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Postcolonialism and Museum Knowledge: Revisiting the Museums of the Pacific

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Title:Postcolonialism and Museum Knowledge: Revisiting the Museums of the Pacific
Authors:MacLeod, Roy
Date Issued:Oct 1998
Publisher:University of Hawaii Press
Citation:MacLeod R. 1998. Postcolonialism and museum knowledge: revisiting the museums of the Pacific. Pac Sci 52(4): 308-318.
Abstract:Museums are the medium of our age. As such, the museum
world cannot be isolated from political realities. On the contrary, far from their
idealized image as institutional constants, innocently engaged in the "collection,
conservation, classification, and display of objects," most important museums whether
of art, history, anthropology, or natural history-are in a state of
change, in management, in motivation, and in their capacities to attract visitors,
engage attention, and mediate between what objects "say" and what visitors
expect to hear. What is evident in Europe and North America is equally
apparent in Australasia and the Pacific-with certain important differences.
Today, Pacific museums are exploring a rich mix of postcolonial alternatives.
Amongst many institutions seeking to speak to indigenous peoples and to hear
their voices, they are focusing attention upon the rituals of cultural affirmation
and the local character of knowledge production, as distinct from its global reception
and legitimation. As such, they offer the historian of science an object
lesson in the entangled relationship between Western and indigenous modes of
thought. This paper outlines some of the characteristics and ambivalences currently
accompanying the passage from colonial to postcolonial ways of thinking
in the museum world of the Pacific.
Appears in Collections: Pacific Science Volume 52, Number 4, 1998

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