Sharing Authority in the Museum
Distributed objects, reassembled relationships
Sharing Authority in the Museum provides a detailed and fully contextualised study of a heritage assemblage over time, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Focussing on Māori objects, predominantly originating from the Ngā Paerangi tribe, housed in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, the book examines thenuances of cross-cultural interactions between an indigenous community and an anthropological museum.
Analysis centres on the legacy of historic ethnographic collecting on indigenous communities and museums, and the impact of different value systems and world views on access to heritage objects. Questions of curatorial responsibilities and authority over access rights are explored. Proposing a method for indigenous engagement to address this legacy, and making recommendations to guide participants when forging relationships based around indigenous cultural heritage, Michelle Horwood shows how to negotiate power and authority within these assemblages. She argues that by doing this and acknowledging and communicating our difficult histories, together we can move from collaborative approaches to shared authority and indigenous self-determination, progressing the task of decolonising the museum.
Addressing a salient, complex issue by way of a grounded case study, Sharing Authority in the Museum is key reading for museum practitioners working with ethnographic collections, as well as scholars and students working in the fields of museum, heritage, Indigenous or cultural studies. It should also be of great interest to indigenous communities wishing to take the lessons learned from Ngā Paerangi’s experiences further within their own spheres of museum engagement.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Worlds apart - rethinking indigenous engagement with museum collections
1. An assemblage: A collector, a collection, an indigenous community and a museum
2. Museum encounters: Ngā Paerangi travel to Oxford
3. Emergent themes from the dissassembly-reassembly of a heritage network
4. Working together
Michelle Horwood is a teacher, scholar and museum curator. She has worked extensively in the heritage sector, as a curator, archaeologist and researcher, where connecting communities with their heritage has been the primary focus of her professional practice.