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Museums and the British imperial experience

Recent cultural studies have demonstrated the weakness of some of the fashionable theoretical positions adopted by scholars of imperialism in recent times. This book explores the diverse roles played by museums and their curators in moulding and representing the British imperial experience. The British Empire yielded much material for British museums, particularly in terms of ethnographic collections. The collection of essays demonstrates how individuals, their curatorial practices, and intellectual and political agendas influenced the development of a variety of museums across the globe. It suggests that Thomas Baines was deeply engaged with the public presentation, display and interpretation of material culture, and the dissemination of knowledge and information about the places he travelled. He introduced many people to the world beyond Norfolk. A discussion of visitor engagement with non-European material cultures in the provincial museum critiques the assumption of the pervasive nature of curatorial control of audience reception follows. The early 1900s, the New Zealand displays at world's fairs presented a vision of Maoriland, which often had direct Maori input. From its inception, the National Museum of Victoria performed the dual roles of research and public education. The book also discusses the collections at Australian War Memorial, Zanzibar Museum, and Sierra Leone's National Museum. The amateur enthusiasms and colonial museum policy in British West Africa are also highlighted. Finally, the book follows the journey of a single object, Tipu's Tiger, from India back to London.

Sadiah Qureshi

chain implicit in the display of Tipu’s Tiger, linking India, Tipu, tigers and British imperialism, coupled with its epistemologically privileged position within museums, has lent force to its shifting function from a testament to the ostensibly barbaric nature of Tipu to a much-loved and unique work of Indian art. Present-day sensibilities may regard the Tiger as an almost comical remnant of empire; certainly, Lord Mornington’s original moral message is now defunct. If anything, the colonial ambitions it was originally made

in Curating empire
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Objects, empire and museums
Sarah Longair
John McAleer

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book focuses on the roles played by individuals, and the museums with which they were associated, in telling the multifaceted story of Britain's engagement with the wider world. The British Museum and the National Maritime Museum are the two national museums which provided the facilities and backdrop for the 'Museums, material culture and the British Empire' symposium in 2009. The book also focuses on Tipu's Tiger, a single object associated with one individual. It discusses how Britain's imperial engagement informed and influenced displays of material culture in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century provincial Britain. The book illustrates how interpretations is changed over time as the process of 'curating empire' continues to preoccupy and fascinate curators and museum visitors alike.

in Curating empire