Museums and Indigenous Communities: Changing Relations, Changing Practice


This course explores the changing relationships between aboriginal source communities and museums holding their material heritage. We begin with a historical overview of collecting practices, the role of indigenous material culture in the development of museums, and the relationship between museums and colonialism. Contemporary case studies primarily drawn from post-colonial and settler contexts during the last three decades are investigated as a response to earlier practices.

Students are challenged to use these case studies in order to interrogate ideas of the museum as a ‘contact zone’, the shifting meaning of objects, contemporary curatorial challenges, the potential of new museum practices, and source community expectations. Actual exhibitions, repatriation requests and museological dilemmas are used to engage critically with theoretical developments in material culture studies, material anthropology, art history, and indigenous studies.