Sharing Authority in the Museum: Distributed objects, reassembled relationships, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sharing Authority in the Museum

Distributed objects, reassembled relationships, 1st Edition

By Michelle Horwood


130 pages

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Hardback: 9780815369936
pub: 2018-11-13
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Sharing Authority in the Museum provides a detailed and fully contextualised study of a heritage assemblageover 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 the□nuances 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


About the Author

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.

About the Series

Museums in Focus

Committed to the articulation of big, even risky, ideas in short-format publications, Museums In Focus challenges authors and readers to experiment with, innovate, and press museums and the intellectual frameworks through which we view these. It offers a platform for approaches that radically rethink the relationships between cultural and intellectual dissent and crisis and debates about museums, politics and the broader public sphere.

Museums In Focus is motivated by the intellectual hypothesis that museums are not innately ‘useful’, safe’ or even ‘public’ places, and that recalibrating our thinking about them might benefit from adopting a more radical and oppositional form of logic and approach. Examining this problem requires a level of comfort with (or at least tolerance of) the idea of crisis, dissent, protest and radical thinking, and authors might benefit from considering how cultural and intellectual crisis, regeneration and anxiety have been dealt with in other disciplines and contexts.

Books published in the series are between 30,000 and 50,000 words in length and fully refereed.  If you would like to discuss submitting a proposal, please contact the series editor: [email protected]

Further information about Professor Message's work can be found here:

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Museum Studies
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Library & Information Science / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology