Accepted Paper:

Enlightening British ideas of Burma: Richard Carnac Temple's and James Henry Green's collections in the Pitt Rivers Museum  


Sandra Dudley (University of Leicester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the creation and use of collections. Examining artefacts collected by Richard Carnac Temple and James Henry Green, now in the Pitt Rivers Museum, it looks at the potentialities of the artefacts, and the effects of those potentialities, at particular historical moments.

Paper long abstract:

Richard Carnac Temple and James Henry Green were both military men, servants of the British empire and amateur anthropologists of considerable repute. Both also developed considerable affinity with the Burmese peoples amongst whom they worked. Their collections in the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum (both are also represented by collections elsewhere) are separated by several decades, with Temple's dating from the era of evolutionary theory and Green's from the beginnings of a more culturally relativist age, yet there are many similarities in their approach. Both are inherently embedded within both the colonial endeavour and, to an extent, a universalising, abstracting, Enlightenment approach. And yet … their shared empathy for the people their collections represent indicates too a more particularist and local style in both their work.

This paper explores these commonalities - and some differences - in the collecting and collections of two colonial servants of different periods. It does so through a specific concentration on the role in the making and use of their collections, of the artefacts themselves. Why, where and how were certain objects acquired in the first place? What power did (and do) they appear to exert, upon whom? How might this be articulated? What indigenous agencies do they embody, and how are these enmeshed with place and other factors? These and related questions will be examined by focusing on particular artefacts at certain historical moments, both at collection and during later museum life.

Panel P58
The enlightening museum: anthropology, collecting, encounters