20 October 2015

SWICH Co-collecting

Workshop | 19-20 Oct 2015 | RCMC

What should museums of ethnography collect today and for the future? This workshop will explore trajectories towards collaborative practices for collecting and documenting collections within ethnographic museums.

Collecting Futures

This transdisciplinary workshop is part of the Collecting Futures research theme of the pan-European collaborative project SWICH. During the workshop experts from across the world will explore best-practice examples as starting points for developing new theoretical models and practical policy suggestions for how ethnographic and world cultures museums can adopt collaborative models for rethinking collecting and representational practices.

Critique of the ethnographic museum

The founding principles around which many ethnographic museums in Europe have historically operated have been that of collecting, studying and representing those ‘others’ to the West. The last few decades have seen growing and robust (auto)critique of ethnographic museums and collections. This critique has taken different forms and has been generated from different quarters. Firstly, for some within originating communities, critical questions have revolved around issues such as who owns cultural objects; who should collect them; how and under what conditions are they being preserved; and how are they interpreted and represented. Secondly, scholarly critique (including but not restricted to indigenous scholars), has taken up similar concerns, such as ethics of collecting ‘other’ cultures, questioning representational paradigms, as well as critiquing authority, and the inclusion/exclusion of different stakeholder groups from museum practices. Finally, criticism has also come from different groups within Europe itself, mostly from post-colonial, labor migrants and post-migrant citizens. They have been critical about what they see as their heritage, is or is not represented in these museums.

Collecting in the future

This workshop takes these critical discussions as starting points to explore possible methodologies for developing new collections, collaboratively with different stakeholder groups. We take collections as sites of relations, as fulcrums around which different communities claim different stakes, sometimes competing, as they negotiate their belonging to different citizenship regimes. With citizenship and belonging as critical lens, the workshop will be organized to focus on different national, regional and international factors that impact the ways in which collaboration is defined and practiced. What should be the drivers for collaborative collecting practices, and how do earlier collections and collecting practices impact on how we collect for the future? What should ethnography museums collect today and in the future?

Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union