30 June 2015

Percy Manning: The man who collected Oxfordshire

Regular MEG conference attenders with long memories will recall that the 2008 conference theme was 'Museum Ethnography at Home'. This conference arose out of a research project at the Pitt Rivers Museum (members of which project helped to host the conference) called (in short-hand) The Other Within

The after-life of this project continues to this day. One of the folklorists and local antiquarians whose collections were considered during the project was Percy Manning (1870-1917). He spent his adult life in Oxford, and collected many hundreds of objects which are spread between the Ashmolean, Bodleian and Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. 

Mike Heaney, who wrote Manning's entry for the Dictionary of National Biography, has convened a working group of representatives from all the main Oxfordshire institutions who have an interest in the collections to organize a series of events, exhibitions and activities to celebrate the centenary of his death in 2017. It is early days yet but the following events have been mooted:

Morris dancer's costume from Kirtlington, Oxfordshire (1895.46.1 )

1. An exhibition in the Lower Gallery of the Pitt Rivers Museum from February to March 2017. This will comprise a series of objects donated by Manning and his close collaborator Thomas James Carter including a morris costume from Kirtlington. We are hoping to work with members of the 2015 Kirtlington Morris to provide images and related activity events.

2. In connection with this it is hoped that the VERVE project will organize a series of folk and morris events around May Day 2017 which will celebrate Manning's contribution to the renaissance of morris in the early twentieth-century.

3. Linked exhibitions at the Ashmolean and Bodleian (Weston Library)

4. Trail of the other Manning related objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum which will be made available to the visiting public free of charge

5. The digitalisation, annotation and publication of Manning's map of Oxfordshire which records many previously unknown archaeological sites

Possibly a website, publication and workshop are also being discussed and planned. 

Further information about these events will be circulated nearer the date to MEG members. If you know your museum has any objects or manuscript collections from Percy Manning, or you wish to know more about the man, his collection or his centenary please contact us.

Faye Belsey, Madeleine Ding and Alison Petch
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

George Bankes

Above: George and a member of the Maori delegation in 1990 at the opening of the exhibition he curatored -  AOTEAROA: The Maori Collections at Manchester Museum.
We are very sorry to announce that one of our most loyal and long standing MEG members, George Bankes sadly passed away at the end of June 2015. George's contribution to every MEG conference (including the 2015 conference at the Powell-Cotton in April) was greatly appreciated and many of us benefited from his knowledge and expertise in Museum ethnography. 
We send our thoughts and best wishes to his family at this sad time. The funeral will take place in next couple of weeks, for details please email Stephen Walsh. 
We hope to publish a longer tribute to George in the journal of Museum Ethnography. 

16 June 2015

MEG Conference 2015 Review: A sunny weekend in Kent...

I've been lucky enough to attend the Museum Ethnographers Group conference since I first spoke there, as a callow first year PhD student in 2010. I have always found MEG to me the most wonderfully accepting bunch of people: so despite the fact that, at this conference, I stepped down from my role on the committee, you haven't heard the last of me yet.

This year we were lucky enough to hold the conference in the beautiful surroundings of Quex Park, at the Powell Cotton Museum in Birchington, Kent: thanks must go to Inbal Livne and her colleagues, notably Abby Wise, without who's stalwart attention and organization the conference would have been very different.

Birchington, and Quex Park, felt miles away from the strange, seaside town of Margate in which I was staying, and which has it's own dilapidated, faded charm. I arrived at the Park, with it's lush greenery and craft shops, far too early on the Monday morning, but nonetheless it was a pleasure to wander in the landscape for an hour before the other attendees showed up. The Museum, too, was a landscape in its own right - the oldest part of the house dates from the 1400s, and the interior of the Museum is home to stunning natural history dioramas, put in place by Percy Powell-Cotton, presenting the wildlife he encountered on his trips to the ends of the earth.

The conference itself began, bright and early in Gallery 1 on the 20th April. The theme was Nature and Culture in Museums, and the papers presented on that day spoke directly to the theme. Paolo Viscardi spoke eloquently on the importance of collaboration between ethnographers and scientists, particularly in order to identify certain items and clarify their heritage. Jude Philip, having come all the way from Sydney, wove a fascinating story of the adventurous Macleay family and the oldest Natural History Museum in Australia: the Macleay Museum. Then we broke for lunch, at which we were all very well served, and were able to have a look around the galleries, all of which have their own character, and all of which are fascinating. Many of us found the newly revamped Gallery 6 particularly interesting, with its collection of handleable artefacts and accessible information. In many ways, it was in stark contrast to the rest of the Museum, which was of a much more old fashioned, though unique and charming, character.

