P094


Re-imagining ethnological museums: new approaches to developing the museum as a place of multi-lateral contacts and knowledge (Commission on Museums and Cultural Heritage) 
Convenorss:
Kenji Yoshida (National Museum of Ethnology)
Mohan Gautam (European University of West & East)
Location:
201 B
Start time:
15 May, 2014 at 13:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
2

Short Abstract:

The notion of the museum as a storage of tangible cultural property of the past is now outdated. The panel is to review new approaches in representing cultures and to identify more positive and productive use of ethnological museums in this and the coming age.

Long Abstract

The notion of the museum as a storage of tangible cultural property of the past is now outdated. The one-sided approach to ethnic cultures made by ethnological museums are under serious attacks, and museums are now becoming a space where bi-lateral, or multilateral relationship is constructed among those who are collecting/exhibiting, those who are collected/exhibited, and those who see and use the collection. Various new trials are now underway; among them are collaborative exhibition and collection management projects between museums and source communities, construction of community based museums, and realizing historical exhibition by incorporating memories of the visitors. The panel is to review these new approaches and to identify more positive and productive use of ethnological museums in this and the coming age.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Mohan Gautam (European University of West & East)

Paper short abstract:

Since there have been ongoing changes among the tribal communities, the collected/exhibited material cultures of the museums need a re-examination. The ecological surroundings of them either have been shrinked or expanded. In reconstructing their identities there is a need for new approaches and models consisting the culture-contact-network.

Paper long abstract:

The Paper examines the Naga and Santal tribal collections/exhibitions in the enthnographical museums in Oslo, Leiden and Vienna.

Both tribes are located in India. They came in contact with the British colonizers and the Christian missionaries in 19th century. Most of the collection of the Nagas (Tibeto-Burman speaker) was the result of the research of Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf.

The Santal ( Austro-Asiatic speaker) collection was brought by the Christian missionary L. O. Skrefsrud and P.O. Bodding of the Santal Mission of the Northern Churches (Oslo). Both the tribes have changed enormously but their collections have remained incomplete. In exhibitions and written papers the image of the tribals has remained the same. Politically these tribes have their own states, Nagaland (Tibeto-Mynamer border) and Jharkhand (northern India). There is a need to re-examination the tangible cultural heritage including material culture of other tribes also.

The new notion of ethnicity can be a theoretical model to understand the structural maintenance and the identity formation mechanism. In India the tribal areas have remained as 'living museums". There is a need for a systematic collection. They also belong to the Indian civilization and cultural heritage.

Indian anthropologists have to develop new strategies in re-examining the tribes. With the cooperation with other museums new theoretical notions can be deviced.

This will help in enhancing new theoretical models in anthropological museology in understanding the communities.

Author:

Jim Weil

Paper short abstract:

A Costa Rican community museum has not yet fulfilled its potential in presenting the local ceramic tradition and has drawn few visitors. More attention to intangibles - skills embodied in the revival of ancient techniques and designs - may counter a shift to the production of simpler souvenirs.

Paper long abstract:

First proposed in the early 1990s and finally opened in 2007, the "Museo de la Ceramica Chorotega" in a village on Costa Rican´s Nicoya Peninsula has been slow in fulfillingº the vision of its creators. Attracting visitors to buy ceramics has been a primary motivation since the beginning. Local ceramic artisans, other residents of the community and surrounding area, representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies (international as well as national), and a wide range of interested individuals have participated in the process. Earlier visitors in the late-1960s finding only housewares and a few simple decorative pieces such as piggy banks, urged the artisans to recreate the ancestral styles—complex forms with abstract polychrome iconography—that had disappeared four centuries earlier, soon after the Spanish conquest. By the end of the twentieth century, when numerous skilled artisans had rediscovered and perfected the necessary techniques, the rise of mass tourism shifted the market emphasis to relatively simple souvenirs at relatively low prices. Furthermore, the museum has drawn few visitors. The analysis offered by this paper considers how greater participation by archaeologists, historians, and ethnographers in the further development of the museum can help create exhibits and programs that more effectively convey the intangible culture of embodied skills and deeply experiential memories of the senior artisans. Otherwise, beyond the span of their lives, the potential of the museum—to educate and inspire future generations of the regional population as well as draw more appreciative visitors—may not be realized.

Author:

William Nitzky (Arizona State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the ecomuseum as a new ethnological museum approach in China. Based on ethnographic research, it uncovers the implications ecomuseums have for local communities in the participation in tangible and intangible cultural heritage protection and management.

Paper long abstract:

China has recently experienced a museum development boom bringing new museological forms that extend classic ethnology museum practices to include the protection and exhibition of both tangible and intangible cultural properties. Although many studies address the growing social phenomenon of community-based locale-specific ethnological museums and local heritage preservation practices, little attention is paid to such museological forms in non-Western contexts. This paper explores China's implementation and localization of the ecomuseum, a Western approach to community museum development calling for the participation, interpretation and management of local cultural heritage. As "living museums" without walls, ecomuseums in China have come to represent an important tool to actively integrate intangible cultural heritage into the museum space as an effort to retain distinct cultural traditions and stimulate regional economic development via tourism. Based on field research in three ecomuseum villages in Guizhou and Guangxi, in southwest China, this study examines the different ways local ethnic minority communities engage and respond to the process of ecomuseum development and cultural heritage preservation, each with different outcomes. This paper examines how the ecomuseum creates a "contact zone" for the trafficking and interaction of political and economic agendas and competing claims and interpretations of local heritage, identity and place in the local context. I show how this new ethnological museum approach provokes local communities to negotiate and participate in their own cultural heritage protection and management and to take on new social roles within the broader context of China's economic, social, and political transformation.

