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

11 November 2012

Third international conference: Museums and Human Rights

By Helen Mears
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The 2012 'Museums and Human Rights' conference held on 9 & 10 October 2012 at the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, was the third in a series organised by the Federation of International Human Rights Museums. It opened with a keynote speech by David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool, whose commitment to human rights and social activism led to the creation of the Federation. In his speech on 'The Political Museum' he challenged the idea that museums could stand outside politics or presume neutrality and objectively. 'All museums are political', he asserted, 'why do some pretend that they are not?'. He also challenged suggestions that engagement by museums in issues of relevance, of diversity and inclusiveness, was somehow the enemy of good scholarship. Museums can both 'provocative and scholarly' he noted.

Fleming's keynote speech was followed by a diverse and international range of speakers whose presentations reflected the wide range of issues that fall under the umbrella of human rights. The scope of this underlined how many museum organisations take the theme of human rights as central to their mandate – Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington, New Zealand), Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Bucharest, Romania), National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, US), Iziko Slave Lodge (Cape Town, South Africa) and The Museum of Genocide Victims (Vilnius, Lithuania) amongst many others – and how, while the issue may seem in some ways remote to UK museum professionals, for others human rights abuses were much more immediate, in some cases current, and their effects all-pervasive. Papers by the curator of the National Military Museum in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, which was seeking to offer healing to those who suffered human rights violations during the communist era, and by the deputy director of the National Council for Arts and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria, who underscored the extent to which women are disproportionately affected by human rights infringements, in a country where it is still legal for husbands to beat their wives, as long as no injury occurs, represent the coal face of museums work in this respect. Nevertheless, it was the aim of the conference to give confidence to all museums attempting to grapple with issues around human rights. As Aiden McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International and day two's keynote speaker, sought to underline, progress in terms of human rights relies on lots of small actions, even if pursued for differing reasons.

Much of the discussion was of relevance to museum ethnographers. While our work often pertains to issues of perceived ethnic or cultural difference, issues of age, gender, class and sexuality are also often inherent in the collections we work with. The long-standing efforts by museums with ethnographic collections to develop partnerships with source and diaspora communities and to work together on developing collections and collections knowledge, are highly relevant to a debate on museums and human rights and it was a shame not to have this important work highlighted. In discussions about how museums and museum professionals can serve as social activists – and encourage their visitors to do the same – it occurred to me that many museum ethnographers have been quietly doing so for years. Given the changing landscape of museum practice, and the increasing demand for museums to engage in the social and political, museum ethnography has much expertise to offer the sector.

20 October 2012

Review: Made for Trade at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Solar-powered prayer wheel. Collected in Darjeeling, 2010
Until 27 January 2013
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

By Sue Giles
Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

I had looked quickly at Made for Trade on a previous visit, but as I am going to be talking about it to Julia Nicholson at the next MEG meeting, I needed to go back for a proper look. 

As the introductory panel states, almost anything in the Pitt Rivers Museum collection could have been included in the exhibition – almost everything was made for trade in some way, so how to chose ideas and objects.  

What is trade? One might assume it is meant in a strictly commercial sense – an object made by one person for sale to another.  But trade can be taken in a personal, social sense.  It can be between neighbours, or across continents.  It can involve objects or ideas.  It can be one-way, two-way or multi-way.  The exhibition looks at many of the different ideas in the title, illustrating them with choice objects from the PRM huge collection.

I thought it interesting that the curators felt they had to state at the outset that the exhibition was not looking at the slave trade, at the trade in people: and that one visitor’s comment deplored this omission, as slavery was a part of ‘native’ trading traditions, rather than the choice ignoring or hiding the European slave trade.  But slavery kept cropping up throughout the exhibition: not in relation to people, who are not ‘made for trade’, but to the many European and Asian objects that were traded to Africa as part of a slave ship’s cargo – such as glass beads.

The exhibition is not a continuous narrative, rather a collection of stories about objects that illustrate trade in different ways.  What it shows is that trade is often a two-way exchange: ideas and fashions move across cultures with the objects being traded.  So American Indian women taught French nuns in Quebec how to work birchbark and moosehair, and the nuns gave French floral embroidery patterns to the American Indian women.

