the conference brochure and



the conference brochure and
The Future of
19 – 21 July 2013
A conference at the Pitt Rivers Museum and
Keble College, University of Oxford.
Pitt Rivers Museum
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the
Pitt Rivers Museum, Keble College and
the University of Oxford for The Future of
Ethnographic Museums conference. Perhaps
it will strike some as ironic that a conference
about the future is being held in a city
renowned for being steeped in the past. But
among Oxford’s famed historic buildings are
institutions that were cutting-edge at the
time of their creation, including its museums.
The Ashmolean, for example, was the first
public museum in the United Kingdom (today
its original building houses the University’s
Museum of the History of Science). The Pitt
Rivers Museum’s own distinctive typological
mode of arrangement made it innovative in
its day, for all its current popular (and false)
reputation purely as a museum of a museum.
One of the fundamental questions that will
be addressed in this conference is how such
institutions, created at the height of the
‘museum age’ and of Empire, can reconfigure
themselves to engage with contemporary
issues and attract fresh audiences. Whether
physically reshaped or ideologically rethought,
how might ethnographic museums respond
to the changing socio-economic environment,
the new demographics forged by global
migration and the resurgence of nationalistic
politics in Europe in the twenty first century?
Can ethnographic museums once again be
Although our discussions over the next
few days will focus on some of the serious
challenges – financial, political and intellectual
– that currently face many ethnographic
museums, we hope that the conference will
also be engaging and enjoyable. In addition
to the conventional lecture and discussion
formats, our programme features live
performance, music, poster presentations,
exhibition viewing, a gala dinner, as well as
an opportunity to see the Pitt Rivers Museum
itself in – literally – a different light. We hope
that these activities, alongside the papers, will
point to some of the different possible ways in
which ethnographic museums, in Oxford and
elsewhere, can be re-animated to assume a new
role in the twenty-first century and beyond.
sites of innovation and interaction within
wider debates in the public sphere? Will they
and their contents be consigned to the past or
entirely eclipsed by new kinds of museums?
Such questions informed the Ethnography
Museums and World Cultures (EMWC) project
funded by the European Commission. Led by
the Royal Central African Museum (Tervuren,
Belgium), this project set out in 2008 to
encourage ethnographic museums to redefine
their priorities in response to “an ever more
globalizing world”. The Oxford conference
marks the culmination of this five-year
research project over the course of which a
series of workshops, exhibitions, publications
and symposia has created new linkages and
dialogue between museums across Europe. At
this conference we seek to continue the debate
that has been fostered by the project and
to widen the connections even further with
contributions from a distinguished group of
international speakers and the participation of
delegates from all over the world. Our thanks
to all of you, to the funding bodies, the team
at Culture Lab (Brussels) and to the museum
and college staff in Oxford who have made this
conference possible.
Clare Harris and Michael O’Hanlon
Conference Convenors
DAY 1: Friday 19 July
14:00 – 16:00
15:00 – 16:00
Keble College Check in at Lodge and registration in the Douglas Price Room with refreshments
Pitt Rivers Museum
Visiting with the Ancestors special exhibition
Curator Laura Peers will be available in the gallery
to discuss her Blackfoot Shirts project
17:00 – 18:30 Pitt Rivers Museum
18:45 – 19:45
20:00 – 22:00
Opening reception in the galleries of the Pitt
Rivers Museum
Keble College
Conference keynote lecture by James Clifford in
the O’Reilly Lecture Theatre
Keble College
Dinner in Keble College Hall (ticketed)
Pitt Rivers Museum by torchlight
DAY 2: Saturday 20 July
All lectures take place in the O’Reilly Lecture Theatre
09:30 – 11:30 Keble College
Session 1 Chair: Marcus Banks
Speakers: Sharon Macdonald and Wayne Modest
11:30 – 12:00 Keble College
Coffee in the ARCO room
12:00 – 13:00
Keble College
Session 2 Chair: Chris Gosden
Speaker: Nicholas Thomas
13:00 – 14:00
Keble College
Lunch in the ARCO room
13:30 – 14:00 Keble College Poster Presentations in the Sloane Robinson
Building seminar rooms (see separate sheet for
timetable, room numbers and speakers)
14:00 – 16:00
Keble College
Session 3 Chair: Laura Peers
Speakers: Ruth Phillips and Annie Coombes
16:00 – 16:30 Keble College
Tea in the ARCO room
16:30 – 17:30 Keble College
Session 4 Chair: Dan Hicks
Speaker: Corinne Kratz
18:30 – 20:30
Keble College
Gala dinner in Keble College Hall (ticketed)
20:30 – 23:00 Pitt Rivers Museum
Sound, light and performance by Nathaniel Robin
Mann in the Museum
23:00 – 24:00
Keble College
College Bar open late
DAY 3: Sunday 21 July
Lectures and panel discussion take place in the O’Reilly Lecture Theatre
Session 5 Chair: Christopher Morton
Speakers: Kavita Singh and Clare Harris
10.00 – 12.00 Keble College
Keble College
Lunch in the ARCO room
12:30 – 13:00 Keble College Poster Presentations in the Sloane Robinson
Building seminar rooms (see separate sheet for
timetable, room numbers and speakers)
13:00 – 14:30 Keble College
Session 6 Chair: Laura Van Broekhoven
Discussion of conference theme led by a
panel including: Michael Barrett, Anne-Marie
Bouttiaux, Lotten Gustafsson Reinius and
Barbara Plankensteiner from the EMWC project
12.00 – 13:00 and
Conference ends
National Museums of World Culture, Stockholm. (For full illustration information see p32)
Royal Museum for Central Africa
Speakers’ Abstracts
James Clifford (University of California Santa Cruz)
“May you live in interesting times”: The Ethnographic Museum Today
New publics and branding exercises; complex relations with source communities; material pressures
and generational shifts; performance art and digital networking; innovative forms of collaboration
and research… The talk explores the good and the bad news for museums devoted to cross-cultural
understanding in times of globalization and decolonization.
