Savithri Preetha Nair
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Edgar Thurston at the Madras Museum (1885–1909)
The multiple careers of a colonial museum curator
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This chapter focuses on the Madras Museum in southeast India, under its first salaried superintendent Edgar Thurston. He headed the institution for a quarter of a century, transforming it from an economic appendage to a veritably civic and scientific institution. As a colonial museum curator, Thurston's career was many-sided; that he addressed multiple audiences is clearly reflected in his official correspondence and publications. During his career at the Madras Museum he devoted his time predominantly to marine biology and ecology of the coral reefs for the benefit of the museum, the state and the university. Thurston's approach to material culture and his turn to anthropology through zoology were strikingly similar to the route taken by his friend and exact contemporary, the Cambridge anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon. The Madras Museum under Thurston evolved into a centre of research and education in marine biology, ocean ecology and anthropology.

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Curating empire

Museums and the British imperial experience


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