Session: #517

Theme & Session Format

3. The new normality of heritage management and museums in post-Covid times
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Consider the Collections: Rethinking Approaches to Colonial Museums for the 21st Century
Museums across Europe and other parts of the world house archaeological and ethnographic collections that are embedded in decades-long reifications of the colonial world order and racist human hierarchies. More recently, debates have raised questions regarding the positionality of museums, the authority of curators, and the legitimacy of retaining certain collections in detriment of descendant communities calling for their repatriation. Within a context of widespread political unrest, global pandemics, and a looming climate catastrophe, visions of reparative justice must include deep reflections on the future of museums and their collections and the questions that researchers ask of them, as well as the role that restitutions of cultural goods play in these scenarios. At this juncture, museums should stop being mere reflections of their context, and instead embrace an active role in shaping anti-colonial, anti-racist and sustainable future agendas. The papers in this session take these ideas to task, and critically re-consider museum collections, their origins and their legacies. Importantly, the future of museum-based research is portrayed for its potential to aid in the disarticulation of colonialism in the years to come. We raise here new questions, including who gets to conduct research, and who grants permission to conduct it? Who decides what artifacts are to be repatriated, reburied, and displayed? How do research methodologies incorporate decolonial objectives? And, how do partners interact equitably in the context of a museum?
Museums, Decolonisation, Anti-racist scholarship
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Main organiser:
Maria Fernanda Boza Cuadros (Germany) 1,2
Aja Lans (United States) 3
1. Museum am Rotherbaum - Kulturen und Künste der Welt
2. Centro Peruano de Arqueología Marítima y Subacuática
3. Syracuse University