Accepted Paper:

A Dialogic Discourse in Museums - Multiple Voices and Meaning Making  

Author:

Lindy Allen (University of Queensland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses contemporary curatorial practice and critical scholarship involved in the engagement of source communities with their cultural patrimony in museums. It explores the collaborative and cross-cultural nature of collections research and how knowledge and meanings are negotiated.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at how knowledge, meaning and value making is ascribed through a cross-cultural collaborative research framework in contemporary museum curatorial practice. The intervention of Indigenous people, whose power and authority is paramount in relation to their cultural patrimony, underpins the "new curatorial praxis [that] incorporates community needs and perspectives" (Peers and Brown 2003:2). Combining this with knowledge drawn from applying anthropological and other relevant disciplinary methodologies to the critical analysis of Indigenous collections has maximised the potential for recovering evidence of past lifeways while also linking objects to people today and to people, places and events in the past.

The museum is the place of encounter and emblematic of the colonial past, and directly and indirectly can influence this engagement by Indigenous people with their cultural patrimony. The dynamics of the parties involved, both from within the source community/s and the museum staff is another crucial factor in the effectiveness of the "new curatorial praxis" that brings together these disparate cultural and disciplinary frames. It enables the historical noise associated with the collections to be eliminated and the layers accumulated during the lives of these things to be peeled away in order to reveal and restore a sense of their original purpose, meanings and context. At the same time, it facilitates the creation of new meanings from which alternative narratives and readings of the past emerge, resulting in breathing new life into these things and giving them an immediate relevance in the present.

Panel P010
Australian Aboriginal artists, the archive and cross-cultural collaborations