Event Date: 25 November 2015
London SW1P 4RG
Artist and Empire: The Long Nineteenth Century
Nick Thomas (Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge) – Artefacts of Encounter: rethinking objects and collections
This talk tells the stories, the colonial biographies, of several artefacts, valued in both indigenous and colonial milieux over the period of exploration and early colonization in the Pacific. It seeks to complicate the understanding, that haunts the ethnographic museum, of artefacts as things that have suffered appropriation and decontextualisation. It suggests that many works in museums are not ‘natural’ artefacts, extracted from organic lives in communities: its examples include the Maori tekoteko (house facade sculpture) in the Artist and Empire exhibition, collected by the Austrian natural historian and aristocrat, Carl von Hügel, in 1834, as well as works collected by Captain James Cook and other explorers and travellers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.