Monday, November 17, 2014

Burke Museum to Return Artifacts to Peruvian Government

Imana Gunawan, The Daily at the University of Washington
November 9, 2014
After four years of coordination, several artifacts from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s Peruvian collection returned to their home country last week.
The items include human remains, ceramic vessels and bowls, necklaces, and a textile, each of which have different histories. On Wednesday, the Peruvian Consul General arrived to attend a private gathering held by the museum, during which the items, excluding the human remains, were exhibited before they were packed up and transported.
Over the past four years, the Burke has been working with the Peruvian government to identify objects in the museum’s collection covered under a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convention that allows governments to designate significant objects of cultural heritage and protect them from leaving the country of origin. The convention, called the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, was signed by the U.S. government in February 1983, and prohibits U.S. museums from accepting objects imported after that year.
More here

Friday, November 07, 2014

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Paul Tapsell, University of Otago, New Zealand, Part 2 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Paul Tapsell, Professor, School for Maori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. 

This interview is the fourth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 2 of 2. 

Generally, what is your favorite thing about anthropology or museums?
Celebrating diversity and difference; negotiating cultural boundaries; providing source communities opportunity to co-produce/narrate their own exhibitions in nation spaces; providing a new generation of scholars opportunity to critically engage museums as places of co-production; and seeing museum-held dead released home, healing cross generational hurt and bringing museums one vital step closer to being places of vitality where the living really matter.  

Do you have any pieces of advice or tips for our younger readers who are perhaps thinking about going into anthropology or museums? 
I was raised in a community where your usefulness was measured by service to others; where ancestors were not owned; and respect was earned, never demanded. These same values continue to underpin our cross-cultural discipline of Museum Ethnography. It is uniquely grounded in the very essence of our humanity, which physically manifests in the cultural objects of identity found in museums throughout the world. As I explain to my students: it's all about boundaries: Museum Ethnography will provide you the reflexive toolkit to recognize and negotiate these complex boundaries. Be prepared to serve those communities you study, demonstrate trust and in turn they will serve you, your career and your future descendants. 

Have you seen any major changes in our field over the past decade? If so, what are they? 
Recognition of source communities as co-producers; developing field of museum ethics; realization that museums in colonized countries rest on a local kin group landscapes who should be engaged as partners in governance/management of cultural property held in museums; willingness of curators to engage indigenous communities again, but as equals!  

Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going? 

Current museum trends - past two decades - have been toward user pay commercialized business models. Sadly this has been at the expense of research and community service/engagement. In museums' rush to capture market share due to ever increasing operational constraints I fear museums will lose their vitality, becoming glorified tourist attractions where research based curatorship will disappear and museums once unique academic based point of difference will be lost. I believe the key is for museums to focus strongly on their collections and find innovative ways to engage in new research that is demonstrably useful to wider their wider communities and national well being. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Paul Tapsell, University of Otago, New Zealand, Part 1 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Paul Tapsell, Professor, School for Maori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. 

This interview is the fourth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 1 of 2. 

When in your education did you decide to pursue museum anthropology? Why? 
I grew up in a museum family. My Irish grandmother married into my tribe in the early 1920s. Our tribe is famous for weaving and carving with over 50% of all museum-held taonga (Maori ancestral treasures) having originated from our Bay of Plenty region. In the early 1960s my grandmother became really concerned at the continuing loss of our taonga to outsiders or being abandoned by a new generation more focused on surviving colonization. She established the Rotorua Museum, inviting my wider tribal elders to loan our taonga (long-term) as a way of protecting them for future generations to access. The support was overwhelming and to this day these taonga are still actively used in our culture, especially during life crises, like mourning rituals or tangihanga. As a grandchild I grew up surrounded by these taonga. I was unaware of the uniqueness of our museum: taonga still belonging to the community, but available for visitors to view. Having grown up in such an environment I struggled to engage with "normal" museums where my people were objectified. After a sheltered life I remember visiting the BM as a young adult and being horrified with the apparent licit displays of the dead and their possessions. 

Thereafter, I avoided museums because they made me feel uneasy. Back then the last thing I ever imagined was that I would end up in a museum career! Through my 20s I internationally pursued competitive sports and enjoyed engaging other cultures, reflecting on my own kin community values in a globaly exciting context. It were these cross-cultural interactions that framed my future academic leaning toward Social Anthropology, complemented by Archaeology, Maori Art History and Psychology. In 1990, as I completed my BA the Curator position opened up at Rotorua Museum, which by now was a New Zealand recognized professionally-run institution. I was reluctant at first to apply, but my tribal elders had other ideas and convinced the Mayor, District Council and not least me (!) that the time had arrived to begin traveling the pathway set by my grandmother. Three years and a bucket load of experiences later I dared to imagine a career in museums, but it had to be inclusive of source communities, exhibiting cultures in alignment with originating values. 

I completed my MA in Social Anthropology, focussing on a museum-held taonga, names Pukaki and in 1994 was invited by Schyler Jones to read for a doctorate in Museum Ethnography at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Greatest influences on choosing/maintaining an academic framed path in museums were my mentors, Sir Hugh Kawharu, Sir Raymond Firth, Dame Anne Salmond, Karen Nero, Harry Allen, Peter Gathercole, Peter Ucko, Howard Morphy, Chris Gosden and Nick Thomas. 

Could you provide the readers of the blog with a brief description of your day to day job at as a professor at the University of Otago? 
Although I am currently on sabbatical my work day continues similar to term time - lots of field research, reading and writing - but without teaching (although I am still supervising a couple of post grads and serve on a couple of committees). Most difficult part of my job is balancing tribal responsibilities (kin) with my work priorities (office). Fortunately my fieldwork takes me from
Dunedin (University of Otago) to my tribal homelands in the North Island twice a month. This provides opportunity for me to fulfill tribal duties as well as sitting on local and national government appointed committees.   

What project have you worked on are you most proud of? 
In the 1990s the return home of Pukaki tommy tribe was special, fulfilling my elders' dream to see their revered taonga home;
In the 2000s it was the Ko Tawa exhibition, touring museum-held taonga back into communities of origin; and
Currently, the Maori Maps project, assisting reconnection of Maori youth to their home tribal communities. 

4. What was the most challenging project or aspect of a project that you have worked on?
The Ko Tawa Project presented multiple challenges, not least museums' reluctance to release taonga to visit communities of origin in an exhibition that had no glass cabinets. This project demonstrated to museums - yet again - that Maori communities remain worthy Treaty partners and are committed to bettering Nationhood on the basis of inclusion, recognizing it is Maori culture that provides NZ's international unique point of difference. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Call for Applications: Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters

A Summer Institute of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana, USA
May 14-21, 2015

The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history. 

Museums at the Crossroads, scheduled for May 14-21, 2015, in the beautiful college town of Bloomington, Indiana, combines keynote addresses, tours, charrettes, and social interactions. We seek applications from museum practitioners and theorists who wish to partner in conversation and creative practice with a group of invited keynote speakers and international museum fellows in a small, informal workshop setting.  Successful applicants will receive eight nights of on-campus lodging and per diem support of $45 for eight days.

Museums at the Crossroads connects theory and practice, bridging institutional, regional, and national museum contexts in order to advance the global conversation around museums and generate a range of practical outcomes for its participants.

Workshop participants will include:

4 international fellows from innovative museums around the globe 
8 museum partners drawn from museums and other institutions in the United States and abroad
12 Indiana University faculty, staff, and graduate students 
4 keynote speakers, each addressing a broader social and cultural theme that we wish to explore in depth in museum contexts. 

Our keynote speakers are: 

Steven Lubar, Brown University (keynote on Today’s Museum:  Innovation, Change, and Challenge)
Michael Brown, School for Advanced Research (keynote on Cultural Crossroads:  World Cultures in Transition)
Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia (keynote on Disciplinary Crossroads:  The Evolving Sociology of Knowledge)
Haidy Geismar, University College London (keynote on Artifactual Crossroads:  Real Meets Virtual)

Museum Partners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Bloomington, Indiana, and are expected to participate actively in the full workshop and in associated follow-on activities. Prior to attending, each shall develop an institutional profile that includes an account of challenges your museum faces relative to the three “crossroads” (Cultural, Disciplinary, Artifactual) being explored in the workshop. Partners without a museum affiliation will be asked to prepare a comparable position paper on the themes.

How to Apply

To apply for a position as Museum Partner, please send a resume or curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter expressing your interest, as a PDF email attachment to: 

Sarah Hatcher, c/o

Review of applications will begin November 15, 2014, with applicants receiving notifications by December 15, 2014.  

Further Information

For additional detail on the scope and nature of Museums at the Crossroads, see the workshop précis, which is accessible online at:

Additional information about Indiana University Bloomington can be found at:

Information on the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is available at:    

Questions about the workshop can be addressed to the organizers at:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hopi Artifacts Back Home with Arizona Tribe

Arizona Daily Star
September 27, 2014

A Hopi official says 24 ceremonial items purchased last year at a French auction house have been returned to the tribe in northern Arizona.

Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, says representatives from the Annenberg Foundation brought them Friday afternoon to the village of Walpi on Hopi land.

He says a cultural ceremony was held to welcome back the Kachina friends.

The Los Angeles-based charity also separately returned artifacts to the San Carlos Apache tribe.

The foundation bought the masks last December at a contested auction in Paris.

The tribes argued the artifacts represent their ancestors' spirits and shouldn't be sold.

A bid by the tribes' lawyers to get a French court to block the auction failed after a judge ruled the sale was legal in France.

More here

Monday, October 13, 2014

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Steve Lekson, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, Part 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Steve Lekson, Curator of Archaeology and Professor of Anthropology, Univeristy of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder

This interview is the third installment in a our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. The first installment in the series was with Alaka Wali at the Field Museum, with the second being with Sheila Goff, based at History Colorado. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 2 of 2. 

Generally, what is your favorite thing about archaeology and museum anthropology?
Museum: I enjoy the weird old orphaned collections, trying to figure out what they are and where they came from and how on earth we got 'em.
Archaeology: Reconnaissance survey in new areas.  It's great to find big sites that no one knew about (except the cowboys and Indians).

Have you seen any major changes in our field over the past decade? If so, what are they?
I've gone from straight-up natural science museums, to Native American cultural centers/art museums, to a university museum that's split between high-end science research and cutting-edge museology.  That's a bit of change.  For Anthropology, of course, the inclusion of Native peoples has changed, for the better, completely in my 40 years.  Also, the explosion of digital media -- a huge difference from when I began and where we are today.  

Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going?
I think the pendulum may swing back, a bit, from post-colonial angst to substantive anthropology.  How many times can you say you're sorry?  The trick is to develop anthropology/archaeology questions and answers that are of genuine interest to Native Peoples.  That process will probably be collaborative -- but not necessarily.  I'm recently working on Southwest-Mesoamerica which is largely a straight archeology question.  Almost every Indian I've talked to is really interested in the topic and it's a happy thing we can talk about with mutual enthusiasm.  A lot more cheerful than NAGPRA.

As an author, archaeologist, and curator, how have you ‘changed’ your research to support these different venues of scholarship?
Except for gray literature reports and contract deliverables, I've always tried to write accessibly.  That hasn't always been easy; my academic colleagues and academic presses need a while to get used to it.

Do you have any advice or tips for our younger readers who are perhaps thinking about going into archaeology or museums?

Archaeology: think CRM; think practical field research; think project management and personnel skills.  Museums: learn everything, collections, education, exhibits, administration -- because there are far more small museums out there (where you'll wear several hats) than big museums with separate departments and specialized duties.  And most of those small museums are history museums, so learn historiography and costume/metal/paper/film collections management.  

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Council for Museum Anthropology's Student Travel Awards

The Council for Museum Anthropology is pleased to announce this year’s Student Travel Awards, which support graduate student travel to the annual AAA meeting to present papers and/or posters. Hannah Turner (University of Toronto, Faculty of Information) and Joseph Feldman (University of Florida, cultural anthropology) will receive the 2014 awards. 

Turner’s Ph.D. research in information studies traces how Indigenous material heritage has been catalogued, described and digitized in the Anthropology Department at the National Museum of Natural History. The title of her AAA paper is “The Infrastructure of Ethnographic Data”, to be presented as part of the panel she organized, “Producing Anthropology through Museum Collections: Conversations in Critical Cataloguing.” 

Feldman’s research is based on his ethnographic study of a memorial museum project in Peru. His paper “Not South Africa: Making Transitional Justice Peruvian at a National Museum Project,” is part of the session “Transitional Justice in Space and Time.”

Monday, October 06, 2014

2014 Michael M. Ames Award for Innovative Museum Anthropology

The Council for Museum Anthropology is very pleased to announce that Dr. Leslie Witz and Dr. Noëleen Murray are the recipients of the 2014 Michael M. Ames Award for Innovative Museum Anthroplogy.

Their long-term work with the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum and their book Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorializing Migrant Labour Pasts in Lwandle, South Africa (2014) exemplify the kind of pioneering work the Award is intended to acknowledge. Their work speaks to many of the issues and concerns of contemporary museum anthropology. We commend them for their long-term engagement with and research on the museum and the Lwandle community. One of the exhibits at the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum is featured in the cover photo of this CMA page.

Please join us when the award is presented on Friday 5 December at the CMA reception during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Washington DC.