Decolonising the Museum in Practice: MEG 2018 Conference Program

How do Ethnographic/World museums ensure that what they bring to society matters? Are our practices changing to ensure that what we programme, teach, collect and display is meaningful? What brings contemporary audiences to our museums and do we enable them to find inspiration, enchantment ad knowledge that is of direct relevance to them? We are all grappling with the complexities of our institutional histories of collecting and representation but what does it actually mean to decolonise museum spaces and practices?

For the annual 2018 conference of the Museum Ethnographers Group hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum we will explore and discuss some of the prevalent issues around decolonisation and what this means in practical terms for ethnographic museums and collections. The conference will take an interdisciplinary approach to answering questions around belonging, identity and meaning making for contemporary audiences.


Thursday 12th April 2018

9.00 – 9.30 Registration

9.30 Introduction and welcome by Faye Belsey, Conference Organiser

9.40 Address by Laura Van Broekhoven, Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM)

10.00 – 1.00 Session 1: Museum Displays and Colonialism

10.00 Claudia Augustat: Dealing with the Colonial Past at the Weltmuseum Wien 

10.15 Adriana Silvia Avram: Colonial mind-set and the matareferrential turn in world cultures museum practice

10.30 Bambi Ceuppens: The case for the Congolese Colonization of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium

10.45 – 11.15 Coffee break

11.15 Rachael Minott: Avoiding the single story by creating a single story: simplification and erasure in representing diverse histories

11.30 Rachel Peat: The British Monarchy and the World: ‘Decolonising’ the Grand Vestibule at Windsor Castle

11.45 Laurella Rinçon: Curating creolization 

12.00 Claire Warrior: Enlivening blank spaces: displaying the Arctic, past and present, at the National Maritime Museum 

12.15 – 13.00 General discussion 

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

Lunchtime sessions

13.00 – 13.30 Philip Grover Assistant Curator of Photograph and Manuscript Collections at the PRM behind the scenes look at PRM archives

13.30 – 14.00 Vibha Joshi Research fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford Colonial museum collections, heritage and representations of the self: A case study of Naga textiles in the PRM in front of the display of Naga material in the Upper Gallery

14.00 – 15.30 Session 2: Practice and Colonialism

14.00 Nivi Christensen: When art becomes Ethnographica and Ethnographica becomes art 

14.30 Claire Wintle: The Museum Ethnographers Group: Subject specialist networks and the changing professional practice at the end of Empire

15.00 Alice Stevenson: Transcultured collections in the global south

15.30 – 16.00 Tea break

16.00 – 18.00 Session 3: Working with Indigenous communities

16.00 Erna Lilje and Ali Clark: Why we ask questions: doing research in ethnographic museums

16.30 Vincent Collison: Haida representation in Museums: a Haida view 

17.00 Laura Peers: Decolonisation as a permanent process: PRM relations with the Haida Nation, 1998-2018

17.30 Victoria Burns and Katye McSweeney: Kiribati Object Journeys – rethinking curatorial and community engagement practice at the British Museum

18.00 – 19.00 Drinks reception at the Pitt Rivers Museum

19.30 Conference dinner at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford

Friday 13th April 2018

9.15 Arrive at the staff entrance to the Ashmolean Museum of St Giles

9.15 – 10.30 Introduction to gallery 2 and the Ashmolean Museum Jude Barrett, Adult Education Officer

Tour of Gallery 2 led by Alison Roberts, Assistant Keeper for European and Early Prehistoric Collections

10.30 – 11.00 Coffee break, Ashmolean Museum

11.00 – 12.00 Museum Ethnographers Group AGM, Ashmolean Museum

12.00 – 13.00 Lunch at PRM

12.15 – 13.00 Tour of Colonial Oxford, Contested spaces and Decolonialism

13.00 – 15.00 Session 4: Decolonising National Identities

13.00 Jeremy Harte: Under a wandering flag: Gypsy representation in British Museums

13.30 Rhona Ramsey: Unsettling the material culture of Gypsy/Travellers 

14.00 Rachel Hand: Re-assembling the ethnographic collections of the National Museum of Ireland

14.30 Louise Welsh: Disrupting the National Story: responses to Scotland’s slavery past in visual art, literature, film and music and their influence on Scotland’s Museums

15.00 – 15.30 Tea break

15.30 – 16.20 Session 5: Work in progress papers

15.30 Josephine Nialia: Reconstructing relationships: an auto-ethnographic account of post-colonial museum encounters

15.40 Tamsin Hong: Trukanini and the Digital Nation: the National Portrait Gallery of Australia

15.50 Nicole Anderson: Visitor encounters at the Museum of Anthropology, British Columbia

16.00 Filipa Corderio and Rui Mourão: The musealization of Amerindian bodies: a case-study of ethical and aesthetic counter-power representations 

16.10 Nikki Grout: Legacies of collecting: collaboration and co-production: British museums and West Africa

16.20 – 17.00 Final conference discussion

Register here