“Puisses-tu vivre dans des temps intéressants”: Le musée ethnographique aujourd’hui
Les nouveaux publics et stratégies pour créer des images de marque; les relations complexes
avec les communautés source ; les pressions matérielles et changements générationnels; l’art
performance et les réseaux digitaux ; les formes innovatrices de collaboration et de recherche…
Cette présentation explore les bonnes et les mauvaises nouvelles pour les musées qui se consacrent
à la compréhension interculturelle à une époque de globalisation et de décolonisation.
Sharon Macdonald (University of York)
Making Differences and Citizens in Ethnographic Museums
Over recent decades, ethnographic museums in many European countries have been remarkably vital,
often drawing on their collections in new, sometimes experimental, ways to address topics of current
concern. Increasingly, many position themselves as ‘socially relevant’ agencies of ‘intercultural understanding’ and cosmopolitan ‘spaces of dialogue’ in demographic contexts in which those who would
once have been the distant others of their displays might now live in the same city. Recent years have
also seen, however, a growing intensity of ‘backlash’ against ‘multiculturalism’ in Europe, including highlevel political proclamations that ‘multiculturalism is dead’ and needs to be replaced by a forging of new
senses of national cohesion and affiliation. In some countries, this is having consequences for ethnographic museums in the form of restructuring (including incorporation into telling a ‘national story’),
reduced funding and threatened closure.
The aim of this paper is to address the current predicament of ethnographic museums by providing an
analysis of some of the main policies on cultural diversity and citizenship that inform the contexts within
which they operate. Through a comparative investigation of selected European countries that illustrate key
differences of approach, I will highlight some of the various ways in which certain ethnographic museums
articulate cultural diversity and citizenship through their operations and exhibitions, both within and
sometimes beyond those of the nations in which they work. By doing so, I hope to show not only ways in
which ethnographic museums may variously ‘do’ cultural diversity and citizenship but also how they have
potential to challenge some of the widespread notions of citizenship and difference that operate elsewhere.
Créer des différences et des citoyens dans les musées ethnographiques
Durant les dernières décennies, les musées ethnographiques dans plusieurs pays européens ont fait
preuve d’une vitalité remarquable, puisant souvent dans leurs collections d’une manière nouvelle, souvent
expérimentale pour aborder des préoccupations actuelles. De plus en plus, beaucoup d’entre eux prennent
position comme organismes de « compréhension interculturelle » « d’intérêt social » et comme « espaces de
dialogue » cosmopolites dans des contextes démographiques où ceux qui auraient été naguère les autres
distants des vitrines d’exposition peuvent désormais vivre dans la même ville. Récemment, on a cependant
assisté à un « retour de balancier » contre le « multiculturalisme » en Europe, y compris dans des déclarations
politiques en haut lieu avançant que « le multiculturalisme est mort» et qu’il doit être remplacé par la
création d’un nouveau sens de cohésion et d’affiliation nationales. Dans certains pays, ceci entraîne des
conséquences pour les musées ethnographiques sous la forme de restructurations (y compris l’enrôlement
comme porte-paroles d’une « histoire nationale »), de restrictions financières et de menaces de fermeture.
L’objectif de cet exposé est de prendre en considération la situation difficile des musées ethnographiques à
l’heure actuelle à l’aide d’une analyse de certaines des politiques majeures touchant à la diversité culturelle
et la citoyenneté qui soutendent les contextes dans lesquels ils fonctionnent. Par une enquête comparative
de pays européens sélectionnés illustrant les principales différences d’approche, je vais mettre en évidence
quelques-unes des diverses manières par lesquelles certains musées ethnographiques articulent la
diversité culturelle et la citoyenneté par leurs activités et leurs expositions, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur
des pays dans lesquels ils travaillent. Ce faisant, j’espère montrer non seulement comment les musées
ethnographiques peuvent «créer» la diversité culturelle et la citoyenneté de différentes manières, mais aussi
comment ils ont le potentiel de remettre en question certaines des notions très répandues de citoyenneté et
de différence qui œuvrent ailleurs.
Wayne Modest (Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam)
Curating Between Self Hate and Self Love: Ethnographic Museums and Ethno-nationalist Politics
There is a palpable anxiety within the Dutch museum sector as budget cuts threaten to
reduce drastically the funding of individual museums. This anxiety is felt especially amongst
ethnographic museums as the survival of the Tropenmuseum is under threat and the funding of
the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam has been reduced significantly. Additionally, three postcolonial
cultural history museums (Nusantara, Maluku, Ninsee) closed their doors in 2012. Concurrently, the
Rijksmuseum – broadly seen as representing glorious Dutch history – has reopened at a cost of
approximately €375 million. These upheavals in the museum sector have taken place in the context
of an openly xenophobic politics, where much of the nativist, anti-Islam language of the Freedom
Party (PVV) has been adopted by the mainstream political parties. These populist politics point to
the presence of cultural others as one of the country’s most pressing concerns.
While the precarious position of ethnographic museum may seem unrelated to the anxious politics
about others, especially within the broader context of the global financial crisis, I want to suggest
that we can understand some of the ‘backlash’ against ethnographic museums in relation to these
ethno-nationalist politics. First, these museums are often seen as too focused on the Dutch colonial
past, insisting on criticizing rather than celebrating the nation. Second, many of these museums have
expressed an active engagement with the multicultural society at home, defying the popular belief
that ethnographic exhibitions should be about ‘over there’ and not concerned with ‘here’. Given this
situation, what are ethnographic museums to do?