The exhibition raises the question of what is indigenous?  As people adopted and adapted trade goods – glass beads, Stroud cloth, steel tools, cotton cloth – it affected local crafts, styles and ideas.   And economics and society: the import of Indian and Manchester cotton into Africa, in the 18th century slave trade cargoes, probably all but killed the local cotton textile manufactures by flooding the market with ‘cheap’ imported goods.

This also affects notions of status: if trade goods confer status on the owner, how does that affect a society, if an upstart entrepreneur can be wealthier than the traditional rulers? 

There are lots of ideas in the exhibition to work through: trade can mean finished objects or raw materials, such as pottery made in one area of Papua New Guinea and traded across to areas without suitable potting clays, or feathers traded from the highland forests to the coast; or it can mean the widespread Arab trade across Africa, Asia and the middle east, or Ao Naga weavers selling cloth to neighbouring Konyak Naga buyers; it can mean trade in essentials or luxuries; or it can trigger the move from functional object to tourist souvenir.

Looking at the objects on display, one thing that jumps out is the spread of glass beads – many made in Czechoslovakia or Venice, they appear on costume and jewellery made in Amazonia, North America, Africa, Oceania and Indonesia.  What was the appeal when these glass beads were offered for exchange, how did they affect local style, were existing trade materials and partnerships displaced?  
Coffin for a shop-keeper made at Kane Kwei Coffin workshop in Teshei, Accra Ghana; 2010.68.1

One of the largest objects on display is a fantasy coffin from Ghana: made for the museum rather than use, it is a copy of one made for a shopkeeper and made in the shape of his shop, plastered with adverts for the stock inside.  But are these coffins commonplace, or exceptional?   

Two of the smaller items are an aluminium penis gourd made for South Africa, and a glass pubic triangle for Senegal: made in Europe for sale to Africa at a time (in the early 20th century) when I am sure that such things were not mentioned in polite society.   Commercial interest obviously trumps social niceties.  But they are just two of the many articles of trade made by Europe adapting local objects to replace them with mass produced versions.  What effects did this have on local production and economics?

There are many fascinating stories in the exhibition: the ‘octopus’ bags made of Stroud cloth in the Great Lakes area are that shape because they started as skin bags, with the legs dangling as decoration; an Englishman started making porcelain in Moscow to export to Central Asia; Gujarat weavers made different designs for the Indian and Muslim markets; and Chinese porcelain was made in Vietnam for export to East Africa.

The exhibition has a very nice quote from an Innu man in the 18th century: ‘Beaver makes everything’, he said, in reference to the fact that the trade in beaver furs allowed the Innu to buy everything they needed from the Hudson Bay Company shop.  One can read much into the quote and the social revolution that came with it.  Like the exhibition, it intrigues whilst raising questions.

See the website for details of the MEG meeting on 7 November, looking at and discussing the ‘Made for Trade’ exhibition.

2 October 2012

Workshop: Sound in Museums

7 December 2012
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum is holding 'Sound In Museums', a one-day workshop on curating, storing, and delivering archival sound collections in gallery spaces, online and beyond as part of its Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund / Museums Association project 'Reel to Real': http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/reel.html

Many museums and other cultural institutions hold significant collections of archival sound material, but very few know how to go about curating, storing, or digitizing such collections adequately, and are even more uncertain about how to deliver such collections in public galleries, online, or even how to make them research accessible. The Pitt Rivers Museum, for example, holds a number of collections of ethnographic recordings from Vanuatu, the Central African Republic, and of children's games from across Europe, but has never been able to make them available for research until now. This workshop will bring together specialists from the British Library, the Oxford eResearch Centre, sound artists, and curators from a number of museums in the UK to discuss recent case studies and the issues involved in dealing with archival sound collections.

Registration for the workshop is free open to all, with priority given to UK museum professionals. To register, please contact noel.lobley@prm.ox.ac.uk

A limited number of travel bursaries are available, and further details will be given on registration.


