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Accepted Paper:

Reconnect Collections with "Polyphonic" Knowledge: the case of the Natural History Museum of Toulouse and the Collections from Benin  
Magali Dufau (University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès) Kossi Gbèmako Théodore Atrokpo

Paper Short Abstract:

In France, provenance research is for now mainly linked to art history and heritage law. As part of the COLL-AB research program, an alternative methodology using both anthropological tools and participative approaches is being put to the test about artefacts from Benin preserved in Toulouse.

Paper Abstract:

In France, provenance research has become the favored solution used within cultural institutions face to the question of claims for restitution of artifacts looted during colonial times. Over the past two years, dedicated degree courses have been set up, linking this research to the fields of art history and heritage law. As part of the COLL-AB research program (for Collaborations - Collections from Abomey and Benin), an alternative methodology using both anthropological tools and participative approaches is being put to the test about cultural heritage preserved in Toulouse. Around twenty holders of knowledge and know-how in Benin and France are involved in sharing their insights and hypotheses: researchers but also curators, guides, traditional historians, religious leaders, crowned heads, craftsmen, contemporary artists and heritage students. Here, provenance is not only understood as an account of the path and pedigree of an artifact, but also as a way to connect dispersed sources of knowledge, at the interface of which is anthropological methodology. In this way, the focus of research cannot be reduced to the case of looted objects in preparation for their eventual restitution, but needs to include a wider and "polyphonic" revision of the narratives around all the collections. This implies breaking free of the stereotypical Western representations in which the collections are trapped, and reintroducing their vernacular designations and ontologies. Like ambassadors, the collections - returned or dispersed - will thus contribute wherever they are to the cultural outreach the Beninese government hopes to achieve on an international scale.

Panel OP071
Doing provenance research otherwise. From undoing colonial epistemologies to pluralising knowledge with museum collections
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -