Monday, August 10, 2015

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva, Part 3 of 3

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Dr. Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva.

This interview is the seventh installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney interviews various anthropological museum professionals.

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 3 of 3

9. More broadly, have you seen any major changes in our field of museum anthropology over the past decade? If so, what are they? 
I might suggest breaking this down into questions for another interview! There is so much to say, and it is difficult to make general statements as the situation differs a lot from a country to another. I would say that in Europe the situation is quite contrasted, sometimes critical, sometimes promising. 

10. Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going, long term? What role do you see the Musee d’ethnographie playing in the field? 
The role of the MEG will probably be modest on account of its size and where it is located! What I would like to say in answer to this question is that if museums are to reflect the profile of the society in which they function to better serve it, as is now a credo of museum policy, anthropology museums, museums of world cultures or of non-Western art should someday be given far more importance than today. Or otherwise non-Western arts and other collections should “colonise”, so to speak, all the museums traditionally focused on pre-WWII notions of “Western culture”, society and history (in Europe, most museums of art and history). “Ethnographic” or world cultures museums should also proliferate outside the former colonial metropolises and few academic centres where they historically were founded. Also, in most case, our collections must be rejuvenated with new acquisitions and contemporary material.

11. Do you have any advice or tips for our younger readers who are thinking about going into anthropology or museum work? 
Do fieldwork and, if possible, collect in the field. Always try to know as much as you can about all collections around you, do not focus for years on a limited corpus. If you get a museum job, always volunteer to take more responsibilities, in all fields of museum practice. Try to cast an anthropological gaze at all the relationships between people and objects, all the way from the field to the exhibition. 

Museum jobs are great jobs, because museum people tend to be nicer! Anthropology museums are the best places; they are the only ones with collections that open up on such a multitude of countries, cultures, periods, fields of human activity… 

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