I argue that institutions such as the Tropenmuseum are a necessary part of public life that should
haunt the multicultural present. Given their history and their collections, ethnographic museums
should maintain their agenda of discussing the colonial past, and contributing to more nuanced
understandings of the trajectories to our multicultural present. In addition, such museums should
take on the larger project of reframing the language of cultural difference and distance that
pervades political discourse, which these museums themselves helped to create.
Organiser les expositions de musée entre haine de soi et amour de soi: les musées ethnographiques et
la politique ethno-nationaliste
Il y a une inquiétude palpable dans le secteur des musées néerlandais à l’heure où des coupures
budgétaires menacent de réduire drastiquement le financement de certains musées. Cette inquiétude
se ressent surtout parmi les musées ethnographiques alors que la survie du Tropenmuseum est
menacée et que le financement du Wereldmuseum de Rotterdam a été réduit considérablement.
En outre, trois musées d’histoire culturelle postcoloniale (Nusantara, Maluku, Ninsee) ont fermé
leurs portes en 2012. Simultanément, le Rijksmuseum - généralement vu comme le représentant de
l’histoire néerlandaise dans toute sa gloire - a rouvert à un coût d’environ 375 millions d’euros. Ces
bouleversements dans le secteur des musées ont eu lieu dans un contexte de politique ouvertement
xénophobe, dans laquelle une grande partie du langage anti-islamiste et nativiste du Parti de la
Liberté (PVV) a été adoptée par les partis politiques traditionnels. Cette politique populiste est un
indicateur comme quoi la présence de personnes d’une autre culture est l’un des soucis les plus
urgents du pays.
Alors que la situation précaire des musées ethnographiques peut sembler sans rapport avec une
politique d’inquiétude envers autrui, surtout dans le contexte élargi d’une crise financière à l’échelle
mondiale, j’aimerais suggérer que nous pouvons comprendre certaines des «représailles» contre
les musées ethnographiques en rapport avec cette politique ethno-nationaliste. D’abord, ces
musées sont souvent considérés comme trop centrés sur le passé colonial hollandais, en insistant
sur la critique plutôt que la célébration de la nation. Ensuite, bon nombre de ces musées se sont
impliqués activement dans la société multiculturelle au sein de leur pays, allant à l’encontre de la
croyance populaire que les expositions ethnographiques devraient porter sur le «là-bas» et ne pas se
préoccuper de l’« ici ». Compte tenu de cette situation, que doivent faire les musées ethnographiques?
Je soutiens que des institutions telles que le Tropenmuseum sont une composante nécessaire
de la vie publique qui se doit de hanter le présent multiculturel. Etant donné leur histoire et leurs
collections, les musées ethnographiques devraient préserver leur programme de discussion du passé
colonial et de contribution à une compréhension plus nuancée des trajectoires de notre présent
multiculturel. En outre, ces musées devraient s’embarquer sur le projet plus ambitieux de recadrer la
rhétorique de la différence culturelle et de la distance qui imprègne le discours politique, rhétorique
que ces musées eux-mêmes ont contribué à créer.
Nicholas Thomas (University of Cambridge)
The Importance of Being Anachronistic
In a major recent review for the Arts Council of England, Baroness Estelle Morris observed that
museums “create a sense of place”, and are “rooted in the communities that have shaped them”.
This is true in a profound but also paradoxical sense. Most great museums hold collections that
do not represent the communities local to them, but that may embrace the cultures of the world,
and passages in human history now remote from day-to-day experience. These institutions
were shaped, moreover, not by ‘communities’ in the normal sense (the inhabitants of a town or
region), but by elaborate and far-reaching networks. Those networks consisted of those citizens,
professionals, enthusiasts, travellers, and colonists who worked to build museums and their
collections, and - indirectly but equally importantly - the non-European people who gave, bartered,
sold, or suffered the theft of the specimens and antiquities that in due course found their way to the
various European institutions. What ‘sense of place’, exactly, does a set of artefacts, relics, or natural
specimens, brought from a plethora of remote communities to a provincial or metropolitan museum
foster? What understandings of community and history do such collections and institutions now
express and enable?
L’importance d’être anachronique
Dans une étude récente capitale pour le Conseil des arts de l’Angleterre, la baronne Estelle Morris
faisait observer que les musées “créent un sentiment d’appartenance à un lieu», et sont «enracinés
dans les communautés qui les ont ont formés “. Cela est vrai dans un sens profond, mais aussi
paradoxal. La plupart des grands musées possèdent des collections qui ne représentent pas leurs
communautés indigènes, mais qui embrassent les cultures du monde et des passages de l’histoire
humaine désormais loin du quotidien. Ces institutions ont été façonnées, qui plus est, non pas
par des «communautés» au sens normal du terme (les habitants d’une ville ou d’une région), mais
par des réseaux complexes et d’une portée considérable. Ces réseaux étaient composés de ces
citoyens, professionnels, passionnés, voyageurs et colons qui ont œuvré à construire des musées et
leurs collections, et - indirectement mais de façon tout aussi importante - les personnes d’origine
non-européenne qui ont donné, troqué, vendu, ou ont subi le vol de spécimens et d’antiquités
qui ont finalement trouvé leur place dans diverses institutions européennes. Quel «sentiment
d’appartenance à un lieu», exactement, un ensemble d’objets, de reliques, ou de spécimens naturels,
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico‘Luigi Pigorini’
transportés d’une multitude de communautés lointaines à musée provincial ou métropolitain
encouragent-ils? Quelle compréhension de la communauté et de l’histoire de telles collections et
institutions expriment-elles et permettent-elles aujourd’hui?
