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Perspectives on military collections and the British empire

Over 130 military museums in the United Kingdom preserve the historical collections of British regiments, corps and services (including two naval museums). Their collections contain artefacts acquired by British servicemen in colonial warfare and on imperial garrison duties across the globe. Outside military culture, the phenomenon of collecting in theatres of war is primarily associated with looting. However, those who encountered the British Army in its colonial garrisons and campaigns met with a remarkably heterogeneous enterprise.

Drawing from a series of research workshops funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and case studies developed with British Academy/Leverhulme, support, the essays in this edited collection will combine the perspectives of anthropologists and historians to test current understandings of military collecting beyond Europe. Dividing the Spoils will variously address motivations and circumstances for collecting and appropriation, the place of collected objects in the context of military organisational culture and the legacy of military collections as material witnesses of encounters between non-European peoples and imperial forces.

The book argues for an understanding of these collections within a range of intercultural relationships which embrace diplomacy, alliance, curiosity and enquiry, as well as conflict, expropriation and cultural hegemony.

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Material reckonings with military histories
Henrietta Lidchi

Dealing for Collections from Colonial Contexts , funded and subsequently publicly endorsed by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. 4 This thorough document seeks to provide professional guidance to those in the museum sector working with colonial collections, where colonialism is defined as a relationship based on domination in which the colonised lose self-determination. 5 The Guidelines provide a nuanced history and lengthy summary as a framework for working through the circumstances that have yielded German museum collections, providing

in Dividing the spoils
Archives and collecting on the frontiers of data-driven science
Antonia Walford

This chapter investigates the intensification of data practices that has occurred over the last decades in the environmental sciences. Moving away from a critical focus on the commodification of the environment, the chapter examines how a recent international databasing initiative in Global Earth Observations can be understood through the critical analytic of the archive. However, a focus only on the archival logics of such infrastructural data practices risks losing sight of other important elements of emergent data-driven scientific landscapes. One such element is data collection. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with a large-scale Earth Systems project in the Brazilian Amazon, in comparison with a historical analysis of British colonial collections in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the chapter argues that paying attention to data collection as a process of both appropriation and transformation is crucial for understanding the relations that constitute contemporary scientific knowledge production.

in Ethnography for a data-saturated world
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Dividing the spoils
Henrietta Lidchi and Stuart Allan

comparatively neglected by material culture specialists. Among the many publications that address colonial collections in European museums, 1 few specifically address military collections, or military culture as an aspect of collecting. Conversely, while the material turn and biographical approach in anthropological research is now several decades old, it is only beginning to be applied to military history and its material legacies, 2 and the scant military historical literature on the object-collecting aspects of the culture of war has been principally concerned with

in Dividing the spoils
James Clifford

been associated with the creation and management of colonial collections. These collections were built on conquest (the Napoleonic expeditions, the Benin Bronzes …) and on assumptions of ‘salvage’, the necessity and the right (guaranteed by a linear, progressive History) to collect vanishing or endangered artefacts, as well as written and oral records.4 Colonial collecting, which reached something like a fever pitch in the late nineteenth century, conceived of museums and archives as ultimate resting places, repositories for a precious legacy, kept in trust for

in Curatopia
Museums and the British imperial experience
Sarah Longair and John McAleer

Museums During the Late Nineteenth Century (Kingston, ON, and Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988). 18 Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn, ‘Introduction’, in Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn (eds), Colonialism and the Object , pp. 1–8, p. 5. 19 See Susan Sheets-Pyenson, ‘How to “grow” a natural history museum: The building of colonial collections, 1850–1900’, Archives of Natural History , 15:2 (1988), 121–47. 20 Amiria

in Curating empire
German colonial botany at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin
Katja Kaiser

the field of colonial botany on landscapes and societies in the colonies, indigenous reactions to exploitation and the post-colonial memory of German botanists and planters. 2 Finally, the oscillation between the remembering and the forgetting of the institution’s colonial legacy since 1945 to the present day will be explored in the context of public debates on Germany’s colonial past and colonial

in Sites of imperial memory
Foe, facilitator, friend or forsaken?
Bryony Onciul

Britain and British colonial collections as much as it does to those in former colonies. The best practice being exemplified in current global museology is important in the ‘age of apology’.86 Museums and their curators can act on our collective obligations to address colonial pasts and help shape the future, but only if their roles are recognised and adequately resourced. The figure of the curator has always been, and should always be, multilayered and complex. As an expert and apprentice, an authority with humility, a professional and an advocate, the multifaceted

in Curatopia
‘Indian’ art at the Sydenham Palace
Sarah Victoria Turner

belong within the networks of what Saloni Mathur has described as the ‘mimetic imperative’ of the colonial cultural system. Copies of European sculpture and painting were regularly shipped in to feed ‘gaps’ in colonial collections in art schools and museums and, in return, important colonial monuments and archaeological sites were transported out of the colonies to be displayed at the international exhibition and in the museums of European capital cities.42 In the context of the Festival of Empire, the copies were interpreted as a material manifestation of the Festival

in After 1851
The Dutch colonial world during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign, 1898–1948
Susie Protschky

S. Legêne, ‘Enlightenment, empathy, retreat: the cultural heritage of the Ethische Politiek ’, in P. ter Keurs (ed.), Colonial Collections Revisited (Leiden: CNWS Publications, 2007), pp. 220–45; S. Legêne, ‘Flatirons and the folds of history: on archives, cultural heritage and colonial legacies’, in S. W. Wieringa (ed.), Traveling Heritages: New Perspective on Collecting, Preserving and Sharing Women's History (Amsterdam: Aksant, 2008), pp. 47–64; S. Legêne, ‘Dwinegeri: multiculturalism and the colonial past (or: the culture borders of being Dutch)’, in B

in Photographic subjects