We returned, sated, to listen to Ali Clark speak as elegantly as ever on the records and history of Gerrard and Sons, a taxdermist and art dealer which supplied many items to the Horniman during their years of operation. After Ali, it was my turn, and people were very kind to let me ramble on about the reciprocal framing of nature and culture in the NaturalHistory Museum, Oxford, and its Rabelaisian, grotesque qualities. I do hope that everyone was able to recover with afternoon tea.

Next it was the turn of Caroline Cornish and Mark Nesbitt to speak about the Economic Botany Collections at Kew, and their environmental and cultural importance today. Then it was time for our chair, Antonia Lovelace, to end the presentations for the day with a thoroughly entertaining delve into the reasons why we love animal mascots, and why museums often have them. (As consequence of her talk, during a pause in the centre of Margate on my way home, I attempted to win her a meerkat toy on the penny arcade machines, but sadly I was unsuccessful).  

We entered the relaxed part of the evening with a wander around the galleries and a glass of wine. Chris Spring presented in Gallery 2 on the exhibition, Social Fabric: African Textiles Today, which has been touring from the British Museum and is now in Exeter. The Kanga Cloths were wonderful, and despite being exhausted, we were enthralled.

Dinner was a bountiful and lively affair - I spoke at length with Tony Eccles, Lisa Graves, Malika Kraamer, and many others at our table, and we drank many bottles of wine between us. I must, at this point, mention how grateful I was to the staff at Quex Park, who were so willing to accommodate us, and our requirements, and did so with much spirit, grace and generosity. After a rather trying time attempting to get a taxi back to our respective hostelries in Margate (Birchington has little in the way of accommodation), we, the last table standing, eventually wandered off into the Kentish night.

Once again, we arrived bright and early, me with my treasurer's box, all ready to hand over to the next occupant of the post. The second day of the MEG conference always includes the AGM, but aside from that, the day was a relaxed one, with less presentations than the previous. Anita Herle and TonyEccles spoke with passion about the Blackfoot projects which are occurring throughout a number of UK museums, and Alana Jelinek's concept of ecology as a model for culture was a fascinating one. The Work in Progress papers which constituted the next session were a fascinating bunch - Heather Donoghue, Alison Petch, Claire Wintle, Catherine Harvey, Len Pole and Alison Brown speaking on topics from Australia to Siberia. On the 21st April, from the comfort of the Powell Cotton, we travelled the world.

The AGM was the final official event of the day, and at it we elected new committee members to the posts of Treasurer and Membership Secretary - Lisa Graves and Jenny Reddish respectively. I wish them all the best in their new roles.

After I left Birchington, I wandered around Margate, taking in its threadbare glamour and playing in the penny arcades. MEG Conferences always leave me feeling dreamy, footloose and dog-tired - and this is why I will always return.

Jenny Walklate
16 June 2015 

15 June 2015

Job Vacancy: Head of Collections & Learning – National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland has advertised to fill the Head of Collections and Learning.   Full details of the post and how to apply for the position are available on the Public Appointments Service Website inIreland 

The post holder will form part of the senior management team of the Museum and will contribute to its management and development. He/she will provide leadership and direction on all collections and learning matters and will ensure implementation of strategic priorities.  The post holder will have overall responsibility for line managing the collections and learning staff (currently numbering 57). He/she will manage 9 heads of department directly comprising four curatorial departments (Art & Industry, Irish Antiquities, Irish Folklife and Natural History), the Conservation, Education and Registration Departments as well as Graphic Design and Photography. He/she will ensure the collections are managed, made accessible, interpreted and researched, realising their education and learning potential. He/she will also, as may be required, have responsibility for exhibition planning and development as well as photography and graphic design.

Applicants are required to apply through the Public Appointments Service website.

The closing date for receipt of applications is 25 June 2015.

Exhibition Tour and Curator's Talk

Exhibition Tour and Curator's Talk
Indigenous Australia, British Museum, Wednesday 29 July

Members to meet by the information desk in the Great Court of the British Museum at 1.45pm, to view the exhibition 2-3pm followed by the curator's talk at 3-4pm.

Mask. Mer, Torres Strait, before 1855 © The Trustees of the British Museum
MEG members are invited to attend the British Museum to explore the BP exhibition Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation and speak to Gaye Scunthorpe the curator behind the show.  Indigenous Australia is the first major UK exhibition to present a history of Aboriginal peoples through objects and to celebrate their cultural strength and resilience.  This 60,000-year-old culture has continued in diverse environments of this vast continent; each group defining their own area, language and tradition.