Ruth. B. Phillips (Carleton University)
Push Back: Decolonizing Ethnography Museums and the 21st Century Matrix of Politics, Money and
Depending on your vantage point, the prospects for continuing the process of decolonization in
ethnography museums can look either bright or grim. If you are standing on the Mall in Washington
DC, contemplating the preparation of new long-term exhibits at the National Museum of the
American Indian, you might take heart from that institution’s willingness to scrap the expensive and
elaborate installations it created for its opening less than a decade ago in order to reinvent itself in
light of visitor and critical response. If you are standing on the shores of the Ottawa River looking at
the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Library and Archives Canada, and other national repositories of
Aboriginal heritage, you might well feel despair at the massive losses of curatorial expertise, research
programs, and capacity for collaborative practices that have befallen these institutions during the
past two years. In contemplating contemporary ethnographic museums at the beginning of the 21st
century we are presented both with exhibitions and research projects that work to restore authority
and voice to Indigenous peoples, and with others that seem to be moving backwards toward
modernist paradigms we thought were in the past. The notion of ‘push back’ is thus double edged,
invoking dynamics both of decolonization and recolonization.
Looking only at national museums is, furthermore, misleading. Both in Europe and North America,
a confusing mixture of reactionary ideologies, financial constraints and new technologies has
been transforming ethnographic museums not only at the national level, but also at the level of
smaller regional and university museums. Digital technologies are particularly powerful within
this matrix, cross-cutting politics, ideologies, and budget cuts. In the early 21st century new media
are being used both by reactionary and progressive museologists to foster their agendas. Social
media can be used as a genuinely democratizing force, providing a channel for direct voice and
access to ethnographic collections across boundaries of culture and privilege, but they can also be
used to provide a smokescreen that gives an appearance of democratic consultation while masking
the absence of collaboration and the loss of multivocality. This paper examines the matrix of
politics, funding, and technology that is likely to continue to shape museology and decolonization
projects for some years to come. The first case study addresses two exhibitions mounted in 2012
to memorialize the War of 1812 by the Canadian War Museum and the Woodlands Cultural Centre
Museum (Six Nations of the Grand River.) The second focuses on efforts to provide digital access
to historical artifacts of the same period through the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing database being
developed by the Great Lakes Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures.
Repousser: La décolonisation des musées d’ethnographie et la matrice de politique, d’argent et de
technologie du 21ème siècle
Selon le point de vue adopté, la perspective de poursuivre le processus de décolonisation dans
les musées d’ethnographie peut sembler radieuse ou sombre. Si vous vous trouvez sur le Mall à
Washington DC, contemplant la préparation des nouvelles expositions à long terme du Musée national
des Indiens d’Amérique, vous pouvez vous sentir encouragé par la volonté qu’a cette institution de se
débarrasser des installations coûteuses et complexes qu’elle a créées pour son ouverture il y a moins
de dix ans afin de se réinventer face à la réception des visiteur et de la critique. Si vous êtes sur les rives
de la rivière des Outaouais regardant le Musée canadien des civilisations, la Bibliothèque et les Archives
Canada, et d’autres dépositaires nationaux du patrimoine autochtone, vous pourriez bien vous
désespérer des pertes massives de compétences des conservateurs, de programmes de recherche, et
de capacité de pratiques de collaboration qui ont frappé ces institutions au cours des deux dernières
années. En contemplant les musées ethnographiques contemporains au début du 21ème siècle, nous
sommes confrontés à la fois à des expositions et des projets de recherche qui cherchent à restaurer
l’autorité et la voix des peuples autochtones, et à d’autres qui semblent reculer vers des paradigmes
modernistes que nous pensions être du passé. La notion de «repousser» est donc à double tranchant,
invoquant à la fois la dynamique de la décolonisation et de recolonisation.
De plus, il est trompeur de considérer seulement les musées nationaux. Tant en Europe qu’en
Amérique du Nord, un mélange confus d’idéologies réactionnaires, de contraintes financières et de
nouvelles technologies a transformé les musées ethnographiques non seulement au niveau national
mais aussi au niveau des plus petits musées régionaux et universitaires. Les technologies numériques
sont particulièrement puissantes au sein de cette matrice, court-circuitant la politique, les idéologies
et les coupures budgétaires. Au début du 21ème siècle, de nouveaux médias sont utilisés à la fois
par les muséologues réactionnaires et progressistes pour promouvoir leurs programmes. Les médias
sociaux peuvent être utilisés comme une véritable force de démocratisation, en fournissant un canal
d’expression directe et un accès aux collections ethnographiques allant au-delà des limites de la culture
et du privilège, mais peuvent également être utilisés comme diversion donnant une apparence de
consultation démocratique tout en masquant l’absence de collaboration et la perte de voix plurielles.
Cette présentation examine la matrice composée de politique, de financement et de technologie
susceptible de continuer à façonner les projets de muséologie et de décolonisation pour les années à
venir. La première étude de cas porte sur deux expositions mises en place en 2012 pour commémorer
la guerre de 1812 par le Musée canadien de la guerre et le Woodlands Cultural Museum Centre (Réserve
des Six Nations). La seconde met l’accent sur les efforts visant à fournir un accès numérique à des objets
historiques de la même période grâce à la base de donnée «de partage des connaissances GRASAC »
développée par l’Alliance des Grands Lacs pour l’étude des arts et des cultures autochtones.
Annie E. Coombes (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Making a Difference: Ethnographic Interventions from the Post Colony
Much of the debate around both the intractable problem, and conversely the potential
contemporary value, of ethnographic museums has focused attention on Europe and North America.
