Sarah Longair
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The experience of a lady curator’
Negotiating curatorial challenges in the Zanzibar Museum
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The life of a museum depends essentially on the curator. Thus wrote Ailsa Nicol Smith at the time of her resignation as curator of the Zanzibar Museum in 1942 in an advisory memorandum for the Protectorate government. Tracing Nicol Smith's tenure in Zanzibar sheds light upon the status of colonial museums, the challenges to maintain them and the wider perception of museums within society. This chapter focuses principally upon these two strands, the nature of curatorship in a colonial museum and the particular challenges for a female officer holding this post. The career of Nicol Smith in Zanzibar reveals the substantial challenges of curating a colonial museum. Whilst dealing with extensive professional duties, she was continually forced to justify her role and that of the Museum. During her tenure, Nicol Smith enthusiastically supported attempts to bring together curators of the East African museums.

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Curating empire

Museums and the British imperial experience


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