in ethnological museums: an
epistemology of postcolonial debates
Larissa Förster and Friedrich von Bose
Debating ethnological museums in the German-speaking world1
Since the early 2000s, ethnological museums have come under increased
scrutiny in the German-speaking world, as elsewhere.2 While in North
America, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand they have had to confront
and react to postcolonial critiques for much longer, colonial history has
only comparatively recently started to enter public discourse and the politics of
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.
between archival and curatorialpractices and concepts. Archive artists often bring together different documents and objects into new narratives in ways that seem to tap into a curatorial mode of working; furthermore, the very notion of the archive could be understood to represent a curated selection and arrangement of history. In this chapter I analyse how the notions of archive and curating intersect historically, methodologically and conceptually in the years around the turn of the twenty-first century.
Curating the uncommons:
taking care of difference in museums
Billie Lythberg, Wayne Ngata and Amiria Salmond
This chapter considers approaches to ‘curating the uncommons’ carried
out by and with the Māori tribal arts management group Toi Hauiti and
with Paikea, a carved wooden ancestor figure of the Te Aitanga a Hauiti iwi
(tribe). It focuses on the ‘uncommon’ qualities of taonga (Māori treasures)
such as Paikea, and the way Toi Hauiti are inflecting curatorialpractice with
their own distinctive whakapapa or heritage.
‘Toi Hauiti’ literally means Hauiti Arts
experience of nations where
distinctive forms of Indigenous museology are emerging and reshaping the
13.1 The food store house or paˉtaka called Te Taˉkinga on display in the Maˉori
exhibition Mana Whenua at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa,
c onventions of curatorialpractice? In attempting to address this question,
the current chapter draws on research by the authors, including interviews
with Māori curators, museum professionals, academics and community
leaders throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring connections
derived from them. Even in the field, Baines collected and visualised with a view to
influencing public understanding. He regularly sent specimens to Europe for analysis and,
when he returned to Britain, he was always busy lecturing and speaking about his experiences.
Most spectacularly of all, his art – the basis of his professional livelihood –
was pressed into service to convey the beauty, grandeur and diversity of Africa as he found
it. Through his art, his travels and their translation in his curatorialpractice then, Baines
involves three scholars whose research, interests and collaborations coalesce around concepts of Indigenous creative and curatorialpractice.3 Kahanu focuses on Bishop Museum’s exhibition E Kū ana ka
paia: Unification, Responsibility and the Kū Images (2010), which featured
important Hawaiian temple images loaned from the British Museum, UK,
and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, USA. She utilises
the Hawaiian framework of he alo ā he alo to illustrate Indigenous curatorialpractices, and to show how it underpins the development of key
, but also of how the astrolabe can be efficiently reframed as a centerpiece in cultural dialogues and exchanges, beyond the confines of traditional scholarship and curatorialpractice.
Also during the writing of this chapter – and in the context of a global pandemic that forced many institutions, including the Adler Planetarium, to temporarily close its doors to the public – the Adler undertook a first exploratory project towards newer approaches to presenting the objects in its collections that relate to astronomy in the Islamic world. In April
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.
Accentuating structures and spaces that have typically been considered ‘support’ (such as the elevator, the hallway, and the exit), as well as spaces of the everyday, such as the queer dance club, I examine the art, choreography, dance, and curatorial practices of Canadian and American artists and choreographers Brendan Fernandes, taisha paggett, and Trajal Harrel, whose bodies force a reckoning with taken-as-given understandings of art’s built environments—the bodies they have historically served, as well as the ones they have historically made invisible. I focus on the bodies and structures that commingle with other bodies and structures within institutional space—institutional designating the physical space of galleries and studios, but also the institution, more conceptually, of history-writing, and the material effects of its strategic erasures. I argue that movement-based and dance practices offer forms of strategic deployment against said erasures in the body’s pervasive and unignorable presence within scripted institutional spaces. The dancer as an actant in the gallery, rather than as a performer on the stage, occupies a space with historically fixed connotations, in particular in large-format institutions, which have, in the last decade, turned their attention to movement-based practices. In this chapter I consider dance’s potential, as well as shortcomings, within the context of the gallery, to foreground bodies and their movements that are typically theorised as in support of a more central object, experience, or performance. I also consider how the body in the museum space signals to an outside, for instance, spaces of queer social dance, and works as a bridge between mainstream and alternative space in bringing the everyday spaces of queerness into the institution.