13 October 2014

Spreading the World: MEG and Kent and East Sussex Ethnography project event

A symposium to explore 'Making better use of Ethnographic Collections in the South East Region.' 

10.30am - 4.30pm Wednesday 3rd December 2014
Old Courthouse Lecture Theatre
Brighton Museum

This symposium forms part of the 'Uncovering Ethnography in Kent and Sussex' (Uniques) Project, and a Museum Ethnography Group (MEG) Events Programme for 2014. Uniques is a regional collections review and community engagement project with 5 partner museums in Kent and Sussex, led by Bexhill Museum and funded by ACE.

The aim of the symposium is to provide non-specilaist staff and volunteers who care for ethnographic collections, with an overview of the main requirements for curating and interpreting these special collections. MEG members and academics and students will also be invited to attend this event, to share skills and find out more about the collections in this region.

The symposium is designed to provide an introduction to all aspects of managing these collections, including cataloguing and documentation, preventative conservation, interpretation and engaging audiences. The speakers will share their skills and experience and offer practical guidance and use case studies to demonstrate best practice in the sector.

To book a place contact Project Manager, Rachael Heminway Hurst or find out more about the project by visiting the blog. 

Symposium speakers:

Ms. Julia Cort
Community Learning Manager, the Horniman Museum

Dr. Inbal Livne
Collections Manager at the Powell Cotton Museum

Ms. Helen Mears
Keeper of World Art, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery

Mr. Len Pole
Museum Consultant, Ethnography Collections (Uniques Project Ethnography Specialist)

Dr Veronica Sekules
Deputy Director and Head of Education and Research Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA

Ms. Kirstie Williams
Organic Conservator, University of Cambridge Museums

Call for papers: Weapons and the Anthropology Museum

The Horniman Museum and Gardens, like many other anthropology museums, holds vast weaponry collections from across the globe.

In reviewing these collections as part of the Collections, People, Stories project (2012-2015) and planning for a potential re-display, we have been confronted with many of the complex intellectual and ethical questions regarding their interpretation and display.

This two-day conference, to be held on the 26th - 27th February 2015 seeks to address and debate a number of questions including:

How can / should anthropology museums in the 21st century display 
their weapons?
How can the specific historical contexts in which weapons were made,
used and collected be translated to contemporary audiences?
Should and can we engage with the portrayal and debate of warfare,
brutality, violence and loss in today’s world?
How do these objects reinforce ideas of the ‘primitive’ and ‘otherness’ in
their representation/misrepresentation of cultures as violent?
How can weapon collections be used within public engagement
How can we unpack the multiple meanings and uses of weapons
recognising their importance as status makers, artistic expressions and
performance and initiation objects etc. without ignoring their potential 
to kill/harm.
What are the different socio-political considerations and implication
regarding the display of European, African, Asian and Pacific

We strongly encourage papers from museum colleagues who work with similar collections from both curatorial and public engagement perspectives, anthropologists working in areas covered by the Horniman collections and archaeologists keen to engage with anthropology collections and debate.

Please send a 200 word abstract and a hundred word speaker biography to Tom Crowley by  
November 1st 2014.

Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters: Call for Applications

Call for Applications (Deadline Nov. 15)

Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters

A Summer Institute of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana, USA
May 14-21, 2015

The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history.

Museums at the Crossroads, scheduled for May 14-21, 2015, in the beautiful college town of Bloomington, Indiana, combines keynote addresses, tours, charrettes, and social interactions. We seek applications from museum practitioners and theorists who wish to partner in conversation and creative practice with a group of invited keynote speakers and international museum fellows in a small, informal workshop setting.  Successful applicants will receive eight nights of on-campus lodging and per diem support of $45 for eight days.

Museums at the Crossroads connects theory and practice, bridging institutional, regional, and national museum contexts in order to advance the global conversation around museums and generate a range of practical outcomes for its participants.

