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Sheila K. Hoffman, Dominique Poulot, Bruno Brulon-Soares, and Joanna Cobley

There is no doubt that we live in fraught times. In the world of museums and cultural heritage protection, we feel it keenly. As symbols and microcosms of respective cultures, museums are thought to reflect society or, at the very least, sections of society or certain historical moments. But the extent to which museums should and do reflect the diversity of people in those societies is the question du jour. Sometimes, it seems as if this question is an internal one—the practical struggle of often underfunded institutions to square the injustices of a past that is encoded into collections with a newfound awareness of visitors, or the theoretical debate about just how multivocal, democratic, and oriented toward social justice a museum can be before it ceases to be a “museum.” The consequences of such struggles and debates can often seem far removed from the concerns of ordinary residents, who may only occasionally visit museums or heritage monuments. Our perception of this disregard perhaps calls into question the impact of our work. But in times of crisis, that doubt is removed and the relevance of cultural heritage becomes clear. Crisis often crystallizes what is most important. That is not surprising. In this special section, we explore the sometimes surprising nature of the aftermath.

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Sven Grabow, Dominique Poulot, Emma Waterton, Sheila K. Hoffman, and Masaaki Morishita

Book Review Essays

Sustaining the Past into the Future: Some Reflections on Mechanisms to Keep Heritage Meaningful and Sustainable

Theory and Practice in Heritage and Sustainability: Between Past and Future. Elizabeth Auclair and Graham Fairclough, eds. London: Routledge, 2015.

Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage, Mia Ridge, ed. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.

Museums, Power, Knowledge: Selected Essays. Tony Bennett. London: Routledge, 2018.

Book Reviews

Collecting, Ordering, Governing: Anthropology, Museums, and Liberal Government. Tony Bennett, Fiona Cameron, Nélia Dias, Ben Dibley, Rodney Harrison, Ira Jacknis, and Conal McCarthy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

The Museum of the Senses. Constance Classen. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

New Museum Practice in Asia. John Reeve and Caroline Lang, eds. London: Lund Humphries, 2018.

Open access

Greagh Smith, Conal McCarthy, Bronwyn Labrum, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Jill Haley, Jun Wei, and Safua Akeli Amaama

Women in the Museum: Lessons from the Workplace. Joan H. Baldwin and Anne W. Ackerson. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Museums and Anthropology in the Age of Engagement. Christina Kreps. London: Routledge, 2020.

Te Papa to Berlin: The Making of Two Museums. Ken Gorbey. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, 2020.

What Are Exhibitions For? An Anthropological Approach. Inge Daniels. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

The Museum as Experience: An Email Odyssey through Artists’ and Collectors’ Museums. Dario Gamboni. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.

Comradely Objects: Design and Material Culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s. Yulia Karpova. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.

Museum Development in China: Understanding the Building Boom. Gail Dexter Lord, Guan Qiang, An Laishun, and Javier Jimenez, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019.

Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses. Philipp Schorch with Noelle M. K. Y. Kahanu, Sean Mallon, Cristián Moreno Pakarati, Mara Mulrooney, Nina Tonga and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020.

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.