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Collecting with Communities: promoting indigenous voices in museum spaces

Iskander, DM; (2016) Collecting with Communities: promoting indigenous voices in museum spaces. Journal of Museum Ethnography , 29 pp. 113-130. Green open access

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In January 2015, the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London entered a number of artefacts from the Island of Palawan in the Philippines into their Anthropology collection. Like most museums, the majority of the Horniman’s artefacts are purchases or exchanges selected by curators or represent objects donated as bequests or gifts from a range of benefactors. However, since the 1990’s in particular, a number of experts and authors have highlighted the need for museums to break with such traditions of institutional control (Lynch and Alberti 2010) and engage in more participatory and collaborative modes of curation and communication with communities and the public. As part of their attempts to do so, the Horniman investigated new and innovative ways to conduct collection acquisition, research, engagement and interpretation (Horniman Museum & Gardens 2013) through their Collections People Stories: Anthropology Re-Considered project (2012–2015). A Collecting Initiative was launched in collaboration with the UK Royal Anthropological Institute calling on PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows to collect and research objects for the museum as they engaged in their fieldwork. This article describes my experience of collecting objects for the 2012–13 initiative. In an effort to honour the collaborative nature of the grant, I was keen to collect artefacts in partnership with members of the indigenous Palawan community with whom I was working. My aim was to directly engage them in the process of selecting and contextualising objects that they wanted to donate to the museum as representations of their culture. Collecting with communities in this way is one way of promoting polyvocality in the museum context and allows usually marginalised indigenous people’s voices to be better heard in global public spaces (Mason, Whitehead et al. 2013: 164). As such, this article documents the participatory process of collecting as well as the artefacts that were entered into the collection, their uses and the significance they hold for the people that chose and donated them.

Type: Article
Title: Collecting with Communities: promoting indigenous voices in museum spaces
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.museumethnographersgroup.org.uk/en/jour...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10054095
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