Author:Jaanika Vider (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the affordances of ethnographic collections reimagined as 'traces of field experiences' for the history of anthropology and contemporary museum display.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I probe the potential museum collections have for reassembling and illuminating aspects of the history of anthropology. Drawing from recent studies in visual anthropology that emphasize the potential of 'presence' in the study of museum photographs (Edwards 2015, Morton and Geismar 2015, Pinney 2005) as 'a way of thinking experience back into the historical equation' (Edwards 2015: 242), I argue that museum objects as well as photographs speak beyond the evidence or representation they were intended to convey. Re-imagining ethnographic collections as traces of field experience allows to bring together different strands of anthropological legacies thus enabling the history of these collections to be understood as multidimensional and layered. Using the example of H.U. Hall and M.A. Czaplicka collections from the 1914-1915 Yenisei expeditions, I explore how this approach can build a more evocative understanding of fieldwork experiences.
I will further offer projections on how this approach may activate objects to reconcile different pasts, inform cultural revival or simply offer a platform for engagements with contemporary source communities. In particular, the notion that museum objects are not simply epistemic but through their presence can evoke multiple histories and ontologies is fertile ground for exploring how museums as public spaces can work within anthropology to produce and convey these histories and ontologies.
Museum Affordances: Collections, Interventions, Exhibitions