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Type: Journal article
Title: To imagine an Australian museum
Author: Carty, J.R.
Citation: Anthropological Forum: a journal of social anthropology and comparative sociology, 2019; 29(4):384-396
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 0066-4677
Statement of
John Carty
Abstract: Museums are our memory banks. They tell us where we have come from. They also allow us to imagine where we are heading. Which is why it should trouble us that there has never been a truly Australian museum. Each of our state and federal museums has been built on Aboriginal collections, and each has been built on distinctly Western or European concepts, values, categories and practices. Some of these are unavoidable, but are they all? Are we too far down the path to restump the foundations of our institutions and the narratives they perpetuate in public life? The South Australian Museum holds one of the most important collections of Aboriginal material culture in the world. It is, therefore, given the story it can tell about ancient and enduring cultures, one of the most important collections of human heritage on our planet. What we do with such collections, and what we don’t, defines us. This is the great challenge of contemporary custodianship. These collections are calling us out. In this lecture I examine the South Australian Museum’s response to this challenge. Over the past two years our Museum has undertaken a comprehensive rethink of our policies and practices and the politics of both. We are also transforming the way we work with Aboriginal communities and custodians. This is not simply a question of how collections are displayed or exhibitions are developed. We are rethinking the terms of our custodianship, and the kind of truly Australian Museum that could evolve around those new foundations.
Keywords: South Australian museum; Aboriginal; Berndt Biennial Lecture; museology; collections management
Description: Published online: 06 Jan 2020. The 10th Berndt Foundation Biennial Lecture
Rights: © 2020 The University of Western Australia
DOI: 10.1080/00664677.2019.1706038
Grant ID: DE160100489
Published version:
Appears in Collections:Anthropology & Development Studies publications
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