Accepted Paper:

Curating silence. Letting the past speak from behind glass  


Tone Wang (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Curating silence. Letting the past speak from behind glass

Paper long abstract:

In a sturdy display case at the Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, Arctic Canada, a beautiful necklace is on display. It consists of small knives made of caribou antler attached with sinew thread to a depilated sealskin thong. The necklace was purchased in Gjoa Haven in the early 1900ds, spent more than a century in custody of the Museum of Cultural Heritage in Oslo, and was returned to Gjoa Haven and the Heritage Centre there in 2013. It is one of the objects that draw immediate attention from many who see it in the exhibition at the Heritage Centre - locals and visitors study it, ask questions about it and wonder what it is and what stories it might have.

In spite of the interest the necklace draw from the many who do not know it, it turned out that those who did in fact know it were mostly concerned with ensuring its silence. During workshops to document and shape the traditional knowledge to be shared about different heritage objects in the displays at the Heritage Centre, local Elders in Gjoa Haven did not discuss what to say about the necklace. They discussed what not to say, and how best not to say it. It is this process of curating silence, and negotiating memory, that I want to explore in this paper.

Panel P015
Breaking the Silence: Heritage Objects and Cultural Memory