Accepted Paper:

The new role of ethnographical museums in re-examining the identity canvas of the tribal cultures  


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.

Panel 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)