12 December 2012

CfP: The In-Betweenness of Things

Materializing Mediation and Movement between Worlds
A One-Day Symposium at The British Museum

22 March 2013

This one-day symposium is scheduled to coincide with the Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone exhibition, on display at The British Museum between 14 February and 27 April 2013. The mask at the centre of the exhibition could be said to mediate between worlds. It materializes the interconnectivity between the worlds of the colonized and the colonizer in 19th-century West Africa. On the one hand it represents the radical ‘otherness’ of an African masquerade tradition, on the other hand it illustrates how those very traditions incorporated Western objects – such as the European top hat – and made  them symbols of power. This hybrid object is neither purely African, nor purely European, but exists in a space between. Aside from its ritual context in which the mask mediates between the domain of the spirits and that of humankind, it speaks of the multi-directional mobility of people and things as well as the entanglement of culture and power in the late 19th century. Today, the mask mediates between the museum and its communities, including diasporic communities who live ‘between’ London and Sierra Leone.

We invite speakers from a wide variety of disciplines to participate in this symposium to explore the concept of ‘in-betweenness’ in material and visual culture. We encourage participants to take an ‘object-centred’ approach, each using a particular object as a starting point to explore how things mediate between worlds in diverse cultural, geographic and temporal contexts. We welcome papers that seek to expand our understanding of the nature of mediation, hybridity, ambiguity, mobility, interconnectivity, creolization and entanglement. How are such qualities expressed in material form? In what ways is the mediatory agency of such objects articulated? How do such objects challenge the reification of dichotomized worldviews (us/them, here/there, present/past, modern/primitive)?
A selection of papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Material Culture devoted to the theme of the symposium.

Please email a title and 250-word abstract to Paul Basu paul.basu@ucl.ac.uk by 31 January 2013 if you would like to propose a paper.

The symposium is being supported by:
Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, British Museum
Asahi Shimbun Displays
Journal of Material Culture
Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies, University College London

1 December 2012

Film: Small Blessings: Animating the Pitt Rivers' Amulet Collections

Small Blessings was a project funded by Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund in 2012. The project documented and curated a collection of several thousand amulets, and created a dedicated project website featuring image galleries, films and more.

Another important outcome was the creation of a two-part ‘masterclass’ film tracking the project’s development over seven months to completion. Made by a freelance team, the film aims to share learning and best practice for training purposes within both the Museum and the wider cultural sector, and provide a document of the behind-the-scenes activities and personalities. The film explores both the practical issues that impact on staff and considers the wider professional context and issues associated with such work.

The film is in two parts, focussing on Collections and Access. It seeks to demonstrate the major benefits Designation and its funding have stimulated, to create a visual record of best practice and the challenges and advantages of cross-departmental working - from collections management to display to education to technology - and to make a useful contribution to the growing body of work reviewing contemporary museum practice and sharing lessons learnt. It is hoped the films will be of interest not only to colleagues working in other museums and institutions, but also to students and those who are considering a career in the cultural sector.

The films can be accessed here: http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/smallblessings_masterclass.html Both approximately 28 minutes in length.

We'd love to hear what you think about the films. Please send any feedback to amulets@prm.ox.ac.uk

Find out more about the background to the project: http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/smallblessings.html

Explore the new Small Blessings website: http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/amulets/

Tell us what you think of the Small Blessings project site by taking a few minutes to answer ten quick questions: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L3BVRN2