26 September 2012

Conference: Making Sound Objects: Cultures of Hearing, Recording, Creating and Circulation

24 November 2012
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual One Day Conference,

This conference explores the contemporary and historical creation, collection and circulation of sound and sound-producing objects, and is guided by the following enlightened advice of Henry Balfour, first curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum: “Any object whether natural or artificial, and however simple, which is employed for the purpose of producing sound (whether ‘musical’ in an aesthetic sense or not) should be included as a musical instrument.”

He gave this advice in 1929 to anthropologists engaged in the collection of musical instruments, advice which seems prescient indeed, as distinctions between sound and music are dissolved and re-articulated in contemporary thinking about the sound and sound objects. Such objects have been amassed over 130 years of recording, collected, documented and stored in archives, lofts, memory sticks, phones and clouds, while new technology creates exciting new sonic possibilities: for example, electronic artist Aphex Twin can conduct an orchestra by remote control, engineers use microphones to capture subterranean explosions, and sound designers use ambisonics to encode sound fields with incredible fidelity.

At this exciting time in the history of sound recording and objects – when the influence of the commercial recording industry is declining, and the age of personal sound production and inter-personal distribution is proliferating –several key questions arise: What methods and resources might scholars use to collect, analyse, create and use sound? How best might we conceptualise the relationships amongst sound archives, museums, contemporary communities and soundscapes? What type of knowledge is it possible to achieve and share through sound and sound-producing objects? How does the creation and sharing of sounds influence and change societies?

This one-day conference is hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, and seeks interdisciplinary engagement with these questions. Contributions are welcomed from anthropologists, musicologists, acousticians, historians, geographers, organologists, sound engineers, song collectors and sound artists – in fact anyone engaged with the production and analysis of sound.

**A keynote presentation will feature two of the finest sound thinkers – Professor David Toop and Max Eastley. **

Proposed abstracts for presentations are welcome. 

Deadline: Friday October 19th 2012.
For submissions and further information contact: noel.lobley@prm.ox.ac.uk

CfP: The World at Your Feet

The World at Your Feet will be held 20 - 21 March 2013 at the University of Northampton. The conference aims to foster debate and discussion under the theme of World Footwear.

This is a cross disciplinary conference and we aim to attract those from different academic disciplines including, but not exclusively, fashion and design, sociology, anthropology and ethnography, history and psychology. We aim to bring those together interested in design and fashion but also those interested in the history and cultural significance of shoes.

The University of Northampton and Northampton Museum and Art Gallery supported by Northampton Borough Council invite you to submit papers. 

Deadline: 21 November 2012

For more information see pdf at: http://www.northampton.gov.uk/downloads/file/5230/wolrd_footwear_conference-call_for_papers

Review: Revealing the World at Buxton Museum

 8 September to 24 November 2012
 Buxton Museum [Free]
Image from Buxton Museum website

By Alison Petch
Pitt Rivers Museum

I visited Buxton on the 8 September with some friends. On our way up the hill to one of the best second-hand bookshops in England, Scrivener's, we passed by Buxton Museum and popped in. I have visited the small museum before and found the recreated library and information about two important local geologists, Professor Sir William Boyd Dawkins and Dr J.W. Jackson quite fascinating. This time, though I was not aware of it when I entered, I had more reasons to be interested. 

On the upper floor of the museum is a large room that is used for temporary exhibitions: this is currently occupied by Revealing the World. This exhibition is described by the museum on its website as follows:

Treasures dating back more than 3,000 years have been dusted down for display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

In the first exchange of its kind with Derbyshire, the British Museum in London has loaned the Museum five precious items - a 13th century BC Egyptian pyramidion, three gold and silver Inca human figures and a model of a North American canoe.

They all have links with explorers and adventurers from Derbyshire's historic past, including the founding father of British Egyptology Sir John Gardner Wilkinson and naturalist Joseph Banks.

The exhibition also features dozens of curios and artefacts from the council's own collection as well as from Derby Museum and Art Gallery and Bakewell Old House Museum.

Buxton is probably one of those museums which has had wildly fluctuating levels of financial support and staffing over the last few years, it certainly looks like that. Some areas have been well-resourced (like the Boyd Dawkins area) and are none the worse for not being cutting-edge in their design, others - like this exhibition - strike the viewer as a little 'thrown together', making the best of good local and national collections but having little money for 'fancy' exhibition design.

