24 November 2014

Museum Ethnographers Conference 2015 at the Powell-Cotton Museum

‘Nature and Culture in Museums’
Museum Ethnographers Conference 2015 at the Powell-Cotton Museum
20th-21st of April 2015

Collecting and studying the natural world and ethnography simultaneously has occurred in a ‘museum’ setting since the time of John Tradescant the elder in the early seventeenth century. This relationship between nature and culture continued well into the twentieth century, for both private collectors and publicly accessible museums. The Powell-Cotton Museum is perhaps one of the most overt expressions of this dual passion, bringing into the twenty-first century a Victorian vision of the world that is at once both historic, and incredibly contemporary, due to its approach in forming relationships between objects from the natural world and our world, today.

Unlike many museums, the Powell-Cotton has retained the juxtaposition of nature and culture and has in fact cemented it further. Through the recent refurbishment of one of our permanent galleries, visitors can engage with and learn from both disciplines simultaneously, to create new ways of seeing all ‘things’ in the world around them. This has not come without challenges and has thrown up many questions. How do we create balanced relationships between nature and culture? Is it possible to present material culture and the natural world ‘naturally’, or is the museum space just contrived presentation of our own visions and agendas as twenty-first century museum curators and educators?

The 2015 Museum Ethnographers Group conference will continue this theme. Those wishing to present papers will be asked to think about their work in relation to one of the following three themes if possible:

·     Unnatural spaces: should we aim to present material culture within its ‘natural world’, i.e. as it would be presented by the people who made and used it? Or are our attempts to carefully consider indigenous views merely making the museum a more contrived space in which to view objects?
·     Collaboration
·     Can there be meaningful relationships between nature and culture in museums?

At this year’s conference we would like to offer the opportunity to present papers in a variety of delivery formats, including workshops, film, debate, presentation or propose something we haven’t considered.

Please consider all learning styles when delivering your paper, thinking about clear structure, strong visuals and accessible language.

Those wishing to present should aim for twenty minutes. There is also the option to present a ‘work in progress’ paper of ten minutes on any topic relevant to MEG.

Please send titles and abstracts by January 12th 2015 to:

Your abstract can be written, an audio file or in a film format.

Please also contact the above address if you have any questions about the conference or submitting an abstract.

12 November 2014

Pacific Collections in Scotland

Celebratory Event to launch the Scottish Pacific Collections Review resources

25 November 2014
Learning Centre
National Museum of Scotland
12:30 – 15:45

The resources produced by the Pacific Collections Review project (funded by Museums Association Esmée Fairbairn Fund) will be launched on the 25th November 2014.

This will be a celebration of all the project has achieved, and will showcase the new Review of Pacific Collections publication and the associated Guidance for Curators on Pacific Collections.

Following a series of short talks on the project and its findings, there will be a roundtable discussion on the project and its methodology for all attendees. Please find the programme for the afternoon attached.

All welcome but spaces limited.  Please RSVP using the link below by Friday 14 November.  Places will be confirmed by the week of 17 November 2014.

Register here. 

4 November 2014

A new gallery at the Powell-Cotton Museum

Photography by Nikhilesh Havel

Since June 2013 Project Managers, Keiko Higashi and Sarah Brown have been transforming Gallery 6 into an interactive space where anyone can be a researcher, and gain a greater understanding of the museums founder, Percy Powell-Cotton. One of the key aspects of the space is to house their unique Handling Collection of over 700 objects ranging from skulls, musical instruments, costumes and lots of taxidermy birds. Visitors are able to touch, study and play with these precious objects, and understand why Percy Powell-Cotton became such a keen naturalist and lover of different cultures.

Guest speaker Errol Fuller, photography by Manu Palomeque

photography by Manu Palomeque
On 24 October, the Powell-Cotton Museum launched Gallery 6 with 500 guests attending. Guest speaker Errol Fuller gave a great speech about the importance of experiencing through touch. “It is one thing to stand before a glass museum case and imagine things about the items within, but it is quite another to be able to take hold of those things and actually handle them. And I believe that first-hand experience of touching real objects is a great stimulus to creating a lifelong interest.” Errol Fuller

Gallery 6 re-opened to the public on Saturday 25 to kick start October half term. The museum has already had a great response from the public who are rediscovering the collection in new ways.

The fact that you trust your visitors to handle and explore the wonderful artefacts on offer is so appreciated. The awe and wonder of opening the drawers and cabinets like a 'real explorer' had my little girl in raptures. She spent 20 minutes playing African drums, she looked through a microscope, touched lots of the stuffed animals and handled the skulls. All the volunteers and staff are wonderful and so pro children which is just a weight off any parents mind. This gallery has been designed to entertain and educate all ages.” Karen Rockall.

School children enjoying the displays photography by Powell-Cotton Museum 

Keiko Higashi
Project Manager, Powell Cotton-Museum

13 October 2014

Spreading the World: MEG and Kent and East Sussex Ethnography project event

A symposium to explore 'Making better use of Ethnographic Collections in the South East Region.' 

10.30am - 4.30pm Wednesday 3rd December 2014
Old Courthouse Lecture Theatre
Brighton Museum

This symposium forms part of the 'Uncovering Ethnography in Kent and Sussex' (Uniques) Project, and a Museum Ethnography Group (MEG) Events Programme for 2014. Uniques is a regional collections review and community engagement project with 5 partner museums in Kent and Sussex, led by Bexhill Museum and funded by ACE.