I am interested in understanding why it is that an institution which has such a potent colonial legacy
still retains credibility in nations which have themselves been subjected to particularly violent
ethnographic scrutiny.
This paper looks at how local collections of material culture, that in other contexts would be classed
as ‘ethnographic’, are being mobilized as part of a country-wide phenomenon in Kenya. It focuses
on the contradictory ways in which cultural objects are being revitalised through the community
peace museum movement as a means of conflict resolution, in the wake of numerous instances of
interethnic violence. Ethnographies are being constituted on the one hand, as a reinvention of local
ethnicities and on the other, as part of a shared cross-cultural heritage which might provide the basis
for the creation of a new national history in what remains a deeply divided country. Could it be that
these community peace museums effectively constitute a local revision that radically transforms the
possible roles available for the ethnographic museum today?
Faire la différence: Interventions ethnographiques de la post-colonie
La plupart des discussions sur le problème insoluble, et inversement sur la valeur potentielle des
musées d’ethnographie à l’heure actuelle se sont centrées sur l’Europe et l’Amérique du Nord.
Mon intérêt est de à comprendre la raison pour laquelle une institution qui a un héritage colonial
si fort garde sa crédibilité dans des nations qui ont elles-mêmes été soumises à un examen
ethnographique particulièrement violent.
Cet exposé examine la manière dont les collections indigènes de culture matérielle, qui, dans
d’autres contextes, seraient considérées comme «ethnographiques», sont mobilisées comme un
phénomène à l’échelle nationale au Kenya. Il se concentre sur les manières contradictoires dont
des objets culturels sont revitalisés par le mouvement des musées de paix communautaire comme
un moyen de résolution de conflits, à la suite de nombreux cas de violence interethnique. Des
ethnographies sont créées, d’une part comme réinvention d’ethnicités locales et d’autre part,
dans le cadre d’un héritage interculturel partagé qui pourrait fournir une base à la création d’une
nouvelle histoire nationale dans ce qui demeure un pays profondément divisé. Se pourrait-il que ces
musées de la paix communautaire constituent effectivement une révision indigène qui transforme
radicalement les rôles possibles du musée ethnographique aujourd’hui?
Corinne A. Kratz (Emory University)
What Makes Exhibitions Ethnographic?
Exhibition styles and genres are often associated with different subject matters: art exhibits, history
exhibits, science exhibits, ethnographic exhibits. Yet while such canonical notions of genre persist,
we also know and confidently assert that exhibition genres have blurred. Ethnographic museums
today are not the ethnographic museums of a century ago, although they certainly bear the legacies
from which they have grown. How do they communicate both their histories and their contemporary
orientations to visitors through their exhibitions? What does an ‘ethnographic exhibition’ look like
now, when the very categories of ethnography, history, and art exhibits have been blurring for
decades? What elements signal the ethnographic in blurred genres, and what values, identities, and
differences do they convey through their design and thematic content?
Weltmuseum Wien
Qu’est-ce qui rend les expositions ethnographiques?
Des styles et des types d’exposition sont souvent associés à des thèmes différents: des expositions
d’art, des expositions d’histoire, des expositions scientifiques, des expositions ethnographiques.
Pourtant, bien que ces notions canoniques de type persistent, nous savons aussi et affirmons
avec conviction que les frontières entre types d’expositions sont devenues floues. Les musées
ethnographiques d’aujourd’hui ne sont pas les musées ethnographiques d’il y a cent ans, même
s’ils conservent assurément les traces de l’héritage à partir duquel ils se sont développés. Comment
communiquent-ils aux visiteurs à la fois leurs histoires et leurs orientations contemporaines à
travers leurs expositions? À quoi ressemble une «exposition ethnographique » à présent, alors que
les catégories mêmes de l’ethnographie, de l’histoire et des expositions d’art se sont estompées
pendant des décennies? Quels sont les éléments qui signalent l’ethnographique dans des genres
flous et quelles valeurs, identités et différences les expositions véhiculent-elles par leur conception et
leur contenu thématique?
Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
The Future of the Museum is Ethnographic
Against the many predictions of the imminent death of the ethnographic museum, this paper will
take a contrarian view. Rather than seeing the ethnographic museum as a thing of the past, it will
argue that all museums of the future will be ethnographic: that is to say, to a greater or a lesser
degree, the ethnographic mode will soon underlie all major museal and exhibitory forms.
Drawing on examples from China, South East Asia, South Asia and the Gulf states, this paper will
discuss the ways in which museums that are now bourgeoning across the world respond to the
pulls and pushes of a global cultural economy and global cultural circulation through processes of
description and inscription. At one level, as an ever-growing range of objects circulates in new venues,
museums need to deliver greater degrees of contextualization and description for the objects that
they exhibit. Objects are often embedded in invisible dioramas: isolated and spot-lit in modernist
cases while podcasts and audioguides provide layers of aural interpretation. At another level, the
global spread of museums now inscribes the cultural form of the museum upon a new landscape,
setting up chains of meaning that derive from the museum’s radical otherness, its unbelonging, in
the place in which it finds itself. As we learn to consume an old museum in a new location, I suggest,
we learn to savour not just the museum’s contents, but the museum itself as artefact. Through this
manoeuvre, now, finally, Enlightenment Europe begins to appear as an ethnic particular.
L’avenir du musée est ethnographique
Cette présentation prend le contre-pied des nombreuses prédictions de la mort imminente du
musée ethnographique. Plutôt que de voir le musée ethnographique comme chose du passé, je
fais valoir que tous les musées de l’avenir seront de nature ethnographique: c’est-à-dire que, dans
une mesure plus ou moins grande, le mode ethnographique sous-tendra bientôt toutes les grandes
formes muséographiques et d’exposition.
