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Tlingit Repatriation in Museums

Ceremonies of Sovereignty

Aldona Jonaitis

Tlingit repatriation activities at museums become ceremonies involving both Tlingit and museum staff. These groups connect to one another in a temporary alliance that erases their differences, and for a time celebrates an incorporation of colonizer and colonized. The principle challenge to a successful repatriation is the US legal notion of “right of possession.” Even if items are not returned, some museums have made efforts to allow clans to use them in ceremonies. These complex ceremonial interactions between staff and Tlingit within the museum setting can represent yet another form of these empowering expressions of cultural self-determination, a process we might call repatriation sovereignty.

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Philipp Schorch

Drawing on a narrative study of Australian visitors to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, this article explores the hermeneutic complexities of migration encounters through the meaning-making processes of museum visitors. Throughout this process of interpretive negotiations, museum exhibitions and visitor biographies become intertwined through narratives of migration. The empirical evidence emphasizes that the humanization of migration through stories and faces renders possible an understanding, explanation, and critique of sociopolitical contexts through the experience of human beings. Migration emerges as a practice that transforms cosmopolitanism from an abstract, normative ideal into a lived, interpreted reality. This article, then, is devoted to the cosmohermeneutics of migration encounters, that is, to an experienced and thus “actually existing cosmopolitanism” (Malcomson 1998) that entangles self and other through visitors' interpretive dialectics of reflexivity and empathy. The article suggests a cosmopolitan museum practice that opens interpretive spaces for shifting subjectivities and multiple identifications across differences and commonalities.

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Silvia Forni

By looking at the numerous small palace museums founded in the Cameroonian Grassfields since the early 2000s, this article interrogates the meaning and function of displays of objects and narratives in the shifting social, political, and economic landscape of contemporary Cameroon. Museums in postcolonial Africa stem from very specific colonial premises, which are still relevant to the understanding of national narratives and displays. However, palace museums in the Grassfields engage in a different and somewhat contrasting use of objects and collections to present a more nuanced and complicated image of local societies. Through their eclectic and non-canonical display, these museums challenge ethnographic taxonomies and linear narratives, while serving effectively as ways to enhance the visibility and prestige of local kingdoms both nationally and internationally.

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Museum Europe

Negotiating Heritage

Sharon Macdonald

This article is concerned with some of the implications of the fact that Europe is so widely seen as a place replete with heritage, museums and memory, and also with the continuing expansion in numbers and types of heritage, museums and memory. It seeks to explore some of the ways in which heritage, in particular, is understood (including what it calls 'sticky heritage'), and especially the cultural and social work that it is often seen as able to do. To this end, the article reviews a number of trends in heritage developments, especially the diversification of what it calls 'Museum Europe' (e.g. in the establishment of museums or exhibitions about migration) and the kinds of citizenship that this mobilises. Some of the dilemmas as well as capacities of these developments are discussed. At the same time, the article reviews some of the directions in heritage research and the implications of this, and of 'Museum Europe' itself, for anthropology, ethnology and related disciplines.

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Civilizing Museums

Editorial

Sandra H. Dudley

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.”

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Mark Thurner

Museums everywhere now display fragments of their own past displays, often in the form of ancestral cabinets presented as autobiographical introductions. What is the meaning of this introspective and retrospective “return to curiosity” in museography? Reconnoitering a fistful of iconic museums in and around London and Madrid, I suggest that the all-encompassing metatrope of curiosity begs a deeper question: What is the museum a museum of?

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Integrating Research and Collections Management

The Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative at the Bishop Museum

Mara A. Mulrooney, Charmaine Wong, Kelley Esh, Scott Belluomini and Mark D. McCoy

The Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative is a collaborative research endeavor that is primarily focused on the analysis of the Bishop Museum’s Archaeology Collections. The goal of Ho‘omaka Hou (which literally means “to begin again”) is to encourage continued work with these invaluable museum collections, and to bring together researchers and students with various research interests in order to learn more about the past. In addition to conducting research on museum collections using the most up-to-date methods in the field of archaeology, we are building a digital inventory of the collections. This integrated approach highlights the relevance of archaeological collections housed in museums for informing researchers about the past, and also emphasizes the need for modernizing digital inventories to safeguard these collections for the future.

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Didier Maleuvre

This article reflects on the project of creating multicultural inclusive museums. By definition, an inclusive museum honors the cultural constituencies it is paid to serve. Yet in reality, cultural sensitivity is one thing and education another. Blurring the distinction risks sacrificing education, a moral mandate, to the ideal of equality. My article points to examples where, for fear of offending, a museum betrays its educational mission. I trace the affinity between inclusive museum politics and consumerist culture and consider the case of the Creation Museum-a museum that, as per the multicultural ideal, tailors science to the sensibility of its customer base, in this instance the sensibility of American biblical literalists.

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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.

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"Ceremonies of Renewal"

Visits, Relationships, and Healing in the Museum Space

Laura Peers

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.