Events Calendar

Book Launch: Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value
Monday 11 April 2022, 10:00am - 12:00pm
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Monday 11 April 2022,  10.00am - 12.00pm (BST)

This webinar will be held on Zoom, to register go here: 

Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value

with editors
Robyn McKenzie
(Australian National University) 
Prof Howard Morphy (Australian National University)

Prof Paul Basu (SOAS)   
Dr Lissant Bolton (British Museum)
Dr Jason Gibson (Alfred Deakin Institute)
Dr Gwyneira Isaac (National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution)
Prof Gro Ween (Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo)

and David Shankland (RAI) as chair


Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value focuses on the ways in which museums and the use of their collections have contributed to, and continue to be engaged with, value creation processes. The volume presents a diverse range of international case studies that bridge the gap between theory and practice. It demonstrates that ethnographic collections and the museums that hold and curate them have played a central role in the value creation processes that have influenced attitudes to cultural differences over time.

The book is positioned between the agency of the museum and its curators and the agency of the communities of origin. The chapters in the book show how values arise out of museum processes such as the categorization, conservation, curation and documentation of the history of collections. They show how cultural differences influence the ways in which objects are seen and understood and how those understandings change over time.

Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value engages with many of the important issues of contemporary museum discourse and practice, and challenges presentist critiques of museums that position them as locked into the time of their emergence. Some of the chapters focus on the motivations of the builders of collections and curators of exhibitions, others engage with the agency of source communities, and in all cases they show how these relationships have changed over time. Many of the chapters provide examples of the productive outcomes of collaborative work, exemplifying the complexities and possibilities of engagement and return. They show how building relationships can be mutually beneficial and at the same time challenging and confronting. Museums are part of dialogical processes that are changing people’s worldmaking in the present – part of a dialogue between people with different histories who have different relationships to the past but who occupy or overlap in the same contemporary space.

The book is available from the publisher Routledge here: 



Participant biographies

Howard Morphy is an Emeritus Professor and Head of the Centre for Digital Humanities Research in the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University. Prior to returning to Australia in 1997, he held the chair in Anthropology at University College London, following 10 years as a curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. His publications include Aboriginal Art (1998), Becoming Art: Exploring Cross-Cultural Categories (2008) and Museums, Infinity and the Culture of Protocols: Ethnographic Collections and Source Communities (2019). He was the 2013 Huxley Medallist of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Lissant Bolton is an anthropologist, Keeper (head) of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum, and Director of the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme. She is a member of the Relational Museum and its Objects project team. Her research focuses on Vanuatu, where she has also worked since 1989, collaborating with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre (VKS) developing programmes to document and revive women’s knowledge and practice. Her publications include Unfolding the Moon: Enacting Women’s Kastom in Vanuatu (2003); Baskets and Belonging: Australian Indigenous Histories (2011); the co-authored Art in Oceania: A New History (2012); and a series of co-edited volumes including Melanesia: Art and Encounter (2013) and the forthcoming Anthropological Forum special issue The Art of Gardens. Exhibitions for the British Museum, include ‘Power and Taboo: Sacred Objects from the Pacific’ (2006) and ‘Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives’ (2018).

Jason Gibson is an anthropologist and historian with extensive experience on Australian Indigenous cultural heritage and museum repatriation initiatives spanning two decades. He is currently Research Fellow with the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, an Honorary Research Associate with the Melbourne Museum, and an Honorary Research Fellow with the School of Social Sciences and Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia. He is the author of Ceremony Men: Making Ethnography and the Return of the Strehlow Collection (SUNY Press 2020) and the forthcoming Repatriation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage: Experiences of Return in Central Australia (Routledge).

Gwyneira Isaac is Curator of North American Ethnology and director of Recovering Voices for the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution. She works in the Southwest region of the USA, focusing on the dynamics of and intersections between culturally different knowledge systems, especially where Native American and non-Native knowledge systems meet. This research has led to questions about how technology is used within the discipline of anthropology, museums and Indigenous communities, especially via the reproduction of knowledge through replicas, models and 3D printing. Her publications include ‘Technology Becomes the Object: Art, Artifact and Digital Media at the National Museum of the American Indian’ (2011); ‘Whose Idea Was This? Museums, Replicas and the Reproduction of Knowledge’ (2011); ‘Perclusive Alliances: Digital 3-D, Museums and the Reconciling of Culturally Diverse Knowledges’ (2015).

Gro Ween is Professor in Social Anthropology at the Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo. At the museum, she is Keeper of the Arctic, North American and Australian collections. She has engaged in fieldwork in North Australia, Nunavut, Yupik Alaska and Sápmi, and written extensively on Indigenous issues, including heritage and museum-related topics from these locations. Ween has held the academic responsibility for two exhibitions, the temporary ‘New Arctic’ that has become a travelling exhibition, and the permanent exhibition, ‘Control: Attempting to Tame the World’ at the Cultural History Museum.

Robyn Mckenzie is ANU postdoctoral Research Fellow on the ARC-funded project The Relational Museum and its Objects: engaging Indigenous Australian communities with their distributed collections. Initially trained as an Art Historian, her interests in the visual arts have developed through dialogue with the field of Anthropology: history, theory and practice. She obtained her PhD in the Cross-cultural Interdisciplinary Studies Program at the ANU in 2016 for her study on the Yirrkala string figures in the Australian Museum, Sydney. McKenzie’s research is focused on activating the latent potential of the legacy collections in our museums, big and small. Her most recent work (as part of the Relational Museum project) began with a stocktake of the ubiquitous collections of Indigenous stone artefacts in local museums in the Riverina district of NSW.

Paul Basu is currently visiting professor in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. He was previously professor of anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and professor of anthropology and cultural heritage studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. His books include Highland Homecomings (2007), Exhibition Experiments (with Sharon Macdonald, 2007), Museums, Heritage and International Development (with Wayne Modest, 2015) and The Inbetweenness of Things (2017). He has curated several exhibitions, including [Re:]Entanglements: Colonial Collections in Decolonial Times, currently on display at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK. He recently led the multi-partner Museum Affordances research project. 


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