S’appuyant sur des exemples tirés de la Chine, de l’Asie du Sud-Est, l’Asie du Sud et des pays du
Golfe, ce document examine la manière dont les musées qui sont aujourd’hui florissants partout
dans le monde répondent aux aléas d’une économie culturelle mondiale et d’une circulation
culturelle mondiale à travers des processus de description et d’inscription. À un certain niveau, tandis
qu’une gamme sans cesse croissante d’objets circule dans de nouveaux lieux, les musées doivent
offrir un plus grand degré de contextualisation et de description des objets qu’ils présentent. Les
objets sont souvent intégrés dans des dioramas invisibles: isolés et éclairés au spot dans des vitrines
modernistes pendant que des podcasts et audioguides fournissent des couches d’interprétation
sonore. À un autre niveau, la diffusion mondiale des musées inscrit maintenant la forme culturelle
du musée dans un nouveau paysage, créant une chaînes de signifiés qui découlent de l’altérité
radicale du musée, sa non-appartenance au lieu dans lequel il se trouve. Comme nous apprenons à
consommer un vieux musée dans un nouveau lieu, ce qui est ma proposition, on apprend à savourer
non seulement le contenu du musée, mais le musée lui-même comme artefact. Grâce à cette
manœuvre, maintenant, enfin, l’Europe des Lumières commence à apparaître comme un particulier
Clare Harris (University of Oxford)
The Digitally Distributed Museum and its Discontents
The proliferation of experiments with new technology that have been attempted in the last decade
or so, suggests that one future for the ethnographic museum might well be digital. Whether in
the form of databases, websites, online exhibitions or the use of social media, digital technology
has been embraced to varying degrees by many ethnographic museums. The motivations behind
such initiatives include improving access to museum collections, enhancing the profile of individual
institutions beyond their physical parameters, sharing the knowledge contained within them as
far afield as possible and fostering collaboration with specific audiences. For some, the capacity to
replicate actual objects digitally has extended as far as forays into ‘visual’ or ‘virtual’ repatriation.
Underpinning these efforts is the hope is that by distributing their contents globally on the
Internet, museums may forge new relationships through the agency of digital objects. But who
precisely is being addressed by these projects and how are they received? What happens when
museum objects are extracted from their archival contexts to circulate freely on the Internet and
are consumed by Netizens or state actors who are not their intended recipients? This paper will
explore these issues using The Tibet Album website as a case study and incorporating the results of
research conducted in both actual and virtual Tibetan communities in Asia and the Tibetan diaspora.
It examines whether the digitally distributed museum will always meet with the desired response
from its users and investigates the ramifications of releasing objects into the virtual domain. It also
asks: to what extent do digital technologies enable a re-thinking of the foundational principles and
organisational practices of ethnographic museums and their colonial past?
The Tibet Album website:
Le musée réparti numériquement et ses malaises
La prolifération d’expériences avec de nouvelles technologies dans la dernière décennie suggère
que l’avenir du musée ethnographique pourrait bien être numérique. Que ce soit sous la
forme de bases de données, de sites web, d’expositions en ligne ou de l’utilisation des médias
sociaux, la technologie numérique a été adoptée à des degrés divers par de nombreux musées
ethnographiques. Les motivations de ces initiatives comprennent l’amélioration de l’accès aux
collections du musée, la mise en valeur du profil de chaque établissement au-delà de leurs limites
physiques, le partage du savoir contenu en leur sein aussi loin que possible et l’encouragement à la
collaboration avec des publics spécifiques. Pour certains, la capacité de reproduire numériquement
des objets réels a fait l’objet de tentatives de rapatriement «visuel» ou «virtuel». À la base de ces
efforts se trouve l’espoir que, par la distribution sur le Web de leur contenu à travers le monde, les
musées peuvent nouer de nouvelles relations par l’intermédiaire d’objets numériques. Mais qui
exactement est visé par ces projets et comment sont-ils reçus? Qu’advient-il lorsque des objets
de musée sont extraits de leur contexte d’archives pour circuler librement sur Internet et sont
consommés par des internautes ou des acteurs étatiques qui ne sont pas leurs destinataires? Cet
exposé explore ces questions en prenant comme étude de cas le site Web The Tibet Album et en
intégrant les résultats de recherches menées dans les communautés tibétaines réelles et virtuelles
tant en Asie que dans la diaspora tibétaine. Il évaluera si le musée répandu numériquement sera
toujours à même de répondre aux attentes de ses utilisateurs et examine les implications qu’il y
a à placer des objets dans le domaine virtuel. Il pose également la question suivante: dans quelle
mesure les technologies numériques permettent-elles de repenser les principes fondamentaux et les
pratiques organisationnelles des musées ethnographiques et leur passé colonial?
Le site Web The Tibet Album:
Weltmuseum Wien
Speaker Bibliographies
James Clifford taught in UCSC’s History of
Consciousness Department for 33 years and
was founding director of the Center for Cultural
Studies. He is best known for his historical
and literary critiques of anthropological
representation, travel writing, and museum
practices. Clifford co-edited (with George
Marcus) the controversial intervention, Writing
Culture: the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography
(1986). Clifford is currently completing Returns:
Becoming Indigenous in the 21st Century, a book
about homecomings and contemporary Native
cultural politics that will be the third in a
trilogy. The widely influential first volume, The
Predicament of Culture (1988) juxtaposed essays
on 20th-century ethnography, literature, and
art. The second, Routes: Travel and Translation
in the Late 20th Century (1997) explored the
dialectics of dwelling and traveling in postmodernity. The three books are inventive
combinations of analytic scholarship,
meditative essays, and poetic experimentation.
the wake of apartheid, (including strategies by
contemporary artists) and in Kenya in the wake
of a renewed interest in constructing a national
history which might reconcile both Mau Mau
and Home Guard despite their antagonistic
roles in the struggle for independence. She is
the author of prize-winning books including
Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture
and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and
Edwardian England (1994) and History After
Apartheid: Visual Culture and Public Memory in
a Democratic South Africa (2003). Managing
Heritage, Making Peace: History, Memory, Identity
in Contemporary Kenya (with Lotte Hughes and
Karega Munene) is forthcoming this year. She
is currently a participant in the African Union
project for a Human Rights memorial for Africa.