This show has been met with positive feedback but has also received criticism for conveying the effects of colonialism on the indigenous population.   Poignant interpretation aside, Indigenous Australia is worth exploring.  A review in The Telegraph in April stated that the visitors’ experience is an all-too-familiar account of dispossession, malfeasance and massacres by the British; an approach that is all too familiar to British Museum shows.  Regardless of contention, Indigenous Australia is a visual feast of traditional historic items and contemporary art.
This is a free event for MEG members
Numbers are limited and the event can accommodate no more than 20 people, places will go on a first come first served basis.

Those who want to attend should contact Tony Eccles 

10 June 2015

Curatopia: Histories, Theories, Practices Museums and the Future of Curatorship

On July 6-7 2015 the symposium Curatopia brings together leading curators, critics and scholars from a range of fields in international institutions to debate critical issues in curatorial histories, theories and practices. 

As museums continue to change in twenty first century, the ‘figure of the curator’ appears to be in flux. What is the future of curatorial practice? Is there a vision for an ideal model, a Curatopia, whether in the form of a utopia or dystopia? The symposium facilitates intense thinking through ‘the figure of the curator’ and will be open to museum professionals, other academics and students. 

Dr. Philipp Schorch (Co-conveners: A/Prof. Conal McCarthy, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Prof. Eveline Dürr, LMU)

2 June 2015

Job Vacancy: Curator at the Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen

The Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, and The Ethnographic Collection of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen are seeking to fill the position of a Curator (Payment group 14 TV- with an unlimited employment contract)
by 1 March 2016. Under certain circumstances, an applicant already employed in a tenured research position with the civil service can be taken over as a civil servant.

Göttingen University's Ethnographic Collection is one of the most important educational and research collections in German-speaking countries. Its beginnings date back to the late Age of Enlightenment. It is the initiative of renowned scholars at the Georgia Augusta in the second half of the 18th century that we have to thank for the artefacts from Polynesia (Cook-Forster Collection) and the arctic polar region (Baron von Asch Collection) making their way to Göttingen. These two internationally unique core inventories form the historical flagship of the Ethnographic Collection and substantiate their international reputations.

Today, the approximately 18,000 objects with origins in Asia, Oceania, America and Africa spanning more than three centuries provide insights into the cultural accomplishments and artistic creations of a diverse number of non-European ethnic groups. The objects are incorporated routinely into research and teaching activities and used for exhibition practice as well.

Your duties:
Alongside the scientific and academic management, systematic research, documentation, maintenance and care, digitisation and expansion of the ethnological collections (specifically Cook-Forster Collection and Baron von Asch Collection), your work of the next years will focus on the conception and implementation of exhibition projects within the scope of both permanent and special exhibitions. Additionally, your duties will entail your own research, the development of research projects, academic teaching in the BA and MA degree programmes offered by the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, fostering student involvement in activities relating to the Collection, managing the provision of ethnographic objects on loan or for courses, authoring and editing scholarly publications and exhibition catalogues, recruiting third-party funds, processing academic queries and supervising volunteers and interns, among others. Public Relations with guided tours of and lectures on the Collection similarly belong to your scope of responsibilities. Ultimately, the Curator is expected to cooperate with the general association of academic collections at Göttingen University ("Collection Initiative").

Your profile:
  • −  You have earned an academic university degree at the level of M.A., Master's or an
    equivalent qualification and a doctoral degree in social and cultural anthropology or a
    related subject;
  • −  many years' experience with museum and exhibition work;
  • −  experience with major exhibition projects;
  • −  proof of scientific publications (incl. exhibition catalogues);
  • −  teaching experience;
  • −  regional expertise in at least one of the collection’s focal regions;
  • −  public relations experience for museums and exhibitions;−  communication and organisational skills, with primary emphasis on collaboration with international partners;page1image25424
    −  highly proficient in written and spoken English.
  • The University of Göttingen strives to increase its proportion of female staff in fields where women are underrepresented and emphatically encourages qualified women to apply. Severely disabled persons with the appropriate qualifications will be given priority.

    Interested candidates are requested to submit their applications consisting of the usual documents by 28.06.2015 (the electronic form is also welcome) to: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Theaterplatz 15, 37073 Göttingen, Germany or ethno@gwdg.de.

    For inquiries, Ms. Kristin Jansen-Enabulele is happy to be available at phone number +49(0)0551 39-7892 or by e-mail at kjansen@sowi.uni-goettingen.de.

    Please only submit copies of your application documents. The documents will be destroyed after an archiving period of five months. They shall only be returned if a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage is enclosed.