Author:

Denise Lombardi (GSRL)

Paper short abstract:

The present paper will analyze three temporary exhibitions which took place in 2012-2013 at Quai Branly Museum in Paris. We will take into account “Patagonie. Images au bout du monde”, “Les Maîtres du desordre” and “Charles Ratton, l’invention des Arts Primitifs”.

Paper long abstract:

The Quai Branly museum in Paris has been the object of many debates ever since its construction in 2006.

Though the immense building is a master piece itself, its function is still today unclear.

The Quay Branly museum carries on an important aesthetic functions as tourist attraction for Paris.

The Quai Branly found in Jean Nouvel the architect capable of bringing the majestic architecure of the building back into the articulated breath of Paris, the city of unwieldy aesthetics and iconography, often cannibalized by its desire to appear as it does in images. At the same time, this receptacle of tribal arts condenses, materialises, and places the spectator at the centre of the debate about colonialism, as well as European, and particularly French post-colonialism, which continues to this day.

Besides the post-colonialism debate, the Quay Branly museum takes on an essential pedagogic role in educating the public: exhibitions are meant to convey and to shape in the mind of the audience a peculiar gaze at the other "exotic".

In order to understand how such view is built in the audience, the present paper will analyze three temporary exhibitions which took place in 2012-2013. We will take into account "Patagonie. Images au bout du monde", "Les Maîtres du desordre" and "Charles Ratton, l'invention des Arts Primitifs".

The exhibitions show different modalities to display events and objects belonging to contemporary or extinct cultures. Through the representation of the other exotic, it is possible to observe how the museum exhibits itself, as a place for images even before as a place of culture.

Author:

Atsunori Ito (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan)

Paper short abstract:

In 2009, the director of the Zuni Museum visited Minpaku to undertake collection review. The purpose of this paper is to report on that project, and to examine the further possibilities for collaborative management between the ethnological museum and the source community.

Paper long abstract:

Since its inception (1974), the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) has collected ethnographic artifacts. The current collection includes 335,000 artifacts and 70,000 audiovisual items.

In 2012, Minpaku exchanged an academic agreement with the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center (Zuni Museum), USA. The director of the Zuni Museum has visited Minpaku to do collection review. He pointed out some misrepresentations in the catalog description, and instructed proper conservation way in accordance with Zuni cultural context. Also we did retrospective survey on the maker and copyright holder of Zuni materials. Those collaborative researches were fruitful results for us because we could re-collect deeper knowledge and information concerning the objects. Besides, it was fruitful result for them that they could figure out the existence, number, storage situation, catalog description, and engaged in the process of collection management in the oversea museum.

Recently ethnological museums have been made requests on the information sharing by the people of source community. Minpaku is preparing for the info-forum virtual museum project to promote interactive and reciprocal utilization about the ethnographic materials among people of the source community, the local collecting institutions, and Minpaku to meet such a demand.

Minpaku has offered the idea "the museum as a forum" as a basic policy of the exhibition activity since 2001. Means we aim for space forming for dialogue among the triadic relationship; displayer, displayed, and viewers. We can say that the ongoing Minpaku project put that idea into the collection information management activity.

Author:

Anthony Shelton (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will look at the interface between diverse cultural collaborations, museums and knowledge production and their implications for developing new exhibitionary genres.

Paper long abstract:

After having experienced a long series of political, logistical, ethical and epistemological crises, museums and galleries have emerged as changed and diverseified institutions. This paper, argues that anthropological museums in particular could transform themselves even more radically by using collaborative strategies and interdisciplinary perspectives to help contribute to the public and academic rearticulation of the humanities.

This paper draws a distinction between disciplinary based anthropology and an anthropological imagination which encompasses a broad range of cultural sciences, including critical theory, linguistics, intellectual history, cultural geography, the new art history, and cultural anthropology, which provide a new platform from which to invigorate museums, encourage comparative cross-disciplinary and community knowledge based pollinations, and work towards their mutual transformation.

Particular attention will be given to the development of new exhibition models which juxtapose two or more thematic based exhibitions, which while visually and often interpretively very different, address unexpected and common sources, relationships and intellectual proclivities which have been hidden by traditional forms of institutional separation. Furthermore, anthropology’s focus on cultural specificity and relational meaning, and the turn towards collaborative methodologies, promises a new direction for both museums and the humanities. Special attention will be given to the articulation of this collaborative, positional museology by reference to two new projects; ‘Being or Nothing: Ghost Theatres’ and ‘Chinese Cosmopolitanism’, which the author and a group of interdisciplinary and culturally diverse collaborators are currently developing.