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Open Seminar: Museums, Digital Collections and Indigenous Futures

On 22 February the Centre is hosting an open seminar featuring two scholars who will speak about their current projects that aim to reconnect indigenous communities with objects and archives, making them available for future use and reinterpretation.

Location: Moot Court, 10th Floor, Richardson Building

All welcome.

Associate Professor Aaron Glass (Bard Graduate Center, New York) will discuss his involvement in producing a new critical edition of anthropologist Franz Boas’s 1897 landmark book, The Social Organization and Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, which uses digital media to link museums, archives and communities while recuperating ethnographic records for current and future use. Not only did the volume make draw upon existing museum collections from around the world, Boas and his indigenous collaborator, George Hunt, left a vast archive of unpublished materials relevant to the creation and afterlife of the 1897 text, including hundreds of pages of Hunt’s corrections and amendments. An international and collaborative endeavour to create a new annotated critical edition of the book – both in print and in digital formats – unites published and unpublished materials with current Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge. This presentation discusses that project and presents an interactive prototype for the digital edition that re-embeds ethnographic knowledge within Indigenous epistemological frameworks and hereditary protocols for access.

Associate Professor Conal McCarthy (Victoria University of Wellington) will outline two current trends in museum research in Australia and Aotearoa: one looking back to the history of collections, ethnology and colonisation, and the other looking forward to digital technology, co-curating and an emerging indigenous Museology. It will briefly introduce various projects which aim to reconnect tribal descendants to ancestral heritage through digital tools which enable the reassembly of scattered records, material culture and images. It will introduce the Marsden-funed project ‘Te Ao Hou: Imagining Worlds in New Zealand, 1900-1950’ led by Anne Salmond at Auckland University, which follows Māori leaders Apirana Ngata and Peter Buck through their involvement in the Dominion Museum ethnological expeditions, the Polynesian Society and the Board of Māori Ethnological Research. It considers the mobilising of relational concepts such as whakaapa/kinship, which were applied in Buck and Ngata’s ‘practical anthropology’, and the lessons of their experiments for both Māori museum practice today and contemporary tribal development generally.

Aaron Glass is an Associate Professor at Bard Graduate Center in New York City, and a Research Associate in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. He specializes in First Nations art, material culture, media, and performance on the Northwest Coast of North America, as well as the history of anthropology and museums. His books include The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History (co-authored with Aldona Jonaitis, 2010), Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast (the catalogue for an exhibition he curated at Bard Graduate Center in 2011), and Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema (co-edited with Brad Evans, 2014).

Conal McCarthy is Director of the Museum & Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published widely on museum history, theory and practice, including the books Exhibiting Māori (2007), Museums and Maori (2011), and Museum Practice (2015). He co-authored Collecting, ordering, governing: Anthropology, museums and government (Duke University Press, 2017), and co-edited a volume of essays in memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (Victoria University Press). In 2018 he will publish the history of Te Papa (Te Papa Press), Curatopia: Museums and the future of research (co-edited with Philipp Schorch, Manchester University Press) and a book ‘Indigenous Museologies’ in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (Routledge). Among his current research projects is the history of museum visitation in Australia and New Zealand, and a Marsden funded project led by Professor Anne Salmond ‘Te Ao Hou: Transforming worlds in New Zealand 1900-1950’.

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