The exhibition is rather an ad-hoc assemblage of some good ethnographic specimens, random 'tourist' collections and social history artefacts as well as archaeological objects mostly coming from Derbyshire museum collections. I would guess that the majority of the items are usually held in store. This diversity is confirmed by the wide range of the objects loaned by the British Museum, presumably as part of its Partnership programme, though Buxton museum is not listed as a Partner. The objects are arranged on the walls and in a few glass cases in a loose geographical arrangement. The only linking theme appears to be that they have some (loose) connection with Derbyshire people. The exhibition has no object labels but copies of a soft-cover catalogue are available though it contains little detail.

British Museum representative Jack Davy and Derbyshire museums manager Ros Westwood carefully unpack the pyramidion on loan to Buxton Musuem and Art Gallery.
However, the exhibition is a worthwhile attempt at reminding local people who, outside the summer holidays, probably form the majority of visitors, that Derbyshire (a landlocked and heavily rural county) does have many connections with the outside world and has always engaged with it.
If you happen to be passing Buxton do make sure you set aside half an hour to see it (and the other Buxton Museum displays) and also to visit Scrivenor's. [1]

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery on Terrace Road is open Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am-5.30pm; Saturdays, 9.30am-5pm and Sundays, until September 30, 10.30am-5pm.
Find Out More:

Find out more about the Exhibition at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/buxton_museum/temporary_exhibitions/revealing_the_world/default.asp

Find out more about the BM loan at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/news_events/news-updates/2012/august/news_items/british_museum_travels_north_to_derbyshire.asp

Find out more about the Buxton Museum here http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/buxton_museum/default.asp

Find out more about Scrivener's at http://www.scrivenersbooks.co.uk/


[1] By the way, when I arrived at Scrivener's I came across two volumes relating to Pitt-Rivers that I had been searching for for some time, so the virtue of being an accidental museum exhibition visitor was rewarded amply and quickly.

Lectures: Pacific Islands Research Network

We are very pleased to announce 2 forthcoming lectures in the Pacific Islands Research Network (UCL) Occasional Lecture Series.

What use is archaeology to anthropology, or anthropology to archaeology: A New Guinea highlands' view?
Thursday 4th October - Professor Paul Sillitoe (Durham University)5.30- 7.00 Room 209, Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Irrigated taro, malaria and chiefdoms in Solomon Islands: keys to the Melanesian cultural mosaic?
Thursday 11th October - Dr. Tim Bayliss-Smith (University of Cambridge)

5.30- 7.00 Room 209, Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Free to attend. No need to register- just turn up on the night.

For more information contact Sarah Byrne s.byrne@ucl.ac.uk

10 September 2012

Event: Meet the Reviewer - Made for Trade

7 November 2012, 11am – 4.30pm
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. 

Coffin for a shop-keeper made at Kane Kwei Coffin workshop in Teshei, Accra Ghana; 2010.68.1

An opportunity to critically interrogate this temporary exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Made for Trade features historic and contemporary objects from the museum’s diverse collections which demonstrate the impact of local and global trade. Displays include a solar-powered prayer wheel from India and a shopkeeper’s coffin from Ghana.
Solar-powered prayer wheel. Collected in Darjeeling, 2010

Julia Nicholson, co-curator of the show with Faye Belsey, will give an introduction to the exhibition and its origins in the morning. In the afternoon Sue Giles (Senior Collections Officer - World Cultures, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery) will offer her own critical perspective on the display and a panel including the exhibition curators, designer and conservator, will have the opportunity to respond.

This event costs £8 for MEG members, £10 for non-members, to include lunch at a local restaurant.

Booking is essential.

For booking see MEG Events Page

For further information please contact –
Julia Nicholson - julia.nicholson@prm.ox.ac.uk - 01865 613002

Review: The Curious Case of…

20 July – 23 September 2012
Great North Museum: Hancock

By Chantal Knowles
National Museums Scotland 

The Curious Case of…  explicitly draws its inspiration from the cabinets of curiosity popular in the 18th century, exploring how objects can inspire curiosity and a desire to know more. It is part of Journeys of Discovery, a project in the north east of England which used the voyages of Captain Cook (born in the region) as inspiration for the development of exhibitions at the Oriental Museum, Durham; Dornam Museum, Middlesborough and Great North Museum, Newcastle.

