Museum, Field, Metropolis, Colony: Practices of Social Governance
Since the 1980s there have been significant
changes to museum practices and policies that are designed to promote their use
as civic institutions for fostering cross-cultural understanding in culturally
diverse societies; accordingly, museums in Australia, the United States,
France, Britain and New Zealand have developed new relationships with the
cultures of both Indigenous peoples and multicultural populations.
practices are commonly presented as breaking with the roles played by museums
in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when cultural differences were
represented in racialised hierarchies. While true in some contexts, this
neglects the varying conceptions of cultural difference associated with the new
relationships between museums, anthropological fieldwork, and programs of
colonial and metropolitan governance that were developed during the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This Australian Research Council
funded collaborative research project addresses this deficiency by examining
these aspects of museum practices in early twentieth-century museums in Australia,
Britain, France, New Zealand, and North America, and comparing the varied roles
which anthropological museum collections played in the governance of different
colonised and metropolitan populations in this period.
In addressing these questions, the project explores their relevance to contemporary debates and practices focused on the relations between museums and Indigenous peoples.
Colonial Governmentalities workshop, 2012
This workshop sought to investigate the ways in which the processes of collecting cultures are implicated in the rationalities of government in various late nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial contexts. The roles played by different kinds of knowledge associated with practices of collecting – anthropology, archaeology, folklore studies – in shaping different forms of colonial rule were of particular interest. A case study approach facilitated this exploration, providing the opportunity to compare and contrast the ways in which processes of collecting cultures were implicated in different colonial rationalities in different colonial contexts; be it, for example, those of settler, conquest, or neo-conquest colonialism. The workshop brought together an international group of scholars who share an interest in questions of colonial governmentality and who have expertise in the histories of museums and the practices of collection associated with the colonial experiences of Australia, France, Germany, India, New Zealand or North America. The workshop generated papers for two edited collections/special issues which will make a significant contribution to the literatures on governmentality, museums and collecting.
- Collecting and Governing
Cultures symposium, 2014
This Symposium will consider the implications of the project’s case studies for the role of museums in relation to contemporary processes of social governance. It brings together questions about past-present relationships that arise from the project’s findings to explore issues of Indigenous agency as they pertain to contemporary collecting institutions. The symposium examines the different forms of agency developed by Indigenous peoples in relation to the collection and exhibition of materials connected to their cultures. It considers the implications of these forms of agency for the current practices of museums and related institutions. To discuss these questions of agency the symposium brings together varied stakeholders including, Indigenous activists, museum professionals, policymakers and academics. This is with the intention of facilitating a dialogue between these stakeholders and the project’s researchers. This process will be further aided by the development of a web 2.0 platform through which the project findings and symposium papers will be disseminated and discussed.
- Harrison, R. (2013) Reassembling Ethnographic Museum Collections. In R. Harrison, S. Byrne and A. Clarke (eds) Reassembling the Collection: Ethnographic Museums and Indigenous Agency. SAR Press, Santa Fe; pp. 3-35.
- Tony Bennett (Chief Investigator 1)
- Fiona Cameron (Chief Investigator 2)
- Nélia Dias (Partner Investigator)
- Ben Dibley (Research Associate)
- Ira Jacknis (Partner Investigator)
- Rodney Harrison (Partner Investigator)
- Conal McCarthy (Partner Investigator)
Australian Indigenous Advisory Committee:
- Phil Gordon, Head of Aboriginal Collections, Australian Museum, (Chair)
- Laura McBride, Education Officer, Australian Museum
- Lyndon Ormond Parker PhD Student, University of Melbourne
- Garry Pappin, Student, University of Canberra
- Mat Poll, Aboriginal Project Officer, Macleay Museum
- Chris Wilson, PhD Student/Lecturer, Flinders University
New Zealand Indigenous Reference Group:
- Paul Tapsell, Professor, Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago
- University of Western Sydney
- University of California, Berkley
- ISCTE - IUL
- Victoria University of Wellington
- University College London
- Cultural Heritage
- Museum Studies
- Community Archaeology
- History of Museums
- History of Anthropology