Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Looking Back, Going Forward: Digitised Collections, Indigenous Ontologies, and the Recuperation of the Ethnographic Archive

Associate Professor Aaron Glass (Bard Graduate Centre, New York)

Reassembling The Social Organization: Museum Collections, Indigenous Knowledge, and the Recuperation of the Ethnographic Archive

Franz Boas's 1897 monograph, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, was a landmark in anthropology for its integrative approach to ethnography, the use of multiple media, and the collaborative role of Boas’s Indigenous partner George Hunt. Not only did the volume draw on existing museum collections from around the world, the two men also left behind a vast and now widely distributed archive of unpublished materials relevant to the creation and afterlife of this seminal text, including hundreds of pages of Hunt’s corrections and emendations.

This paper discusses an international and intercultural collaborative project to create a new, annotated critical edition of the book--in both print and digital formats--that unites published and unpublished materials with one another and with current Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge. I catalogue the range of museum collections and archival materials at issue and present an interactive prototype for the digital edition that re-embeds ethnographic knowledge within Indigenous epistemological frameworks and hereditary protocols for access. This unprecedented effort within anthropology promises new ways of using digital media to link together disparate collections and Native communities in order to produce a critical historiography of the book while recuperating long dormant ethnographic materials for use in current and future cultural revitalization.

A collaborative team is producing a new critical edition of Franz Boas's 1897 landmark book, which uses digital media to link museums, archives and Native communities while recuperating ethnographic records for current and future use.

Conal McCarthy (Victoria University of Wellington)

Looking back to go forward: Digitising ethnographic archives as a framework for contemporary tribal development

This paper considers the intersection of two current trends in museum research in Australia and Aotearoa, one looking back to the history of collections, ethnology and colonisation, and another looking forward to digital technology, co-curating and an emerging indigenous Museology.

It briefly surveys various projects which aim to reconnect tribal descendants to ancestral heritage through digital tools which enable the reassembly of scattered records, material culture and images. It concludes by reviewing the archival research conducted for the Marsden-funded project ‘Te Ao Hou: Imagining worlds in New Zealand 1900-1950’ led by Anne Salmond at Auckland University, which follows Māori leaders Apirana Ngata and Peter Buck through their involvement in the Dominion Museum ethnological expeditions, the Polynesian Society and the Board of Māori Ethnological Research.

What is the legacy of these ontological experiments, mobilising relational concepts such as whakapapa/kinship, which were applied in Buck and Ngata’s ‘practical anthropology’, and what are the lessons today not just for Māori museum practice but for contemporary tribal development generally?

Date Thursday, 22 February 2018
Time 10:00am - 12:00pm
Audience Public
Event Category Humanities
Event Type Seminar
LocationMoot Court, 10th floor, Richardson Building
Contact NameCentre for Research on Colonial Culture

Save this event