Accepted Paper:

Museum Objects as a Currency of Cultural Exchange  


Zachary Kingdon (National Museums Liverpool)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contextualizes the acquisition of an assemblage of artefacts acquired by exchange and donation from West African elites for institutions in northwest England between 1894 and 1916, through a Liverpool steam ship engineer Arnold Ridyard.

Paper long abstract:

While the Ridyard assemblage can be viewed as part of the accumulative project of Empire, Ridyard's collecting practices were shaped by the steamers' dynamic capacity to connect up widely separated people and places. As a chief engineer, Ridyard kept his ship moving from place to place along Africa's Atlantic coast, but he also acted as unofficial postman to many of his contacts on the coast, who entrusted him with money, letters, and other things. In return Ridyard received gifts for museums. Many of Ridyard's contacts were West African elites who gave him African artefacts in exchange for British cultural materials, such as newspapers and illustrated magazines, or for particular services. This paper will contextualize the items in Ridyard's museum assemblage as a currency of cultural exchange and imperial accumulation within an informal economy of gift-giving and favours, facilitated by Ridyard's credentials as a trusted intermediary and his ability to connect widely separated people and places.

Panel P100
Collections as Currency? Objects, Exchange, Values and Institutions