The project is part of the government’s Stories of the World strand of the Cultural Olympiad, and sought to interpret World Cultures collections by engaging with young people from the local community. Members who attended this year’s MEG conference will remember a presentation by several of the young volunteers involved in this project. The young curators worked with communities around the world, artists and museum professionals to challenge how objects can be displayed and interpreted.  

The Curious Case of… is book-ended by the work of local contemporary artists. The introduction is an installation by artist Dawn Felicia Knox  intended to ‘spark the same sense of curiosity in the viewers’ as was provoked during visits to the stores.  The exhibition ends with a stylized Victorian sitting room with its own ‘cabinet of curiosities’, creating a comfortable seating space in which to explore the themes of the exhibition through books and artists' work. Amongst my favourites here were James Maskrey’s brilliant jars of imagined delicacies collected during Cook’s first voyage in 1768. A screen at the heart of the cabinet also features images uploaded to flickr by visitors to the exhibition.

Themes touched on by the exhibition are varied and wide-ranging, as are the artefacts on display. Each object was chosen by a young curator during a series of visits to the reserve collections. All of the volunteers chose objects that inspired their curiosity and provoked them to find out more.  The objects are identified by a brief object label (including name, region and possible date and collection) supplemented by a story label. 

Amongst the highlights of interpretation were the lantern slides of Joseph Burtt and the associated slide show booth with audio by two locals originally from Angola and part of the CultureRISE project. The Caribbean fish trap is striking in its size and simplicity, but inspired a story of the revival of this tradition in order to manage fish stocks. A samurai sword from Japan is interpreted through a Manga comic strip, commissioned from artists in Kenya - an unusual yet engaging alternative to a written label. 

The absence of a dedicated ethnographer on staff at the Great North East Museum means that guidance was sought elsewhere, from retired curators, academics and cultural organizations within Newcastle, as well as by contacting source communities elsewhere. Although the level of research differs for each object, this does not seem to translate into an uneven balance in the interpretation. There are artefacts where the absence of information about the object or its poor quality become the story. These are generally less successful, and access to wider expertise would have enhanced these stories and facilitated further research. My only criticism is with regard to this, as there are certain decisions about objects and the use of language that could have been handled with more subtlety, and it may have been preferable in some cases not to have included them at all.

The curators have clearly taken audience engagement seriously, and provided interactives for a variety of age groups. These included shoes and clothing to try on, a series of stamps to collect in a ‘passport’ throughout the exhibition, as well as the ability to record comments on paper that are posted on the wall and online through networked ipads. When I saw these on opening night I speculated on how well they would survive regular use, but when I revisited six weeks later, although there had been some difficulties, the interactives were largely intact. Engagement, dialogue and participation are a key strand throughout the exhibition. You, the visitor, are invited to engage and reflect in much the same way as the young curators did in order to develop the exhibition.

The aim of Stories of the World was to engage young people in the research and interpretation of ethnographic objects in museum collections, and to do this through engaging with artists, musicians, source communities and curators. The project overall needs to be evaluated and its aims and purposes critiqued. In order to do this we need to examine its results, including this exhibition, review the methodologies used, and assess the impact on the young curators who were specifically targeted.

The Curious Case of… is an interesting and entertaining exhibition which provides a different approach to an important collection.  It has clearly been enjoyed by the local community and visitors, with very positive comments online and written in the gallery.  The exhibition closes very soon but, if you get a chance, I would recommend a visit.

