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Accepted Paper:

Classification of artifacts and the 'past' at Pitt Rivers Musuem  


Smita Yadav (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Musuem artifacts are indeed very rare and represent an interesting opportunity to study how such museums have adapted over time to balance the cultural and for not only academic but also for commercial/popular consumption. The paper focuses on contemporary musuem classification practices.

Paper long abstract:

Today, there has been a shift in the role of museum practices representing their collections as artifacts of the past. Previously museums not expected to follow the ethics of representing the 'other'. As a result, the museums with human and non-human artifacts like artilleries, potteries, cultural dresses, tattoos, cultural through use of face etc., were less scrutinized in the past. However, those same museums have an even bigger responsibility of how they represent the past through their artifacts to te postcolonial subjects. This paper deals with the question of modern day classification practices followed by museums and how far they have gone in either showing similarities or dissimilarities between different global cultures, races, ethnicities, and various societal practices like hunting, ritual, dwelling, etc. For this, the paper will discuss these practices at the Pitt Rivers Museum. As Stanton (1999) has pointed out, "classification remains a fundamental issue for today's curators, especially in considering the impact classification has had on effectively distancing one culture from another - even, indeed, creating the very notion of 'the other' ". Pitts River museum, Oxford, Great Britain, is an ethnographic Museum. It houses cultural artifacts that were private collection of General Pitt Rivers and has artifacts for all,over the world where the British Empire had its presence. The paper will discuss how are these classifications of past changing and why are these changes much needed?

Panel Speak09a
Sensible museums: responsibilities of knowledge creation and narrative construction in museums I