Museums were an expression of the western conviction in the onward march of the rational. Local civilisations were also the prime focus in other Asian imperial museums. This is the first book that examines the origins and development of museums in six major regions if the British Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It analyses museum histories in thirteen major centres in Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and South-East Asia, setting them into the economic and social contexts of the cities and colonies in which they were located. Museums in Canada have a longer, though somewhat chequered, history than elsewhere in the British Empire. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto and the Royal British Columbia museum in Victoria were two notable, yet very different, expressions of imperial expansiveness . The book then overviews two representative museums: the South African Museum (SAM) in Cape Town and the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. The origins and development of the National Museum of Victoria (NMV) in Melbourne, South Australian Museum (SAuM) and Australian Museum (AM) are then discussed. New Zealand/Aotearoa, with its Canterbury Museum and War Memorial Museum, has discrete origins as a colony in the nineteenth century. Imperial museums in Asia were unquestionably distinctive compared with those of the territories of white settlement. A number of key themes emerge: the development of elites within colonial towns; the emergence of the full range of cultural institutions associated with this; and the modification of the key scientific ideas of the age.
The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto and the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria
John M. MacKenzie
In 1834 the population of Toronto
had been no more than about 10,000. By the 1880s, it stood at around
86,000. But by 1911 it had reached 375,000 and the city was on its way
to being the largest in Canada, overtaking Montreal as the principal
commercial and industrial centre, and with international ambitions to go
with it. The strikingly rapid growth
a project. While a separate provincial museum survived until 1933, the
new one would aspire to something grander. Though not national in name
(this status would be preserved for institutions in Ottawa), it would be
international in scope. This was symbolised in the choice of
‘RoyalOntarioMuseum’ as its title: although this was a
North American museum struggling to assert itself against its exemplars
Post-connoisseurial dystopia and the profusion of things
, Chapter 13 below.
6 J. Waddington and D.M. Rudkin (eds.), Proceedings of the 1985 Workshop on
Care and Maintenance of Natural History Collections (Toronto: RoyalOntarioMuseum, 1985), https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsof19800work/proceed
ingsof19800work_djvu.txt. Accessed 30 November 2016.
7 S.J. Knell (ed.), Museums and the Future of Collecting: Second Edition (Aldershot:
8 B. Lord, G. Dexter and J. Nicks, The Cost of Collecting: Collections Management
in UK Museums (London: Office of Arts and Libraries, 1989).
9 National Museum Directors
Pluralism and the politics of change in Canada’s national museums
Ruth B. Phillips
2 I refer to Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art: Affinities of the Tribal and the
Modern (1984) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; Art / artifact:
African Art in Anthropology Collections (1988) at the Center for African Art, New
York, USA; The Spirit Sings: Arts of Canada’s First Peoples (1988) at the Glenbow
Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Into the Heart of Africa (1989) at Toronto’s
RoyalOntarioMuseum, Canada; Circa 1492 (1992) at the National Gallery of
Art in Washington, DC, USA; First Encounters: Spanish Explorations in Florida
Africa at the RoyalOntarioMuseum, Toronto,
in 1989, inspired radical rethinking of museum approaches to displaying
source communities formerly thought of collectively as ‘Others’.3
Indigenous peoples’ challenges to museums through protests and calls
for repatriation, and via collaborative working, have reshaped museological
thinking over the past decades. In Canada, The Spirit Sings protest inspired
the Assembly of First Nations and Canadian Museums Association to
create the Turning the Page Task Force Report, which redefined the role of
museums when representing
Europe. An example would be the RoyalOntarioMuseum in Toronto. In
India, there was never any doubt that Indians would be the
‘consumers’ of museums and that India possessed artefacts of
major civilisations, though some princes also wished to unveil the
cultures of Europe to Indians. India generally occupied the centre
stage, a major difference from settler societies. Local civilisations
were also the
moral values seemed to be put to one side. This is well illustrated by the major holdings of the RoyalOntarioMuseum in Toronto. This museum, perhaps more than any other in the British Empire, comes closer to the British Museum ideal which many museums initially aspired to, to display materials from almost all the continents. In this, it was greatly helped by its proximity to Europe, the North Atlantic crossing being shorter and easier to accomplish than journeys from India, the Far East and certainly Australasia.
Other media disseminating the hunting
of Roman artefacts outside Europe.
Museums were founded in the principal cities of Canada, with the RoyalOntarioMuseum eventually emerging as one of the most notable, perhaps
the only one in the British Empire to aspire to the scale of the great museums
of Europe. Its foundation was based upon the remarkable growth of Toronto
25 Colombo Museum, Ceylon
The British Empire through buildings
from a population of no more than 10,000 in 1834 to a great city of 375,000
in 1911. This growth was mirrored by the rapid emergence of scientific
Eighteenth-century powder horns in British military collections
Encounters in Scotland and America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). See also M. P. Dziennik, The Fatal Land: War, Empire and the Highland Soldier in British America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), pp. 118–22.
30 NMS, A.1984.67. A beaded Glengarry-style cap from the collections of the RoyalOntarioMuseum (989.15.16) and James Cameron’s powder horn from NMS appear as illustrations in Calloway, White People, Indians and Highlanders , pp. 101 and 138. Cameron’s powder horn also appears as an illustration in Dziennik, The Fatal Land , p. 119.