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Museums, anthropology and the shaping of culture as an apparatus of government in Britain, 1900-1945

Publication date: May 28, 2014 04:54 PM

Start: Jun 11, 2014 05:15 PM
End: Jun 11, 2014 06:15 PM

Location: Archaeology Lecture Theatre G6, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology building, 2010

Rodney Harrison will give a seminar organised by the Institute's History of Archaeology Research Network on 11 June.

The seminar is entitled 'From the collection of 'curious survivals' to the government of the masses: Museums, anthropology and the shaping of culture as an apparatus of government in Britain, 1900-1945' and all are welcome.


The absence of an English national folk museum in the early twentieth century presents a conundrum. This paper considers international developments in the relations between anthropology, archaeology, sociology and folklore studies in the first part of the twentieth century to explore why distinctions between rural, colonised and metropolitan populations were not able to be applied in England as they were on the Continent and in Scotland and the Isle of Man. It also considers how alternative models for ordering populations emerged immediately before and during the Second World War in Mass Observation's project of an 'anthropology at home', in response to the problem of conceptualising English populations in museological terms. This conception of population, providing an alternative conception of 'culture', was central to the emergence of post-war British social science and the post-war British welfare state.

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Amara Thornton.