CANCELLED - Where Next for UK Ethnographic Museums? Multiculturalism, Decolonisation & Repatriation

Please note all public events are now cancelled across ANU due to the COVID-19 precautionary measures.

From its inception in the late 19th century, museum ethnography operated within a cultural evolutionary paradigm which interpreted non-European ethnographic objects and the cultures from which they originated as inferior and on the verge of extinction. Such practices continued unabated until the disintegration of European empires, assertion of civil rights and mass transnational migration in the latter half of the 20th century. As a consequence the portrayal of non-European cultures and the control of cultural patrimony in UK ethnographic museums has been politically and culturally contested. As a discipline museum ethnography has been forced to recognise these shifting socio-political paradigms and adjust its practice accordingly. Some museum ethnographers now work closely with both source and diaspora communities and recognise the importance of both tangible and intangible culture. Some have also openly and honestly acknowledged the colonial legacy of their predecessors and embarked on a process of reconciliation. However, it is questionable whether museum ethnography remains a Victorian anachronistic discipline ill-equipped to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural and globalised world. Are colonial ethnographic collections simply triumphal reminders of an imperial past? What other reforms and innovations are necessary to ensure the survival of museum ethnography? Should it survive at all?

No events are currently scheduled. Details of future events will be posted as they become available.

Date & time

Wed 25 Mar 2020, 12.30–1.30pm


120 McCoy Circuit


Stephen Terence Welsh, Curator of Living Cultures Honorary Research Fellow in Social Anthropology University of Manchester


02 6125 0171


Updated:  17 March 2020/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications