9 November 2015

MA Study in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

The Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa,Oceania and the Americas (SRU) is offering four scholarships for students enrolled in our distinctive MA course (2016/17). Study is highly flexible, can be tailored to students interests, and combines art-historical, anthropological and archaeological approaches, as well as study visits to UK and European museums. Candidates interested in careers in museum curatorship are especially welcome to apply. 

Enquiries: Lisa Farrington

Subject Specialist Network Islamic Art and Material Culture: Islamic Ceramics Study Day

Wednesday 25th November 2015
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Free to all, with a great selection of expert speakers (including Oliver Watson) and also a range of handling sessions.  To book a place please email. Please note that numbers are limited to approx 20, on a first come first served basis. The day is FREE of charge for SSN members and includes lunch. For details and a full programme please visit the website.

7 November 2015

Job Vacancies Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum is advertising for 3 posts to assist in relocation of their reserve collections. Links below. Further posts will become available for this project soon.

You can find full details and job descriptions on the University website (see links below, or via the Pitt Rivers vacancies web page). Applications must be submitted via the University’s online application system (links are on the relevant web pages). The closing date for all of these jobs is 12 noon on Monday 23 November 2015.

Project Assistant, Pitt Rivers Museum Reserve Collections Move Project (two full-time posts, grade 4).

An ethnographic tour of ‘death: the human experience’

‘Death: the human experience’, a new temporary exhibition, opened here last week at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.  Showcasing over 200 objects, a quarter of which came from our World Cultures collections, the exhibition is a cross-discipline, cross-cultural look at death and dying.  Starting with the sumptuously eclectic ‘Symbols of death’ corridor, where we display everything from a Dia des los Muertos Catrina to an Ethiopian processional cross, you are led into the ‘Stages of Death’.

This is the main central section that takes you along the journey from ‘Post-Mortem’, through containers, grave goods, funerals and on to mourning, memorialisation and connecting with the dead.  World Cultures highlights in these sections include a loaned Paa Joe Ghanaian fantasy coffin, modern Peruvian grave goods, our beautiful Torres Strait Islander tortoiseshell mask and the stately Papua New Guinea Payback figures.

Modern Peruvian grave goods and above, a view of exhibition, images copyright of Jon Craig.
Other sections interrogate our modern Western attitudes to questions such as ‘When is death?’  by revealing the complexity of the issue when viewed by other cultures and religions across time. 

One of sections that has the highest concentration of ethnographic material is ‘Human Remains’.  The quote ‘What will surive of us is love’ from Philip Larkin’s ‘An Arundel Tomb’, presented opposite a case of objects made wholly or partly from human remains, prompts us to consider what exactly we are looking at when we see an Ecuadorian tsantsa or a Naga trophy head.  Incidentally having to apply for a HTA license in order to display material in this section of a questionable less than 100 year age has led to many conversations about the appropriateness of the inclusion of museums with ethnographic material within their remit.

Funeral music from New Orleans and West Africa, and video of royal cremations and burials in Bali and New Zealand can be seen and heard in the exhibition, highlighting the huge global variety that exists in the way people around the world say goodbye to their dead.  A video montage of different ‘death festivals’ from Bolivia’s Day of the Skulls to Madagascar’s ‘Famadihana’ or Turning of the Bones can be seen on the way out of the gallery emphasising not only the creative nature of humans in relation to death and the ancestors but also the celebratory approach present in non-Western responses to the subject.
The exhibition touches on a variety of other areas such as assisted dying, Black Humour and attitudes to different types of death but fundamentally its big message - ‘Let’s talk about Death’ - is given weight and perspective by seeing how ‘others’ have framed death and dying in their own lives and how those societies have much to teach us about life itself. 

Lisa Graves
Collections Officer for World Cultures
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

3 November 2015

Call for papers: ‘Faith and Community: Interpreting beliefs in the Modern Museum’ MEG Conference 2015

Manchester Museum
18 and 19 April 2016

Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester and is internationally renowned for its encyclopaedic collections, innovative exhibitions, and extensive learning and engagement programme. The museum is critical to communicating the results of ground-breaking University of Manchester research, such research has informed exhibitions including Breed: The British and Their Dogs, Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island and most recently Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed. This year it has initiated an exploration of South Asian collections across the museum, the Whitworth, and Manchester Art Gallery, collectively known as the Manchester Partnership,  in preparation for several exciting forthcoming projects. A significant percentage of this material is linked to faith in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora, making the conference topic particularly relevant to this research. The conference will provide Manchester Museum with an invaluable opportunity to hear from other colleagues and organisations working in this area, we’re hoping for a diverse range of papers to stimulate debate and discussion. Manchester Museum actively encourages you to consider submitting a paper proposal and welcoming to Manchester in April 2016.

If you are interested in submitting a paper for the conference please send your title and draft abstract (c.100 words) to Stephen Welsh at Manchester Museum by 5pm on 12th February 2016.

Deciphering Richard Spruce's legacy: people and plants in the Brazilian Amazon

Date: Friday, November 6, 2015 - 16:15
Location: Herbertson Room, School of Geography and the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY

The biocultural objects and associated information collected by Richard Spruce in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1850s constitute a unique point of reference for the useful plants, ethnobotany, anthropology and environmental history of the region. This priceless collection, housed at RBG Kew and the British Museum, incorporates indigenous plant-based artefacts, samples of useful plant products, detailed archival notes on the use of plants by inhabitants of the Amazon, and accompanying herbarium voucher collections. These form part a larger body of 19th century material held in European collections, much of which has been poorly researched and is unavailable within Brazil. Such collections have huge potential as data for studies of Amazonian vegetation and ethnobotanical knowledge over the last 200 years, and provide a basis for analysis for future studies being conducted in Brazil.
The talk will explore the nature and context of these objects and data in the context of Richard Spruce's remarkable explorations, and outline an emerging initiative to research, document and evaluate their value and significance in the context of past, present and future relationships between people and the Amazon forest.

Dr William Milliken is a Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His experience in the Brazilian Amazon, including ethnobotanical research with indigenous peoples and botanical exploration of remote areas, stretches back almost three decades. He is the author of several books on these subjects.

For more information see here.