Clare Harris is Reader in Visual Anthropology
and Curator for Asian Collections at the
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.
She is also a Fellow of Magdalen College
Oxford. Her research and writing focuses on
contemporary art, photography in colonial
and post-colonial contexts, monuments
and memory construction, histories of
museums and collecting, and the politics
of representation with particular reference
to Tibet, the Himalayas and the Tibetan
diaspora. In addition to numerous articles,
she has produced several books including the
Annie E. Coombes is Professor of Material and
Visual Culture in the Department of Art History
and Screen Media, Birkbeck College, University
of London. Much of Coombes’ research deals
with issues of how difficult and traumatic
histories can be effectively represented in
the public domain. Recent books focus on
museums and monuments in South Africa in
Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fulbright,
Social Science Research Council, National
Science Foundation, and the Wenner Gren
Foundation, among others. She lives in Santa
Fe and is a research associate of the Museum of
International Folk Art.
award- winning study of modern Tibetan art
In the Image of Tibet: Tibetan Painting after 1959
(1999). Harris has curated exhibitions in Britain
and Hong Kong and was instrumental in the
creating The Tibet Album website. In 2006 she
was awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme
Trust Senior Research Fellowship. Her latest
book, The Museum on the Roof of the World:
Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet, was
published by the University of Chicago Press
in 2012.
Sharon Macdonald is Anniversary Professor
of Cultural Anthropology at the University
of York, UK. Trained as an anthropologist in
Oxford, she has carried out ethnographic
fieldwork in the Scottish Hebrides, the Science
Museum, London and Nuremberg and Berlin,
Germany. Recently, she began a Leverhulme
funded study of the display of ethnic minority
heritage in museums in China and an AHRCfunded project on museum shopping with the
British Museum. Her books include Theorizing
Museums (co-ed. 1996), Reimagining Culture:
Histories, Identities and the Gaelic Renaissance
(1997), The Politics of Display (ed., 1998), Behind
the Scenes at the Science Museum (2002), A
Companion to Museum Studies (ed. 2006),
Exhibition Experiments (co-ed. 2007), Difficult
Heritage: negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg
and Beyond (2009) and Memorylands. Heritage
and Identity in Europe Today (2013).
Corinne Kratz is Professor of Anthropology and
African Studies at Emory University, where she
co-directed the Center for the Study of Public
Scholarship for a decade. Her writing focuses
on culture and communication; performance
and ritual; museums, exhibitions, photography,
and representation. Kratz began doing
research in Kenya in 1974 and has collaborated
with colleagues in South Africa since 2000. She
is author of the award-winning book The Ones
That Are Wanted: Communication and the Politics
of Representation in a Photographic Exhibition
(2002), Affecting Performance: Meaning,
Movement and Experience in Okiek Women’s
Initiation (2010), and co-edited Museum
Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations
(2006). Kratz has published numerous articles,
curated museum exhibitions, and received
grants and fellowships from the John Simon
Wayne Modest is currently head of the
Curatorial Department of the Tropenmuseum
in Amsterdam. He previously held positions
Kavita Singh is Associate Professor at the
School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi, where she teaches and
does research on the history of Indian painting
and the history and politics of museums. Her
writings have been published in Artibus Asiae,
the Journal of Material Culture, Marg, The Art
Newspaper, Art India and as chapters in several
books. She has received grants and fellowships
from the Getty Foundation, the Max Planck
Institute, the Clark Art Institute, the Asia
Society, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and
the Ministry of Culture of the Government of
India. as Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman
Museum in London and Director of the
Museums of History and Ethnography at the
Institute of Jamaica. He also held visiting
research affiliations at the Yale Centre for British
Art and New York University’s programme
in Museum Studies. His publications include
articles such as Slavery and the Symbolic Politics
of Memory in Jamaica: Rethinking the Bicentenary
and We’ve Always Been Modern: Museums,
Collections and Modernity in the Caribbean.
He most recently co-edited the volume
Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections,
Collaboration (Bloomsbury, with Viv Golding)
and is currently working on Victorian Jamaica
(Duke University Press, with Tim Barringer).
Nicholas Thomas is author of Entangled
Objects (1991), Oceanic Art (1995) and many
other books on material culture, cross-cultural
histories, and contemporary art in the Pacific.
His collaborations with Pacific artists include
Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth (with
John Pule, 2005), and Rauru: Tene Waitere, Maori
Carving, Colonial History (with Mark Adams,
Lyonel Grant and James Schuster, 2009). His
recent essays include ‘The Museum as Method’
(Museum Anthropology, 2010). Since 2006 he
has been Director of Cambridge’s Museum
of Archaeology and Anthropology. He has
curated Skin Deep: a History of Tattooing for
the National Maritime Museum, London, and
Cook’s Sites for the Museum of Sydney, as well
as Kauage: Artist of Papua New Guinea and
several other shows in Cambridge.
