in Museums and empire
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Museums were an expression of the western conviction in the onward march of the rational. National identities have come to be enshrined in museums to an even greater extent than before. Throughout the British Empire, with the exception of India and other parts of Asia, the museum had to cope with the fact that its traditional juxtaposition of antiquities and of nature was somewhat skewed. European, American and colonial museums set up a quite extraordinary international traffic in natural historical, archaeological and anthropological 'specimens'. The museum's intellectual framework, its collecting habits, and so many of its methods were closely bound up with the nature and practices of imperialism. Local civilisations were also the prime focus in other Asian imperial museums. Thus the geographical and ethnic perspectives of imperial museums were often complex, but the messages of their natural contexts and incipient nationalism were highly fluid.

Museums and empire

Natural history, human cultures and colonial identities


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