The aim of the symposium is to provide non-specilaist staff and volunteers who care for ethnographic collections, with an overview of the main requirements for curating and interpreting these special collections. MEG members and academics and students will also be invited to attend this event, to share skills and find out more about the collections in this region.

The symposium is designed to provide an introduction to all aspects of managing these collections, including cataloguing and documentation, preventative conservation, interpretation and engaging audiences. The speakers will share their skills and experience and offer practical guidance and use case studies to demonstrate best practice in the sector.

To book a place contact Project Manager, Rachael Heminway Hurst or find out more about the project by visiting the blog. 

Symposium speakers:

Ms. Julia Cort
Community Learning Manager, the Horniman Museum

Dr. Inbal Livne
Collections Manager at the Powell Cotton Museum

Ms. Helen Mears
Keeper of World Art, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery

Mr. Len Pole
Museum Consultant, Ethnography Collections (Uniques Project Ethnography Specialist)

Dr Veronica Sekules
Deputy Director and Head of Education and Research Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA

Ms. Kirstie Williams
Organic Conservator, University of Cambridge Museums

Call for papers: Weapons and the Anthropology Museum

The Horniman Museum and Gardens, like many other anthropology museums, holds vast weaponry collections from across the globe.

In reviewing these collections as part of the Collections, People, Stories project (2012-2015) and planning for a potential re-display, we have been confronted with many of the complex intellectual and ethical questions regarding their interpretation and display.

This two-day conference, to be held on the 26th - 27th February 2015 seeks to address and debate a number of questions including:

How can / should anthropology museums in the 21st century display 
their weapons?
How can the specific historical contexts in which weapons were made,
used and collected be translated to contemporary audiences?
Should and can we engage with the portrayal and debate of warfare,
brutality, violence and loss in today’s world?
How do these objects reinforce ideas of the ‘primitive’ and ‘otherness’ in
their representation/misrepresentation of cultures as violent?
How can weapon collections be used within public engagement
How can we unpack the multiple meanings and uses of weapons
recognising their importance as status makers, artistic expressions and
performance and initiation objects etc. without ignoring their potential 
to kill/harm.
What are the different socio-political considerations and implication
regarding the display of European, African, Asian and Pacific

We strongly encourage papers from museum colleagues who work with similar collections from both curatorial and public engagement perspectives, anthropologists working in areas covered by the Horniman collections and archaeologists keen to engage with anthropology collections and debate.

Please send a 200 word abstract and a hundred word speaker biography to Tom Crowley by  
November 1st 2014.

Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters: Call for Applications

Call for Applications (Deadline Nov. 15)

Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters

A Summer Institute of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana, USA
May 14-21, 2015

The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history.

Museums at the Crossroads, scheduled for May 14-21, 2015, in the beautiful college town of Bloomington, Indiana, combines keynote addresses, tours, charrettes, and social interactions. We seek applications from museum practitioners and theorists who wish to partner in conversation and creative practice with a group of invited keynote speakers and international museum fellows in a small, informal workshop setting.  Successful applicants will receive eight nights of on-campus lodging and per diem support of $45 for eight days.

Museums at the Crossroads connects theory and practice, bridging institutional, regional, and national museum contexts in order to advance the global conversation around museums and generate a range of practical outcomes for its participants.

Workshop participants will include:

·      4 international fellows from innovative museums around the globe
·      8 museum partners drawn from museums and other institutions in the United States and abroad
·      12 Indiana University faculty, staff, and graduate students
·      4 keynote speakers, each addressing a broader social and cultural theme that we wish to explore in depth in museum contexts.
     keynote speakers are:

·      Steven Lubar, Brown University (keynote on Today’s Museum:  Innovation, Change, and Challenge)
·      Michael Brown, School for Advanced Research (keynote on Cultural Crossroads:  World Cultures in Transition)
·      Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia (keynote on Disciplinary Crossroads:  The Evolving Sociology of Knowledge)
·      Haidy Geismar, University College London (keynote on Artifactual Crossroads:  Real Meets Virtual)

 Museum Partners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Bloomington, Indiana, and are expected to participate actively in the full workshop and in associated follow-on activities. Prior to attending, each shall develop an institutional profile that includes an account of challenges your museum faces relative to the three “crossroads” (Cultural, Disciplinary, Artifactual) being explored in the workshop. Partners without a museum affiliation will be asked to prepare a comparable position paper on the themes.

How to Apply

To apply for a position as Museum Partner, please send a resume or curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter expressing your interest, as a PDF email attachment to:

Sarah Hatcher, c/o mxrd@indiana.edu.

Review of applications will begin November 15, 2014, with applicants receiving notifications by December 15, 2014. 

Further Information

For additional detail on the scope and nature of Museums at the Crossroads, see the workshop précis, which is accessible online at: http://www.mathers.indiana.edu/crossroads.html.

Additional information about Indiana University Bloomington can be found at: http://iub.edu/.

Information on the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is available at: http://mathers.indiana.edu/.   

Questions about the workshop can be addressed to the organizers at: mxrd@indiana.edu.