11 November 2013

MEG event: Reviewer meets Reviewed: Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji

Friday 8 November 2013, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University ofCambridge

Dr Lucie Carreau talks to the MEG group

A group of Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG) members, including representatives from Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, the British MuseumNorfolk Museums and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, came together for a curators’ tour of this temporary exhibition on display at theMuseum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge (MAA) until 9 April 2014. The exhibition, which forms the first major outcome of the AHRC-funded project Fijian Art: Political power, scared value, social transformation and collecting since the 18th century, presents highlights from MAA’s founding collection of Fijian artefacts, the most important collection outside of Fiji. Most of the spectacular objects on display were once part of the Baron Anatole von Hügel collection formed between 1875 and 1880, a crucial period in which Fiji was making the transition to colonial rule.

Anita Herle next to a display case of 'tabua' (whale teeth ornaments)

The tour was preceded by an exhibition review written by Catherine Cummings (University ofExeter) and posted on the MEG website. Informed by the review, in the afternoon Catherine led a question and answer session about the exhibition’s development with co-curators Anita Herle (Senior Curator of Anthropology, MAA) and Lucie Carreau (Postdoctoral Research Associate, MAA). The session promoted a frank and insightful discussion about the process of exhibition research, object selection, the challenges of exhibition layout and interpretation, of exhibiting a collection that represents a relatively narrow time period in Fijian history, and of working with both ‘local’ and international communities.

The MAA curators reported that the MEG event created a welcome and ‘tremendously rewarding’ opportunity to reflect on their experience of developing the exhibition. Participants noted that it was useful to gain the perspective of both curators and to benefit from their in-depth knowledge. One also noted the value of MEG events in offering ‘time to reflect’ and a ‘spur to developing collections-based projects’.

If you and your institution would like to host a MEG event, perhaps a visit to a new display or other museum ethnography initiative, or you’d like to make a suggestion for a future MEG event, please contact the MEG Events Officer

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