Paper short abstract:
The paper investigates the relationship between anthropology, art, and indigenous identity by using the history of two ethnographic museums in British Columbia and the anthropologists working there as cases.
Paper long abstract:
The paper investigates the relationship between anthropology, art, and indigenous identity by using the history of two ethnographic museums in British Columbia and the anthropologists working there as cases. The interconnected histories of the Provincial Museum (currently Royal BC Museum) in Victoria and Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver are of interest because they circle around two questions that are still vibrant within the discipline of anthropology: one, what constitutes an 'authentic' indigenous identity, and two, how the connection and/or division between ethnographic objects and art should be understood. In British Columbia, these two issues are intertwined because particular conceptualizations of First Nations art have here been vital in shaping the understanding of indigenous communities and their relationship to mainstream society. During the main part of the 20th century the image of First Nations projected by the museums was one of decay and 'cultural dilution'.
In the paper, I will use historical sources to explore different conceptualizations of museum work among anthropologists and First Nations carvers working in the two museums. I will argue that while the anthropologists saw themselves as involved in 'salvage anthropology' initiated to resurrect a glorious cultural past, many of the First Nations artists working with them perceived their own work as part of a continuous and ongoing tradition.
Art, Authenticity and Authority: Traversing the Power Struggles