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Cultural Revival, Tourism, and the Recrafting of History in Vanuatu
In Vanuatu, commoditization and revitalization of culture and the arts do not necessarily work against each other; both revolve around value formation and the authentication of things. This book investigates the meaning and value of (art) objects as commodities in differing states of transit and transition: in the local place, on the market, in the museum. It provides an ethnographic account of commoditization in a context of revitalization of culture and the arts in Vanuatu, and the issues this generates, such as authentication of actions and things, indigenized copyright, and kastom disputes over ownership and the nature of kastom itself.
The Best We Share
Nation, Culture and World-Making in the UNESCO World Heritage Arena
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is one of the most widely ratified international treaties, and a place on the World Heritage List is a widely coveted mark of distinction. Building on ethnographic fieldwork at Committee sessions, interviews and documentary study, the book links the change in operations of the World Heritage Committee with structural nation-centeredness, vulnerable procedures for evaluation, monitoring and decision-making, and loose heritage conceptions that have been inconsistently applied. As the most ambitious study of the World Heritage arena so far, this volume dissects the inner workings of a prominent global body, demonstrating the power of ethnography in the highly formalised and diplomatic context of a multilateral organisation.
Borders of Belonging
Experiencing History, War and Nation at a Danish Heritage Site
In an era cross-cut with various agendas and expressions of national belonging and global awareness, “the nation” as a collective reference point and experienced entity stands at the center of complex identity struggles. This book explores how such struggles unfold in practice at a highly symbolic battlefield site in the Danish/German borderland. Comprised of an ethnography of two profoundly different institutions – a conventional museum and an experience-based heritage center – it analyses the ways in which staff and visitors interfere with, relate to, and literally “make sense” of the war heritage and its national connotations. Borders of Belonging offers a comparative, in-depth analysis of the practices and negotiations through which history is made and manifested at two houses devoted to the interpretation of one event: the decisive battle of the 1864 war in which Otto von Bismarck, on his way to uniting the new German Empire, led the Prussian army to victory over the Danish. Working through his empirical material to engage with and challenge established theoretical positions in the study of museums, modernity, and tourism, Mads Daugbjerg demonstrates that national belonging is still a key cultural concern, even as it asserts itself in novel, muted, and increasingly experiential ways.
Area: Northern Europe
Museum Collections in Political, Epistemic and Artistic Processes of Return
Bodenstein, F., Otoiu, D., & Troelenberg, E.-M. (eds)
Going beyond strictly legal and property-oriented aspects of the restitution debate, restitution is considered as part of a larger set of processes of return that affect museums and collections, as well as notions of heritage and object status. Covering a range of case studies and a global geography, the authors aim to historicize and bring depth to contemporary debates in relation to both the return of material culture and human remains. Defined as contested holdings, differing museum collections ranging from fine arts to physical anthropology provide connections between the treatment and conceptualization of collections that generally occupy separate realms in the museum world.
Digital Archives and Collections
Creating Online Access to Cultural Heritage
Museums and archives all over the world digitize their collections and provide online access to heritage material. But what factors determine the content, structure and use of these online inventories? This book turns to India and Europe to answer this question. It explains how museums and archives envision, decide and conduct digitization and online dissemination. It also sheds light on born-digital, community-based archives, which have established themselves as new actors in the field. Based on anthropological fieldwork, the chapters in the book trace digital archives from technical advancements and postcolonial initiatives to programming alternatives, editing content, and active use of digital archives.
Making and Unmaking Heritage in Cyprus
On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, rural villages, traditional artefacts, even atmospheres and experiences are considered heritage. Heritage making not only protects, but also produces, things, people, and places. Since the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, heritage making and Europeanization are increasingly intertwined in Greek-Cypriot society. Against the backdrop of a long-term ethnographic engagement, the author argues that heritage emerges as an increasingly standardized economic resource, a “European product.” Implemented in historic preservation, rural tourism, culinary traditions, nature protection, and urban restoration projects, heritage policy has become infused with transnational market regulations and neoliberal property regimes.
Area: Southern Europe
Nineteenth-Century Museum Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution
Nichols, C. A.
