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Museums and the future of curatorship

What is the future of curatorial practice? How can the relationships between Indigenous people in the Pacific, collections in Euro-American institutions and curatorial knowledge in museums globally be (re)conceptualised in reciprocal and symmetrical ways? Is there an ideal model, a ‘curatopia’, whether in the form of a utopia or dystopia, which can enable the reinvention of ethnographic museums and address their difficult colonial legacies? This volume addresses these questions by considering the current state of the play in curatorial practice, reviewing the different models and approaches operating in different museums, galleries and cultural organisations around the world, and debating the emerging concerns, challenges and opportunities. The subject areas range over native and tribal cultures, anthropology, art, history, migration and settler culture, among others. Topics covered include: contemporary curatorial theory, new museum trends, models and paradigms, the state of research and scholarship, the impact of new media and current issues such as curatorial leadership, collecting and collection access and use, exhibition development and community engagement. The volume is international in scope and covers three broad regions – Europe, North America and the Pacific. The contributors are leading and emerging scholars and practitioners in their respective fields, all of whom have worked in and with universities and museums, and are therefore perfectly placed to reshape the dialogue between academia and the professional museum world.

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Collecting networks and the museum

three benefactions, other donations large and small were arriving thick and fast. For three decades from the mid-1890s, the Manchester Museum was at the quantitative peak of growth by donation, which reflected natural history museum acquisition in Europe and North America generally.18 These gifts augmented the museum’s collection, both quantitatively and in the heraldic sense – to ‘raise in estimation or dignity’ or ‘make an honourable addition to’. Through economic boom and bust, through peace and war, items continued to arrive at the Museum.19 Probably the greatest

in Nature and culture
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Objects, disciplines and the Manchester Museum

At the turn of the nineteenth century, museums in Europe and North America were at their largest and most powerful. New buildings were bigger; objects flooded into them, and more people visited them than ever before. The Manchester Museum is an ideal candidate for understanding cultures of display in twentieth-century Britain. It is a treasure trove of some four million priceless objects that are irreplaceable and unique. Like many large European collections, the origins of the Manchester Museum are to be found in a private cabinet: that of John Leigh Philips. This book traces the fate of his cabinet from his death in 1814. The establishment of the Manchester Natural History Society (MNHS) allowed naturalists to carve out a space in Manchester's cultural landscape. The Manchester Museum's development was profoundly affected by the history of the University in which it operated. In January 1868, the Natural History Society formally dissolved, and an interim commission took control of its collections; the Manchester Geological Society transferred its collections the following year. The new collection was to be purely scientific, comprising geology, zoology and botany, with no place for some of the more exotic specimens of the Society. The objects in the collection became part of Manchester's civic identity, bringing with them traces of science, empire and the exotic. Other museological changes were afoot in the 1990s. Natural history collections became key sites for public engagement with environmental issues and biodiversity and more recently as sites for exhibiting art.

The dynamic processes of knowledge production in archaeology and elsewhere in the humanities and social sciences are increasingly viewed within the context of negotiation, cooperation and exchange, as the collaborative effort of groups, clusters and communities of scholars. Shifting focus from the individual scholar to the wider social contexts of her work, this volume investigates the importance of informal networks and conversation in the creation of knowledge about the past, and takes a closer look at the dynamic interaction and exchange that takes place between individuals, groups and clusters of scholars in the wider social settings of scientific work. Various aspects of and mechanisms at work behind the interaction and exchange that takes place between the individual scholar and her community, and the creative processes that such encounters trigger, are critically examined in eleven chapters which draw on a wide spectrum of examples from Europe and North America: from early modern antiquarians to archaeological societies and practitioners at work during the formative years of the modern archaeological disciplines and more recent examples from the twentieth century. The individual chapters engage with theoretical approaches to scientific creativity, knowledge production and interaction such as sociology and geographies of science, and actor-network theory (ANT) in their examination of individual–collective interplay. The book caters to readers both from within and outside the archaeological disciplines; primarily intended for researchers, teachers and students in archaeology, anthropology, classics and the history of science, it will also be of interest to the general reader.

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A Tongan ‘akau in New England

. Joining the club Melville’s Queequeg, and the Oceanic characters of his first novel, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846), suggest that, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the inhabitants of Oceania already occupied an equivocal role in the North American imaginary. In terms of material culture, this equivocation is exemplified by Oceanic clubs of the kind described by Melville’s Ishmael in the Spouter-Inn. Such clubs had long been accessible to curious New Englanders. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, contains more than twenty thousand

in Curatopia

collaborating with South American partners, the Spanish exhibitions were nevertheless widely criticised for celebrating 125 126 North America ‘­discovery’ from a European perspective while omitting the political, military and economic implications of Spanish colonisation. Eduardo Subirats9 positioned Spain’s Quinto Centenario within the politics of Hispanidad, the ideas of a shared Hispanic and mestizo heritage and Spain’s reassertion of a sphere of economic and cultural influence, an observation that might equally be applied to the country’s later exhibitions marking

in Curatopia

reason. What might be called Darwinian time – developmental, materially adaptive 7 110 North America and without any guaranteed destination – interjected a new, and troubling, ontological ‘ground’, or lack of ground. This unmanageable seriality may account for the anxiety, as well as the desire, associated with the collecting and preserving in museums around 1900. And it may have something to do with the remarkable productivity and dissemination of the museum form in the present moment of historical uncertainty. Since the eighteenth century, Western curating has

in Curatopia
Pluralism and the politics of change in Canada’s national museums

, history and other heritage institutions. 9 144 North America By the beginning of the new millennium, most museum professionals would have said that the new priorities and practices had been broadly accepted and that the government programmes that supported them were securely established.3 It was thus all the more shocking to witness the shutting down of many decolonising and democratising initiatives under the three Conservative governments headed by Prime Minister Steven Harper between 2006 and 2015. The changes, unprecedented in scope and degree, were imposed

in Curatopia
Foe, facilitator, friend or forsaken?

First Peoples.4 In the USA, the 1990 Native 10 160 North America American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) changed the law around human remains and funerary objects in federally funded collections. Internationally, the United Nations’ 2008 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Article 31, reinforced the rights of Indigenous communities to control the management of their heritage. Museums have informed and responded to these changes in law and policy, embraced many aspects of postcolonial thinking, and generally supported calls

in Curatopia

Virtual museums and new directions? Vilsoni Hereniko The word ‘museum’ for me evokes images of cultural objects in glass cases that reflect an era which is dead and gone. This has been my experience visiting most museums in different countries in Oceania. The better-funded museums in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand as well as North America and Europe (including the United Kingdom), on the other hand, appear to be more vibrant and able to attract tourists and residents in larger numbers. The Hawaiian Hall and the Pacific Hall of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu

in Curatopia