8 May 2012

PhotoCLEC website launch

Photographs are probably the most ubiquitous and far-reaching records of the colonial past. They trace the experiences of a vast range of people touched by European colonial expansion and domination, both colonised and colonisers.

How is this record understood in public histories?

What is its role in the way contemporary European cultures configure their pasts for the benefit of their futures?

This website explores the different ways in which photographs of the colonial past have been used by museums, as spaces of public history, to communicate and interpret the colonial past in a postcolonial and multicultural Europe.

Intended for curators, heritage managers, teachers an students, this resources has been built in response to the concerns of curators, debates about difficult histories in museums, the role of photographs in the museum space, and especially, key questions about the representation of the colonial past in museums as vectors of public history.

The resource offers a unique comparative character that is the result of a collaborative research project, funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Norway, all of which have very different colonial histories and postcolonial engagements.

5 May 2012

MEG at the RAI Anthropology in the World event: Funded Places for MEG Members

The Museum Ethnographers Group has recently been awarded funding from Arts Council England as a Subject Specialist Network.

One element of this has been used to support MEG's participation in the RAI's Anthropology in the World conference at the British Museum, on 8-10 June.

As well as the MEG panel, Anthropology in museum / Anthropology of museums, MEG will be displaying its new publicity materials at a stall throughout the conference, manned, we hope, by our members.

If you are a MEG member who has already registered for the conference, and would be prepared to help out on the stall, please let us know by email.

However, with support from ACE and the RAI, we are also able to make 8 free spaces available at the conference for MEG members, 4 of these are reserved for Concessionary members.

If you would like to attend the conference, and are prepared to put in some time on the stall, all you need to do is send a brief email outlining 3 reasons why you should get a free place, and the times when you would not be available to man the MEG stall (the conference sessions and timetable are available online).

Deadline is 18 May, 2012

Kew's collections online

Apparatus for making & taking Niopo snuff, collected Cataracts of Maypures, Venezuela, by Richard Spruce, c. 1850
The Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens opened in 1847 with the aim of showing uses of plants around the world. Its 85,000 specimens include both raw materials and ethnographic artefacts. In April 2012 the collection database was placed online at: http://apps.kew.org/ecbot/search

The main search box covers all text in the database and works well for botanical names, collector surnames, and countries. The advanced search box allows more powerful searches using standardised terms for geography, use and plant part. In general, ethnic groups are not consistently mentioned by name, and are best searched for by geography.

For free-text fields, including collector/donor name, data cleaning is in progress; no attempt has been made to  proof-read all the notes, which include original spellings transcribed in the 1980s from object documentation. About 2000 specimens have photographs online.

Most specimens have extensive documentation, held in Kew's Archives, now partly digitised (http://plants.jstor.org/search?t=2021) and catalogued (http://www.calmview.eu/kew/calmview/).

Please do browse your interests on the database, and feel free to contact Mark Nesbitt, Curator, Economic Botany with any queries.

CfP: Museum Worlds

Museum Worlds: Advances in Research is a new, multi-disciplinary, refereed, annual journal from Berghahn Press that will publish work that significantly advances knowledge of global trends, case studies, and theory relevant to museum practice and scholarship around the world. 

For consideration in the first, 2013, issue, papers should be submitted to the Chief Editors Sandra Dudley and Kylie Message by the end of July 2012.

For more information, see: http://journals.berghahnbooks.com/air-mw/

Exhibition: TALA! - Visions of Angola

Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex Park, Birchington, Kent

TALA! (‘come and see’) - Visions of Angola, is a very special exhibition for 2012 made possible through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It presents previously unseen artefacts, photographs and film footage drawn from the rich wealth of materials brought back from Angola in the 1930's by Diana and Antoinette Powell-Cotton, the two pioneering daughters of Major Percy Powell-Cotton.

The exhibition curators spent a year of working closely with the Angolan diaspora in the UK, including community groups and official institutions to create this multi-media display of carefully selected historical and contemporary objects as well as film footage that reflects and celebrates some very personal histories including that of the two sisters whose vision is only now being realised. The individual stories that motivate many of the selections have also been recorded and will be available via audio handsets alongside display cases, giving the objects a new voice, representing continuity, change and an evolving Angola. 

