Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Events

Gwyneira Isaac on Object 2.0: New Paradigms in the Interpretation of Ethnographic Collections
  • Gwyneira Isaac on Object 2.0: New Paradigms in the Interpretation of Ethnographic Collections
  • Lecture
  • 3/11/2011
  • 16:00-18:30
  • Spencer Museum of Art
  • Host: Spencer Museum of Art
Multimedia
Exhibitions
Event Description
Gwyneira Isaac is Curator of North American Ethnology, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. She investigates the relationships societies develop with their past, especially as to how this is expressed through knowledge systems, material culture, and museums. She will speak on "Object 2.0: New Paradigms in the Interpretation of Ethnographic Collections." A reception will follow in the Central Court.

Abstract

Object 2.0-New Paradigms in the Interpretation of Ethnographic Collections

For the past twenty years, I have worked in and engaged with local and national museums both here and in the UK. The museum world I entered in the early 1990s is a far cry from the one I now inhabit. Making sense of these changes requires grappling with practical and political shifts, as well as the theoretical ones that have shaped what takes place on the ground in museums. In some ways, we have been far too narrow in the ways in which we think about the interpretation of ethnographic objects-in recent years we have constantly reverted to debates about categorizing objects based on differences between Euro-American and Indigenous ontologies, distinguishing the ‘us’ vs. ‘other’ and highlighting the tension between collectors on the one hand, and the source communities on the other-or as is the case in some museums, between anthropologists and art historians, insiders and outsiders, or the emic vs. etic viewpoints. These perspectives are largely internal to museums. How we relate to objects more generally, however, largely takes place outside of the museum and this is what I will explore-a history of the disconnecting and reconnecting forces that have separated and then subsequently brought people and objects together in new ways, both within and across cultures.