Workshop participants will include:

·      4 international fellows from innovative museums around the globe
·      8 museum partners drawn from museums and other institutions in the United States and abroad
·      12 Indiana University faculty, staff, and graduate students
·      4 keynote speakers, each addressing a broader social and cultural theme that we wish to explore in depth in museum contexts.
     keynote speakers are:

·      Steven Lubar, Brown University (keynote on Today’s Museum:  Innovation, Change, and Challenge)
·      Michael Brown, School for Advanced Research (keynote on Cultural Crossroads:  World Cultures in Transition)
·      Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia (keynote on Disciplinary Crossroads:  The Evolving Sociology of Knowledge)
·      Haidy Geismar, University College London (keynote on Artifactual Crossroads:  Real Meets Virtual)

 Museum Partners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Bloomington, Indiana, and are expected to participate actively in the full workshop and in associated follow-on activities. Prior to attending, each shall develop an institutional profile that includes an account of challenges your museum faces relative to the three “crossroads” (Cultural, Disciplinary, Artifactual) being explored in the workshop. Partners without a museum affiliation will be asked to prepare a comparable position paper on the themes.

How to Apply

To apply for a position as Museum Partner, please send a resume or curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter expressing your interest, as a PDF email attachment to:

Sarah Hatcher, c/o mxrd@indiana.edu.

Review of applications will begin November 15, 2014, with applicants receiving notifications by December 15, 2014. 

Further Information

For additional detail on the scope and nature of Museums at the Crossroads, see the workshop précis, which is accessible online at: http://www.mathers.indiana.edu/crossroads.html.

Additional information about Indiana University Bloomington can be found at: http://iub.edu/.

Information on the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is available at: http://mathers.indiana.edu/.   

Questions about the workshop can be addressed to the organizers at: mxrd@indiana.edu.

On the beauty of perishability from a photo archivist

"The photographs of our past are like Mayflies*, through light they are created and by light they are extinguished. They appear as shadows and hastily they retreat to the realm of shadows."
Friedrich Georg Wieck, 1873

A shimmering veil of silver settles over the glass negative collection of Vanadis. The once neutral grey-coloured glass plates now have beautiful brown, amber-yellow and purple hues. Some negatives have been dropped and patched with tape, others have been converted to positives. Some have been masked with red paint prior to printing, many have been retouched with pencil. Fingerprints have become etched. Emulsion is flaking. Silver ions reacting to the oxygen in the air.

Unknown man. Photographed glass plate, 10x13cm

If you listen carefully you can hear the negatives tell fascinating stories of their circumnavigation of the globe in 1883-1885:

- The water was too warm when Oscar Ekholm was going to develop us in Calcutta!
- The grain in the developer did not dissolve, that is why my surface is covered in spots!
- The light shone through the gap in the cabin door when I loaded the cassette.
- Can you feel my uneven glass edges? Ekholm had to trim me, as I am of course made in inches and his camera requires centimetres!

In the past the collection has been stored in many places, perhaps in the attic of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, possibly in the basement of the old Museum of Ethnography. No one recalls for certain. It has been warm. It has been cold. The collection has survived damp summers and dry winters. Time has passed. The negatives have been kept in pergamyn envelopes, regular brown envelopes or just wrapped in newspaper. The printing ink leaving fragmentary words from long forgotten advertisements.

Taj Mahal, India 1885. Scanned glass plate, 18×24 cm.

Only in recent years have the plates been repackaged in acid free envelopes and kept in a climate controlled archive. And now, with the help of digital technology, we can retrieve images which are hardly visible to the naked eye. After 140 years the negatives reveal lost landscapes and faces of people past. Men, women and children who say:

- We were here that day when HMS Vanadis entered the harbour of Nuku Hiva.
- The picture maker pulled a black blanket over his head!
- We had to stand very still!
- I had to be naked.
- We lived and have much to tell...

Unknown men, according to the albumen print, photographed in Ancon, Peru, 1884. Scanned glass plate, 18x24 cm.    
The Vanadis expedition sailed around the world between December 1883 and May 1885. The swedish navy's steam frigate HMS Vanadis had a crew of 340 men. On board were also the founder of the Museum of Ethnography, Hjalmar Stolpe, and the photographer Oscar Ekholm.

The voyage resulted in over 6,000 collected items and 700 exposed glass plates (mainly 18x24cm, gelatin dry plate negatives). The total weight of the negatives is just over 180 kg.

Emulsion peeling off the glass. Building in Japan 1884. Photographed glass plate 18x24cm.

by Emma Arenhill 

Emma Arenhill works as a Photo Archivist at the Museum of Ethnography and specializes in older photographic techniques. Emma's background is in Human Ecology and Social Anthropology but she also has a degree in Photography. She has previously worked with the photographic collections at the Nordic Museum and National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

* Mayflie: insects belonging to the order Ephemeroptera (from the Greek
ephemeros), "short-lived" (literally "lasting a day").

(Nuku Hiva: French polynesia)