As an historical account of the exchange of “duplicate specimens” between anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution and museums, collectors, and schools around the world in the late nineteenth century, this book reveals connections between both well-known museums and little-known local institutions, created through the exchange of museum objects. It explores how anthropologists categorized some objects in their collections as “duplicate specimens,” making them potential candidates for exchange. This historical form of what museum professionals would now call deaccessioning considers the intellectual and technical requirement of classifying objects in museums, and suggests that a deeper understanding of past museum practice can inform mission-driven contemporary museum work.
Representing a cutting-edge study of the junction between theoretical anthropology, material culture studies, religious studies and museum anthropology, this study examines the interaction between the human and the nonhuman in a museum setting usually defined as ‘non-Western’, ‘non-scientific’ and ‘religious.’ Combining an on-site analysis of exhibitive spaces with archival research and interviews with museum curators, the chapters highlight contradictions of museum practices, and suggests that museum practitioners use museum spaces and artefacts as a way of formulating new theoretical stances in material culture studies, thus viewing museums as producers of theories together with affective engagements.
Extinct Monsters to Deep Time
Conflict, Compromise, and the Making of Smithsonian's Fossil Halls
Marsh, D. E.
Via the Smithsonian Institution, an exploration of the growing friction between the research and outreach functions of museums in the 21st century.
Describing participant observation and historical research at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as it prepared for its largest-ever exhibit renovation, Deep Time, the author provides a grounded perspective on the inner-workings of the world’s largest natural history museum and the social processes of communicating science to the public.
From the introduction:
In exhibit projects, the tension plays out between curatorial staff—academic, research, or scientific staff charged with content—and exhibitions, public engagement, or educational staff—which I broadly group together as “audience advocates” charged with translating content for a broader public. I have heard Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the NMNH, say many times that if you look at dinosaur halls at different museums across the country, you can see whether the curators or the exhibits staff has “won.” At the American Museum of Natural History in New York, it was the curators. The hall is stark white and organized by phylogeny—or the evolutionary relationships of species—with simple, albeit long, text panels. At the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Johnson will tell you, it was the “exhibits people.” The hall is story driven and chronologically organized, full of big graphic prints, bold fonts, immersive and interactive spaces, and touchscreens. At the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where Johnson had previously been vice president and chief curator, “we actually fought to a draw.” That, he says, is the best outcome; a win on either side skews the final product too extremely in one direction or the other. This creative tension, when based on mutual respect, is often what makes good exhibitions.
Subjects: Museum Studies Anthropology (General)
From Storeroom to Stage
Romanian Attire and the Politics of Folklore
Departing from an ethnographic collection in London, From Storeroom to Stage traces the journey of its artefacts back to the Romanian villages where they were made 70 years ago, and to other places where similar objects are still in use. The book explores the role that material culture plays in the production of value and meaning by examining how folk objects are mobilized in national ideologies, transmissions of personal and family memory, museological discourses, and artistic acts.
Area: Central/Eastern Europe
Having and Belonging
Homes and Museums in Israel
The home and the museum are typically understood as divergent, even oppositional, social realms: whereas one evokes privacy and familial intimacy, the other is conceived of as a public institution oriented around various forms of civic identity. This meticulous, insightful book draws striking connections between both spheres, which play similar roles by housing objects and generating social narratives. Through fascinating explorations of the museums and domestic spaces of eight representative Israeli communities—Chabad, Moroccan, Iraqi, Ethiopian, Russian, Religious-Zionist, Christian Arab, and Muslim Arab—it gives a powerful account of museums’ role in state formation, proposing a new approach to collecting and categorizing particularly well-suited to societies in conflict.
Area: Middle East & Israel
Heritage Movements in Asia
Cultural Heritage Activism, Politics, and Identity
Mozaffari, A. & Jones, T. (eds)
Heritage processes vary according to cultural, national, geographical, and historical contexts. This volume is unique in that it is dedicated to approaching the analysis of heritage through the concepts of social movements. Adapting the latest developments in the field of social movements, the chapters examine the formation, use and contestation of heritage by various official, non-official and activist players and the spaces where such ongoing negotiations and contestation take place. By bringing social movements into heritage studies, the book advocates a shift of perspective in understanding heritage, one that is no longer bound by (at times arbitrary) divisions such as those assumed between the state and people or between experts and non-experts.