7 September 2012

Jobs: Curatorial posts at Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

There are two curatorial posts and one conservation post currently being advertised.  The post holders will work on the World Cultures collections, including the recently transferred collections of the former British Empire & Commonwealth Museum. 
Collections Officer (World Cultures Curator)
BG10: £25,472 - £28,636
Full time, fixed term until 31st March 2015 due to funding
Based at The City Museum
Ref: 23538

Collections Officer (World Cultures Curator)
BG10: £25,472 - £28,636 pro rata
Part time 18.5 hours, fixed term until 28th February 2014
Based at The City Museum
Ref: 23540


Collections Officer (Object Conservation)
BG10: £25,472 - £28,636
Full time, fixed term until 31st March 2015 due to funding
Based at The City Museum
Ref: 23537

For full details, see the Bristol City Council website: http://jobs.bristol.gov.uk/index.aspx

In 2012 BMGA has now taken on responsibility for the collection formerly of the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, which has added substantially to our own existing collection.  We are offering one new post and one job share post (with the existing CO World Cultures) who will report to the Senior Collections Officer (World Cultures) and play an important role in developing our approach to, and use of, this new collection alongside our own holdings of ethnography and foreign archaeology.  Existing strengths in Egyptology and collections representing peoples from parts of Africa, the Americas and the Pacific have now been supplemented with more comprehensive collections from the former Empire and Commonwealth.

Planning for the redevelopment of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is now in its early stages and it is envisaged that the display of the World Cultures collection will be an important part of that new approach.  Improving access to stores and encouraging other uses of the collections is also vital.  The successful candidate will be expected to have existing museum experience and expertise in one area relevant to these collections along with drive and ambition to promote their relevance and importance.

Conference: The Future of Ethnographic Museums


The conference will mark the completion of the five-year RIME project funded by the European Union, and involving ten major European ethnography museums. This conference aims to move the debate about the purpose of ethnographic museums in the post-colonial period forward and to envision new ways of thinking and working in those museums in the future.

Registration for this conference will open in October 2012, when further details about costs will be available. However, places will be limited so please indicate your interest in advance by contacting: RIMEinfo@prm.ox.ac.uk

Further details will then be sent to you when registration starts.

19-21 July 2013
Pitt Rivers Museum & Keble College
University of Oxford

Photographs, museums and archaeology: AHRC CDA PhD Studentship

Alfred Maudslay, Photography and the Mimetic Technologies of Archaeology: A Study in Method, Process and Effect

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester/ British Museum, London


CLOSING DATE: September 28th 2012
Interview date:  week beginning October 15 2012

An AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship covering stipend and tuition fee costs is offered within the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) in the Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities in collaboration with the British Museum.

The project addresses the role of photography and its relationship with other mimetic technologies in field archaeology and the subsequent institutional life of the images in the construction of ‘heritage’. The project also explores the methodological implications for a ‘photographic history’ approach to collections and institutions.

The project will focus on the 1513 magnificent late nineteenth century photographs made of Maya archaeology by Alfred Maudslay, their relationship with other kinds of recording and their subsequent ‘life’ in the Museum. The student will have scope, within the project parameters, to develop an emphasis in photographic history, collections history, history of science, or museum practice in archaeological heritage.

The PhD studentship will be based at PHRC which undertakes leading innovative research on photography and its practices from the early nineteenth century to the present day, and over a wide range of social and cultural processes. It has a dynamic and growing research community and an excellent research library for photographic history. The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the development of this community and that at the British Museum.

Supervision will be available from Professor Elizabeth Edwards (DMU) and key members of British Museum staff who have active interests in photography, history, archaeology and collections history.  The studentship will be based at DMU, Leicester, with extended London-based periods of study at the British Museum and related archives

Candidates might come from a range of possible disciplines: art history, history of photography, museum and heritage studies, science and technology studies, material culture studies, archaeology, visual anthropology, or visual culture studies. A knowledge of Meso-American archaeology is not a requirement.

For a more detailed description of the PHRC please visit our web site or contact Professor Edwards (eedwards@dmu.ac.uk) who will be happy to discuss the studentship further.

Applications are invited from UK or eligible EU/overseas students  (please check http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/FundingOpportunities/Documents/GuidetoStudentFunding.pdf Annex A for residency requirements) with a good first degree (First, 2:1 or equivalent) and MA in a relevant subject. Applications are welcome from MAs completing 2012. The CDA scholarship is available for three years full-time study starting January 2013, providing a bursary for both maintenance  (currently c. £14,500) and fees.

To receive an application pack, please contact the Faculty Research Office via email at ADHresearch&innovation@dmu.ac.uk. Completed applications should be returned together with a full CV, two supporting references, a statement explaining your interest in the project, and an example of your written work of c.3000 words.

