Paper short abstract:
Drawing on current discussions on the relevance of museums for contemporary society, this paper argues that ethnographic museums may gain new insights from redefining curatorship as a skilled practice which assemble together in a unique way things, museum professionals, artists and artisans.
Paper long abstract:
Over the past thirty years, under the influence of New Museology, particularly in Quebec and to a lesser extent in France and Switzerland, museums have operated a division of labour between exhibition-making and collections curatorship.
New Museologists, as Viau-Courville argues "denounced museums as being too colonial, elitist and centred on collections and collecting methods, their exhibitions and research being too symbolic, too focused on the past, and, overall, too expensive considering that they had no real purpose for contemporary society (2016, p. 8).
This shift opposed "new community-driven museum projects" against traditional object-based scholarly research. In the process, objects became illustrations of exhibition narratives (Viau-Courville, 2016, p. 9) and scholar-curators an embarrassing figure of past traditions.
In this context, this paper aims to depart from the idea that collection-based research should be relegated to the past. On the contrary, it argues that museums wishing to remain relevant and addressing contemporary issues may gain new insights from incorporating object-based research as part of exhibition making.
On the other hand, drawing on the conservation work of two totem poles from Alaska held at the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva, this paper aims to redefine curatorial practice as a skilled practice which assemble together with and around things museum professionals, artists and artisans. Through this assemblage of people and collections, curators are in a unique position to reflect on the cultural continuity of indigenous peoples' traditions, on authenticity, and on collaborative curation in ethnographic museums.
Redefining the curator, curatorial practice, and curated spaces in anthropology