (1990), and Craig Calhoun (1992), as well as the critical cultural studies “movements” that have circulated around interdisciplinary journals such as Theory, Culture and Society (http://tcs.sagepub.com/) and Public Culture (http://www.publicculture.org/). Others have drawn on current and emerging directions in disciplines such as anthropology, history, and geography to explore the public sphere concept from the perspective of transnational and postcolonial concerns, and have been influenced by theorists including Seyla Benhabib (1992), Arjun Appadurai (1996), Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000), and Aihwa Ong (2006). Ultimately, of course, much of the museum-focused work—within which we include both the theoretical and the applied (for example, exhibition-based)—has been interdisciplinary. Like the wider critical debates on which it draws and to which it contributes, museum scholarship has been aff ected by ongoing global change, and has reflected—and, in many national contexts, influenced—public policy shifts before and since the new millennium.
Per Bjorn Rekdal
The conference excursion has become an essential ingredient for any international conference, and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) general conference held in Rio de Janiero in August 2013 was no exception. The theme of the conference was Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change. Excursions to favelas (slum areas) were among several events offered. Visiting the Favela Museum with museum professionals from across the world provoked quite unexpected memories, as well as many questions about the creative uses of heritage as part of social change. The well-chosen Favela Museum certainly stirred unsettling memories for me.
Museums, Collecting, Agency
Tanya Zoe Robinson
On 1–2 April 2014, the Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia (UWS), hosted Museums, Collecting, Agency: A Symposium, in partnership with the Museums and Heritage Studies Programme, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (VUW). Held at the Australian Museum (AM) in Sydney, the event brought together an outstanding lineup of speakers from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, the United States, and Britain to explore questions of agency in relation to ethnographic museum collections and museum-like practices of collecting, with an emphasis on the histories and legacies of colonialism. In doing so, the speakers and audience (mainly academics, museum professionals, and museum studies students from Australia and the Pacific) ably brought these issues into the present through varied histories and practice-based case studies that ensured a very “living” approach to this growing research area.
After the Return
Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge Workshop Report
Joshua A. Bell, Kimberly Christen, and Mark Turin
On 19 January 2012, the workshop After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge was held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. With support from the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian’s Understanding the American Experience and Valuing World Cultures Consortia, this workshop brought together twenty-eight international participants for a debate around what happens to digital materials after they are returned to communities (however such communities are conceived, bounded, and lived). The workshop provided a unique opportunity for a critical debate about the very idea of digital return in all of its problematic manifestations, from the linguistic to the legal, as indigenous communities, archives, libraries, and museums work through the terrain of digital collaboration, return, and sharing. What follows is a report on the workshop’s presentations and discussions.
"Ceremonies of Renewal"
Visits, Relationships, and Healing in the Museum Space
Access to heritage objects in museum collections can play an important role in healing from colonial trauma for indigenous groups by facilitating strengthened connections to heritage, to ancestors, to kin and community members in the present, and to identity. This article analyzes how touch and other forms of sensory engagement with five historic Blackfoot shirts enabled Blackfoot people to address historical traumas and to engage in ‘ceremonies of renewal’, in which knowledge, relationships, and identity are strengthened and made the basis of well-being in the present. The project, which was a museum loan and exhibition with handling sessions before the shirts were placed on displays, implies the obligation of museums to provide culturally relevant forms of access to heritage objects for indigenous communities.
Sandra H. Dudley and Kylie Message
Museum Worlds: Advances in Research represents trends in museum-related research and practice. It builds a profile of various approaches to the expanding discipline of museum studies and to work in the growing number of museums throughout the world. It traces major regional, theoretical, methodological, and topical themes and debates, and encourages comparison of museum theories, practices, and developments in different global settings.
International Seminar on Museums and the Changing Cultural Landscape, Ladakh
Conference and Project Report
The international seminar on Museums and the Changing Cultural Landscape, coordinated by Dr. Manvi Seth, was organized by the department of museology in the National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology in collaboration with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) from 2–4 September 2012 at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS), Leh, Ladakh, India.