Please quote ref: AHRC/CDA/PHRC12/2

9 August 2012

Workshop: Fabricating Fashion? Curating and Creating Pacific Fibre Arts and Adornments

For more information, see:

Museums Association Annual Conference & Exhibition

8-9 November 2012

As Europe’s largest conference for museum professionals, the event is packed with thought-provoking sessions and essential networking opportunities. It is a great opportuntiy to think creatively, engage with colleagues and develop new skills.

The conference themes are national identity, social justice, and ‘Museums 2020’ - the MA’s new project to create a dynamic vision for museums. 
Keynote speakers include:

  • Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs
  • Aamer Anwar, human rights lawyer
  • Martin Roth, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 
Details of the conference programme can be found at www.museumsassociation.org/conference

There are greatly reduced rates for those booking before 30 August 2012.

Run alongside the conference is the annual exhibition, which will host 60 of the top companies working in the sector. 

The exhibition is free to attend, and in addition there is a free MP workshop programme which will give visitors some great ideas for their museums. 

More information can be found at: www.museumsassociation.org/visitexhibition

RAI Photo Competition: The Body Canvas

The Royal Anthropolical Institute are holding their third international photography competition, and are asking people to submit:

Engaging photographs that explore biological, cross-cultural and social elements of body art and modification in relation to these categories:

1) Tattoos and Scarification

2) Piercings and Body Reshaping

Extended Deadline 31 October 2012

3 August 2012

Conference: Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity

We are pleased to announce the details of the conference ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ at the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna, on the 20th to 22nd November, 2012. 

This is part of a two-year international research project led by Dr Leon Wainwright (The Open University, UK) and funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area, the European Science Foundation).

‘Disturbing Pasts’ brings together artists, photographers, curators, policy makers and academics from around the world, with the aim of networking with one another and exploring creative engagements with controversial and traumatic pasts in art practice, curating and museums.

Our theme:    
Traumatic pasts have complex and often dramatic influences on the present. In many countries, legacies of war, colonialism, genocide and oppression return again and again to dominate contemporary politics, culture and society. The controversies surrounding traumatic pasts can shape policy, make or break governments, trigger mass demonstrations, and even spark violent confrontation. These pasts also inspire rich visual and creative responses, through which the past is remembered, remade and challenged, and the public space of the modern museum is the primary venue for these responses.

Confirmed speakers include artists, curators, policy-makers and academics:
Peju Layiwola, Dierk Schmidt, T. Shanaathanan, Christopher Cozier, Rita Duffy, Paul Lowe, Rafał Betlejewski, Joanna Rajkowska, Heather Shearer, John Timberlake, Shan McAnena, Sofia Dyak, Wayne Modest, Liv Ramskjær, Maria Six-Hohenbalken, Margit Berner, Clara Himmelheber, Maruska Svasek, Fiona Magowan, Alexander Etkind, Uilleam Blacker, Andrij Portnow, Elizabeth Edwards, Sigrid Lien, Susan Legêne, Anette Hoffmann, Erica Lehrer, Simon Faulkner, Carol Tulloch

‘Disturbing Pasts’ marks a collaboration between three HERA-sponsored research consortia drawn from universities throughout Europe, in partnership with the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna. They are:
o    ‘Creativity and Innovation in a World of Movement’ (CIM)
o    ‘Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture’ (PhotoCLEC)
o    ‘Memory at War’ (MAW)

The project will generate audio-visual material to be made available through the Open Arts Archive (www.openartsarchive.org) and published as a special issue of the Open Arts Journal (www.openartsjournal.org).

Entrance to the conference is free, but places are limited, and so we ask that you please reserve in advance by writing to Julia Binter: Julia.Binter@ethno-museum.ac.at

Committee members for the project include: Dr Leon Wainwright (The Open University, UK), Dr Barbara Plankensteiner (Museum of Ethnology, Vienna), Dr Maruska Svasek (Queen’s University, Belfast), Professor Elizabeth Edwards (De Montfort University, Leicester), Professor Alexander Etkind and Dr Uilleam Blacker (University of Cambridge).
The project '‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, DASTI, ETF, FNR, FWF, HAZU, IRCHSS, MHEST, NWO, RANNIS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme. 