Commenting on the exhibition, the curators said:  “The objects we had access to, were made by somebody’s great grandmother or great grandfather. They deserve to be seen and remembered by their rightful ancestors as well as the wider public. Just as importantly, the Angolan community here in the UK have a right to be involved in the decisions made about the collection. This is after all their history.” This unique and collaborative form of curation has innovatively mixed old and new to provide a fresh view of Angola and the collection. 

4 May 2012

CfP: Feast and Famine: Exploring Relationships with Food in the Pacific

7 September 2012
University College London

Conference organisers: Sarah Byrne (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) and Kaori O'Connor (Anthropology, UCL)

Please submit a paper title and 200 word abstract by 14 May 2012 to Sarah Byrne (s.byrne@ucl.ac.uk)

This one day conference is organised by the newly established UCL Pacific Islands Research Network and responds to the widening interest in the political, economic, cultural and health dimensions of feasting, food production and famine in the Pacific. The conference aims to provide a platform for more engaged dialogue between archaeology, anthropology, history, ecology, economics, epidemiology, health and medical studies, and food studies and the social and historical sciences more broadly. We welcome papers that address issues of food relationships in the Pacific, especially those that draw off interdisciplinary perspectives.

We welcome 20 min papers that focus on:

  • Material culture of food and feasting
  • Food as material culture
  • Landscapes of feasting
  • Famine and food security
  • Archaeobotanical and Archaeozoological evidence for food production and consumption
  • Relationship between seasonality and fasting
  • Relationship between plant species and human colonisation
  • Rituals of food production and consumption
  • Impact of European colonisation on food practices
  • Food/feasting as cross-cultural translation
  • Contemporary politics of food production and consumption
  • Representing food culture in museums
  • Food and intangible heritage

Papers from this conference will be published in a book on Food Culture in the Pacific: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

Registration details to follow

Read more: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/research/directory/pacific_network/conference

MEG goes to Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

MEG, being full of adventurous anthropologist-types, has a history of arranging study tours for members.  Glasgow Museums Resource Centre may not have been the most exotic ever arranged (Samarkand gets that award) but it was a fascinating day for one whose museum is just thinking about an out-store.

Glasgow has obviously put a lot into this purpose-built centre.  It holds all the collections not on display in the museums across the city, plus the conservation studios, the ‘Open Museum’ loan boxes, and staff offices, with a large research room and learning / play areas.  It seems to be the ideal building for stores: new-build, no water pipes running around the ceiling, or sewage pipes come to that, no awkward corners to clean, high security, and built to high environmental standards for both controlling the environment for the collections and for doing it in a green way.

The collections are stored in ‘pods’, large open stores fitted out to suit the collection stored there – so picture racking in the Art store, with plenty of space to pull out the racks ( I think they were electric, so no effort required) or shelving in the World Cultures pod to take the odd shapes and sizes.  What I noticed was the space: objects were spread out on the shelves of the rack, rather than crammed up to fit everything into too small a space.

The Centre is open six days a week, with public tours available each day as well as school visits.  The pods are organised with that in mind: in World Cultures, many small objects were out in cupboards with mesh doors, protecting the objects from touch or theft but not putting a glass screen between visitors and object.  Sharp pointy objects were tied up to the wall, with a fence to stop anyone getting too close. 

Not everything is on open display.  At one end, with a mezzanine floor above, was an area of roller racking, where the collections were stored at much higher density than the public tour area of the store.  But what is out, from canoes to modern New Guinea sculpture to spears, is more than enough to satisfy the casual visitor on a store tour.  The small objects on open display are chosen for what they show about a culture.  Large objects are out by virtue of their size rather than any specific cultural interest.

Anyone can ask to look at individual objects, whether an academic researcher or an interested layperson.  A large research room gives space to lay objects out.  The ‘Code of Practice for using Glasgow Museums Research Materials’ does warn users that whilst in principle all objects are available for public viewing and study, some objects may be culturally sensitive and therefore restricted.

Thank you to all the staff who organised the day and took us around.  As a curator whose store is full, with no gallery and a temporary out-store, I felt envious of the space and facilities that Glasgow enjoys. I’m sure there are disadvantages as well as advantages, but even so …  Maybe one day I can have the same or better!

sue giles
Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives