Accepted Paper:

Colonial encounters, cross-cultural alliances and enlightenment: the foundation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge  


Anita Herle (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the founding ethnographic collections at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, this presentation explores the nuances of early colonial encounters with powerful Fijian chiefs as well as the impact of the new museum on the development of anthropology in Cambridge and beyond.

Paper long abstract:

The core founding ethnographic collections of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) University of Cambridge were assembled between 1875-1880 at Government House in Fiji, the residence of the first Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon, the son of the 4th Earl of Aberdeen. The collections embody multiple agencies. Many of outstanding objects emerged from complex political alliances and at times intimate social relations that developed between chiefly Fijian families and members of the Governor's household. This presentation highlights the specificity of early colonial relations in Fiji that lead to the establishment of MAA and explores the intellectual and academic context of the new museum in the development of anthropology as a specialist discipline in Cambridge and beyond. Ongoing research on MAA's founding collections, as part of the exhibition project "Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji" (2013-2014), has also demonstrated the vital role the collections continue to play in forging relationships between Fijian nationals, diasporic communities and varied museum audiences.

Panel P58
The enlightening museum: anthropology, collecting, encounters