Ruth B. Phillips holds a Canada Research Chair
and is Professor of Art History at Carleton
University, Ottawa. Her research focuses on the
indigenous arts of North American and critical
museology. Her books include Museum Pieces:
Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums
(2011); Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native
North American Art from the Northeast (1998);
and Representing Woman: Sande Masquerades of
the Mende of Sierra Leone (1995). She has served
as director of the University of British Columbia
Museum of Anthropology and president of the
International Committee on the History of Art.
She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Chairs and Panellists
Prof. Marcus Banks, Professor of Visual Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Michael Barrett, Curator (Africa), The Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm, part of the National
Museums of World Culture, Sweden
Dr. Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, Chief Curator, Ethnography Division, Royal Museum for Central Africa,
Tervuren, Belgium
Dr. Laura Van Broekhoven, Chief Curator, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands
Prof. Chris Gosden, Chair of European Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Dan Hicks, Lecturer and Curator (Archaeology), Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Christopher Morton, Lecturer and Curator (Photograph and Manuscript Collections), Pitt Rivers
Museum, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Laura Peers, Reader in Material Anthropology and Curator (Americas Collections), Pitt Rivers
Museum, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner, Deputy Director/Chief Curator, Weltmuseum Wien, Austria Prof. Lotten Gustafsson Reinius, Curator, The Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm, part of the
National Museums of World Culture, Sweden
Sound & Light at the Pitt Rivers Museum: Dr. Noel Lobley (Ethnomusicologist), Rupert Gill (DJ) and
Jon Eccles (Museum Technician & Visual Artist).
Live performance by Nathaniel Robin Mann, Sound and Music Embedded Composer in Residence at
the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford Contemporary Music (OCM).
For further information about performers see separate sheet.
Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde
International Network of Ethnography Museums & World Cultures
Lead Museum
Museo de América
Avda. Reyes Católicos, 6
28040 Madrid / Spain
Royal Museum for Central Africa
Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren / Belgium
Naprstek Museum of Asian, African
and American Cultures
Betlémské náměsti 1
110 00 Prague 1 / Czech Republic
Partner Museums
Musée du Quai Branly
222, Rue de l’Université
75007 Paris / France
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico ‘Luigi Pigorini’
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, 14
00144 Rome / Italy
Pitt Rivers Museum
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3PP / UK
Linden-Museum Stuttgart
Hegelplatz 1
70174 Stuttgart / Germany
Weltmuseum Wien
Neue Burg, Heldenplatz
1010 Vienna / Austria
Associate Partners
National Museums of World Culture
PO BOX 5306
40227 Gothenburg / Sweden
Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève
Bd. Carl-Vogt 65, Case postale 191
1211 Geneva 8 / Switzerland
Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde
Steenstraat 1, Postbus 212
2300 AE Leiden / Netherlands
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis
Minnesota 55404 / USA
Diaspora Association Plus au Sud
141, Rue du Trône
1050 Brussels / Belgium
La Cambre - ISACF
Place Eugène Flagey 19
1050 Brussels / Belgium
Ethnography Museums & World Cultures
project contacts
Anne-Marie Bouttiaux (Project Manager)
[email protected]
Anna Seiderer (Research Assistant)
Tel: +32 (0)2 769 56 77
Fax: +32 (0)2 769 56 42
[email protected]
Guns Lieve (Secretary)
Tel: +32 (0)2 769 57 83
[email protected]
Culture Lab – International Cultural Expertise
Alexis Castro & Gian Giuseppe Simeone
Elisabethlaan, 4
3080 Tervuren / Belgium
Tel / Fax: + 32 2 7671022
tel: + 32 2 7677427
mobile: + 32 476 942 800
[email protected]
The conference has been funded with the generous support of:
The European Commission, The Wenner Gren Foundation, The School of Anthropology & Museum
Ethnography (University of Oxford), The Astor Fund, Oxford ASPIRE, The Friends of the Pitt Rivers
Museum and Magdalen College.
Conference committee:
Clare Harris, Michael O’Hanlon, Cathy Wright, Nicky Temple, Antigone Thompson, Haas Ezzet,
Christopher Morton and Kate Webber.
Illustrations in this booklet are from a selection of the EMWC project partner museums.
Inside cover: Interior view of the Pitt River Museum (looking east), 2013. Photo Malcolm Osman © Pitt Rivers Museum, University
of Oxford. Inside back cover: View of the Pacific collections at Musée du quai Branly. Photo Nicolas Borel © Musée du Quai Branly.
4 (l – r) 5
View of Oxford from South Parks (detail) © Greg Smolonski.
Portrait of Nathaniel Robin Mann © Nathaniel Robin Mann;
Blackfoot shirt with painted war honours; 1893.67.1 © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford;
Keble College Hall © Keble College, University of Oxford.
Pitt Rivers by torchlight. Photo Rob Judges © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.
Carvers creating a copy of the chief G´psgolox´ totem pole as a gift to the museum, after the original was repatriated to the Haisla First Nation of Canada in 2006 © National Museums of World Culture, Stockholm.
View of the exhibition Fetish Modernity curated by the Ethnography Museums and World Cultures Project. Photo Jo Van de Vyver © RMCA Tervuren.
Sopakarina, a Kula canoe from the Trobriand Islands © Soprintenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico “Luigi Pigorini”.
Display of penacho, a Mexican feather headdress © Weltmuseum Wien.
View of the Asia galleries at the Weltmuseum Wien (detail) © Weltmuseum Wien.
Children receiving a temporary moko from a Māori artist © Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden.
Published by Pitt Rivers Museum to accompany ‘The Future of Ethnographic Museums’ conference, 19-21 July 2013.
This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible
for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Printed by Oxuniprint Ltd.
Musée du Quai Branly
# PRM2013