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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