3 July 2012

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Lampeter Campus

Deadline: 9 July 2012

As part of the University’s investment into the Humanities and in response to growing demand for Anthropology and Heritage related studies, at both UG and PG level, the University wishes to appoint a fulltime permanent Social/ Cultural Anthropologist with a particular interest in Heritage or Heritage representations. The post holder will join a thriving and dynamic School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, with a strong tradition in both research, teaching and project work.

Anthropology of Museums / Anthropology in Museums

The British Museum
8-10 June 2012

by Catherine Moore

Anthropology in the World Conference
The MEG Stall, with Claire Wintle and Mark Elliott

Thanks to the questioning minds of Clare Wintle and Chris Wingfield, as well as a grant from Arts Council England (ACE), MEG played a prominent role in the recent RAI conference ‘Anthropology in the World’, held at the British Museum earlier this month.

Eight MEG members were supported by ACE to attend the conference, but funds also allowed MEG to host a roundtable panel discussion session at the conference on ‘Anthropology in Museums/ Anthropology of museum’. The  members in attendance meant that there was no shortage of friendly faces at the MEG stall - situated in a prime spot just next to the Waterstones books, Berghahn publishers, but most importantly next to the tea and coffee. This allowed us to showcase our new and improved journal cover, leaflets and pop-up banners - all results of a previous phase of Subject Specialist Network (SSN) funding.

Anthropology in the World Conference
Coffee in and around the MEG Stall

MEG Chair Chantal Knowles began the discussion of 'Anthropology in Museums/Anthropology of Museums' with an overview of the historical and contemporary roles played by anthropology and anthropologists at the National Museums of Scotland. What emerged was a shifting landscape where the fortunes of both the ethnographic collections and those who interpret them have been found at the both the centre and the periphery at various times. Sharon Macdonald (University of Manchester) then admitted that she wasn’t an anthropologist in the museum, but one of those doing anthropology about museums, including supervising students who are exploring the role of the cleaners at Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. Picking up this strand and extending it through the methodologies of visual anthropology, Elizabeth Edwards (DMU) discussed studies against the grain of the archive, in this case examining a supporting actor in museum displays – the photograph. Claire Warrior described the role of the anthropologist in a museum that is not overtly anthropological, showing through one object what anthropology can bring to the re-interpretation of collections at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Paul Basu (UCL) focused on the ‘affordances’ the museum might offer anthropology as a means of expressing anthropological knowledge in non-textual ways – through juxtaposition, the three dimensional, the affective and art. It then fell to Chris Wingfield to summarise the papers and throw things forward to the debate after lunch. Chris asked whether perhaps Museum Anthropologists might have something of a 'Melanesian' approach to museum artefacts (including exhibitions), being as interested in understanding them through their effects, as by situating them in relation to the context from which they notionally come?

Anthropology in the World Conference
The MEG hosted panel 'Anthropology in Museums / Anthropology of Museums'

The panel reconvened after lunch, when some great questions led to a dynamic exchange of ideas. Was the term ethnography still relevant in museums today, specifically as a category by which to define objects? Could art provide a space to say the things that more conventional displays could not? Can museums really fulfill the new demand for ‘impact’ in academic anthropological research? And should we be using exhibitions to experiment and provoke?  

8 May 2012

PhotoCLEC website launch

Photographs are probably the most ubiquitous and far-reaching records of the colonial past. They trace the experiences of a vast range of people touched by European colonial expansion and domination, both colonised and colonisers.

How is this record understood in public histories?

What is its role in the way contemporary European cultures configure their pasts for the benefit of their futures?

This website explores the different ways in which photographs of the colonial past have been used by museums, as spaces of public history, to communicate and interpret the colonial past in a postcolonial and multicultural Europe.

Intended for curators, heritage managers, teachers an students, this resources has been built in response to the concerns of curators, debates about difficult histories in museums, the role of photographs in the museum space, and especially, key questions about the representation of the colonial past in museums as vectors of public history.

The resource offers a unique comparative character that is the result of a collaborative research project, funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Norway, all of which have very different colonial histories and postcolonial engagements.