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Accepted paper:

A Web of Lives: The Convergence of Salish and Scottish Knowledge at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery


Christopher Martin (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores transatlantic connections at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery to demonstrate how local museums shaped wider collecting practices and affected knowledge production on a local, national, and international scale.

Paper long abstract:

Networks of transatlantic knowledge production have been dominated by national and international museums, whose acquisition and display of ethnological objects drives public perceptions of Indigenous lifeways and worldviews. Parallel to these narratives are the quieter, often overlooked dialogues between local museums, their agents, and diverse stakeholders; influenced by but not beholden to the practices of large institutions. By focusing on the biographies of a collection of Pacific Northwest American objects at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, this paper explores how a local Antiquarian Society was responsible for the formation of a unique collection that influenced, and was influenced by, transatlantic knowledge production. It argues that local relations in the Pacific Northwest during the late eighteenth century directly affected subsequent engagements, siting the Perth Museum at the centre of anthropological collecting in the region. With individual relationships underpinning all collecting endeavours, from planned assemblages to ad-hoc collections, local museums can serve as both a microcosm of international museum practices and a subversion of expected narratives. The Perth Museum's changing relationship with Pacific Northwest collections from the early eighteenth to late twentieth century demonstrates how agents involved in the lives of these objects created a unique foundation of knowledge that continues to impact how the museum operates today. Exploring the narrative divergences in this collection allows for a greater appreciation of the influence of collecting on actors in Perth and Canada alike, and observe how individual biographies affect the mechanisms of knowledge production in museum spaces.

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Transatlantic museum mobilities: convergences of objects, people and ideas