Accepted Paper:

Museums, interculturalism and the new humanities  


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.

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)