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Author:John Harries (University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
Am Ll.2 is a little thing that traveled from the interior of Newfoundland to the British Museum. The story of Am Ll.2 is story of how, in the institutional making of objects, we uncouple things from histories of violence that constitute the circumstances of their coming to rest in museum stores.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is about a little thing made of bone that left the interior of Newfoundland in the early 19th century and, after passing through the possession of a number of people, came to rest in the stores of the British Museum on Orsman Road, London and, in coming to rest, became known as Am Ll.2. In telling the story of this thing, as it is revealed by a series of labels that have attached to it during its travels, we will consider how things become objects possessed of certain associations and attributes and, in this becoming an object of certain kind, we domesticate the unruly power of things which carry with them histories of violence and dispossession - histories which constitute the very conditions of their coming to rest and, in coming to rest, becoming an object such as Am Ll.2. In so doing, we will indulge in a rather speculative consideration of how such things may exceed their domestication as objects and so be haunted by that which is unwritten, an elsewhere (perhaps a line of stony beach by a lake in the interior of Newfoundland), and so are possessed of (or by) an uncanny dis-locatedness which renders them restless and unsettles their seemingly settled condition as an object in a museum collection. Based on the speculation we may invite discussion of creative forms of labeling, cataloging and curation which elide or disrupt the domestication of this little thing made of bone as object Am Ll.2 (harpoon-head, part of).
Sensible museums: responsibilities of knowledge creation and narrative construction in museums I