Areas: Asia Asia-Pacific
The Museum of Mankind
Man and Boy in the British Museum Ethnography Department
The Museum of Mankind was an innovative and popular showcase for minority cultures from around the non-Western world from 1970 to 1997. This memoir is a critical appreciation of its achievements in the various roles of a national museum, of the personalities of its staff and of the issues raised in the representation of exotic cultures. Issues of changing museum theory and practice are raised in a detailed case-study that also focuses on the social life of the museum community. This is the first history of a remarkable museum and a memorable interlude in the long history of one of the world’s oldest and greatest museums. Although not presented as an academic study, it should be useful for museum and cultural studies as a well as a wider readership interested in the British Museum.
Area: Northern Europe
Museum Websites and Social Media
Issues of Participation, Sustainability, Trust and Diversity
Sánchez Laws, A. L.
Online activities present a unique challenge for museums as they harness the potential of digital technology for sustainable development, trust building, and representations of diversity. This volume offers a holistic picture of museum online activities that can serve as a starting point for cross-disciplinary discussion. It is a resource for museum staff, students, designers, and researchers working at the intersection of cultural institutions and digital technologies. The aim is to provide insight into the issues behind designing and implementing web pages and social media to serve the broadest range of museum stakeholders.
Subjects: Museum Studies Media Studies
Objects and Imagination
Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning
Fuglerud, Ø. & Wainwright, L. (eds)
Despite the wide interest in material culture, art, and aesthetics, few studies have considered them in light of the importance of the social imagination - the complex ways in which we conceptualize our social surroundings. This collection engages the “material turn” in the arts, humanities, and social sciences through a range of original contributions on creativity in diverse global and contemporary social settings. The authors engage with everyday objects, art, rituals, and ethnographic exhibitions to analyze the relationship between material culture and the social imagination. What results is a better understanding of how the material embodies and influences our idea of the social world.
Sense and Essence
Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real
Meyer, B. & van de Port, M. (eds)
Contrary to popular perceptions, cultural heritage is not given, but constantly in the making: a construction subject to dynamic processes of (re)inventing culture within particular social formations and bound to particular forms of mediation. Yet the appeal of cultural heritage often rests on its denial of being a fabrication, its promise to provide an essential ground to social-cultural identities. Taking this paradoxical feature as a point of departure, and anchoring the discussion to two heuristic concepts—the "politics of authentication" and "aesthetics of persuasion"—the chapters herein explore how this tension is central to the dynamics of heritage formation worldwide.
Unlocking the Love-Lock
The History and Heritage of a Contemporary Custom
Explores the worldwide popularity of the love-lock as a ritual token of love and commitment by considering its history, symbolism, and heritage.
“[T]his is an eminently enjoyable and thorough investigation of a popular phenomenon through the lens of heritage and folk tradition.”—Sara De Nardi, Western Sydney University
A padlock is a mundane object, designed to fulfil a specific – and secular – purpose. A contemporary custom has given padlocks new significance. This custom is ‘love-locking’, where padlocks are engraved with names and attached to bridges in declaration of romantic commitment. This custom became popular in the 2000s, and its dissemination was rapid, geographically unbound, and highly divisive, with love-locks emerging in locations as diverse as Paris and Taiwan; New York and Seoul; Melbourne and Moscow.
From the introduction:
I was distractedly perusing the photo frame aisle, my eyes skimming the generically sentimental stock pictures of happy families smiling at the camera, pretty landscapes, cute pets and couples walking hand-in-hand, when I came across one that jumped out at me…. I recognised the image instantly as a photograph of love-locks: the padlocks that had been appearing en masse on bridges and other public structures on a global scale since the early 2000s. And, having been researching the custom known as lovelocking for about five years at that point, it was with a peculiar sense of pride that I realised love-locks had accomplished the status of a stock image.
World Heritage on the Ground
Brumann, C. & Berliner, D. (eds)
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972 set the contemporary standard for cultural and natural conservation. Today, a place on the World Heritage List is much sought after for tourism promotion, development funding, and national prestige. Presenting case studies from across the globe, particularly from Africa and Asia, anthropologists with situated expertise in specific World Heritage sites explore the consequences of the World Heritage framework and the global spread of the UNESCO heritage regime. This book shows how local and national circumstances interact with the global institutional framework in complex and unexpected ways. Often, the communities around World Heritage sites are constrained by these heritage regimes rather than empowered by them.