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Critical Museology

A Manifesto

Anthony Shelton

Synthesizing work carried out by the author over the past twenty-five years, this article proposes a tentative disciplinary definition of critical museology, distinguishing its related methodological interdictions and describing its distinctiveness from what is here defined as operational museology. The article acknowledges the diverse intellectual sources that have informed the subject and calls for a reorientation and separation of critical museology from the operational museologies that form part of its area of study. Critical museology, it is argued, is not only an essential intellectual tool for better understanding museums, related exhibitionary institutions, fields of patrimony and counter patrimonies, and the global and local flows and conditions in which they are embedded, but is also crucial for developing new exhibitionary genres, telling untold stories, rearticulating knowledge systems for public dissemination, reimagining organizational and management structures, and repurposing museums and galleries in line with multicultural and intercultural states and communities.

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Borders and Interruptions

Museums in the Age of Global Mobility, Mexico City, 7–9 June 2017

Gwyneira Isaac, Diana E. Marsh, Laura Osorio Sunnucks, and Anthony Shelton

While museums are perceived as institutions dedicated to the dissemination and exchange of culturally diverse knowledges, museum scholarship has been hampered by a lack of multilingual networks and publications necessary for the exchange of museological perspectives between different linguistic, regional, and national communities. At the same time, the museum decolonization movement, the move from monocultural to pluricultural societies, the political resurgence of cultural essentialism, escalating environmental deterioration, and the international impact of current migration crises—by both uniting and dividing peoples—have clarified the need for institutions to socially and intellectually engage with the increasingly complex global flows and disruptions of people and ideas.

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Sonya Atalay, Nika Collison Jisgang, Te Herekiekie Herewini, Eric Hollinger, Michelle Horwood, Robert W. Preucel, Anthony Shelton, and Paul Tapsell

Edited by Jennifer Shannon

ABSTRACT

What do those who participate in repatriation—on behalf of the museums and the communities to whom there is return—most want people to know about it? Nine prominent scholars provide short commentaries in response to this special section on the ritual processes of repatriation. The discussants are museum professionals, Indigenous community members, repatriation claimants, and repatriation officers; these are not mutually exclusive categories. They discuss the transformative power of repatriation on museums, communities, and our individual selves, and provide models for appropriate cultural practice and how to demonstrate respect. Their contributions call us to ceremony, to restorative justice, to engage in repatriation, and to witness how it has changed them.