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.
Negotiating curatorial challenges in the Zanzibar Museum
‘The life of a museum depends essentially on the
curator.’ 1 Thus wrote Ailsa Nicol
Smith at the time of her resignation as curator of the ZanzibarMuseum in 1942 in an advisory
memorandum for the Protectorate government. 2 Nicol Smith arrived in Zanzibar in 1936 following the death of the first
curator, Dr Alfred Henry Spurrier, in 1935. He had been a pillar of Zanzibar society since
his arrival in 1892 and was a character known to all the island’s diverse communities.
When searching for his successor, the
Khalifa bin Harub ( Figure
10.2 ). The portrait of Barghash is likely to be that which was
housed in the British Residency since the early 1900s and is currently
on display in the ZanzibarMuseum. These formal portraits were atypical
of displays in the East and West African pavilions, and served to
present the unique identity of Zanzibar: a sophisticated Arab state as
well as a productive island with
and cultural spaces’. 28 Although considered the principal locus
of scientific and academic expertise, the London museums were not necessarily always the hub
of museum networks in the empire. As Savithri Preetha Nair points out in her chapter, Edgar
Thurston envisaged the Madras Museum developing into an important scientific research centre.
Sarah Longair, in her discussion of the ZanzibarMuseum, shows that the existence of a museum
connoted the city in which it was located as a ‘local metropole’ and the museum
Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial
Uncanny (London, 2005); Swati Chattopadhyay and Jeremy White (eds), City Halls
and Civic Materialism: Towards a Global History of Urban Public Space (London, 2014);
Scriver and Prakash (eds), Colonial Modernities. The latter contains a number of very
31 Sarah Longair, Cracks in the Dome: Fractured Histories of Empire in the ZanzibarMuseum,
1897–1964 (London, 2015).
32 Garth Andrew Myers, Verandahs of Power: Colonialism and Space in Urban Africa
(Syracuse, NY, 2003).
The British Empire through
and the British Academic World 1850–1939
35 Sarah Longair, Cracks in the Dome: Fractured Histories of Empire in the ZanzibarMuseum,
1897–1964 (London, 2015).
36 Mombasa was intermittently dominated by the Portuguese in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries until they were ejected by the Omanis after the siege of Fort
Jesus in 1698.
37 It is perhaps not surprising that Sinclair retired to Tangier, Morocco.
38 Chris Raible, A Colonial Advocate: The Launching of his Newspaper and the Queenston
Career of William Lyon Mackenzie (Creemore, Ont
-Saracenic styles in India.
25 http://dioceseofegypt.org/explore/egypt/st-marks-pro-cathedral-alexandria/ (accessed
13 January 2019). St Mark’s is one of thirty-seven episcopal (mainly formerly Anglican)
churches in Egypt and the Horn of Africa.
26 Sarah Longair, Cracks in the Dome: Fractured Histories of Empire in the ZanzibarMuseum,
1870–1864 (Farnham, 2015), pp. 76–81 and 98–99.
27 Smith also painted early views of Penang. Khoo Su Nin, Streets of George Town
Penang: An Illustrated Guide to Penang’s City Streets and Historic Attractions (Penang,
2007), p. 87. Francis Light