The process of decolonizing an anthropology museum involves an intricate stepwise path that has the objective of changing the view and perspective of the exhibits they portray. These institutions carry out this process mainly to ensure that the displays they show to the public are not centered on a specific cultural group (Phillips 100). It has received intense backlash over the nature of diversity they tend to showcase; undoubtedly, it's a conversation that can go on and on and gain more traction. The current issue on the discussion is the relevant strategy of achieving desired customer preferences. Then there is also the issue about the mode or the components to be used the transformation, is it going the digitization path, or collaborative practice or through the collections management and traditional care.
Decolonization is the process of portraying diverse cultural entities in museums. The process is anticipated to cause some friction and disharmony. The reaction is expected from the communities that are underrepresented in the transformation. Questions have arisen regarding the next step of activities to those cultural groups that their exhibits will be faced out in a bid to bring newer and more relatable portrays. Some quarters have suggested that the museum and anthropological department needs to acquire consent from the cultural groups before displaying content relating to that cultural group. In this article, the issues considering the due process that should be followed during museum decolonization are highlighted. They will expand more precisely on what it means to decolonize a museum.
The museum reflects the colonial era as being eurocentric. It has been considered a trophy room and store for the gains of colonialisms. Despite having included the scientific components into the incorporation of the collections, it is still interpreted as the gains and positives for Europeans after the era of colonialism. It has brought into light the issue of racism because the majority of the collections reflect a particular storyline that talks more about a given culture.
The perception of inequality in the collection's representation in the museum has led to the slow but rather painful process of trying to reverse the adverse effects of colonialism. Interestingly, this is a method of decolonization that has just begun, and only but a few museums have set the changes in motion. The effects of colonialism have been embedded too deeply in every aspect of life in this era, talk of politics, culture, and economic development.
Themes under which this process could succeed include digitization, collaborative practice, collective management, and traditional care. Each of these themes will be highlighted shortly before delving into one specific issue for the rest of the article. Digitization is the process of recreating and transforming the previous collections in the museum into a digital form. All the selections based on the colonial era regarding specific indigenous communities are put together into a database that can be accessed by everyone at any time.
As good as it may sound or as easy as it may sound, decolonization is a process marred with a lot of issues, mainly the question of ethics and originality (Phillips 102). It has been suggested as one of the solutions to the problems, as mentioned earlier, that the indigenous community survivors be integrated into the process to enable them to tell their story as is so that the question concerning originality can be addressed. Ethical considerations are still nagging issues of contentions, as there is no specific individual or organization that holds the rights to this collection and hence responsible for deciding what to and what not to show to the public.
Colonialism is associated with negative aspects like mistreating indigenous communities and theft of resources from respective counties. The situation created a need for individuals to associate with the process happily. It brings in the question of whether the correct procedure to be taken digitization or Indigitization. Scanning involves providing the indigenous community with the resources to enable them to create and recreate their stories, which will then be kept in a given database that will be more or less be owned by the individuals of that community (Thorkelson 2). With this modality, we allow the society to hold the story, and to some extent, reduce the ethical and originality issues that have been mentioned previously.
The collaborative practice is a new focused approach with the sole purpose of integrating exhibitions and postcolonial collections in one gallery. It involves complex associations linked through a formidable research process that addresses the issues of ethics and credibility of the exhibits presented (Boast 60). While the objective remains to recreate the postcolonial era in the current neo-colonial period, the issue has shifted to the lengths of how these findings are represented, given the fact that the events that took place in that era were atrocious and remains sensitive.
The nagging task is how to present these findings and exhibitions in a manner that will seem not to praise those criminal activities that happened. Some of the proposals to highlight that stalemate was to form this collaborative approach. It would integrate consultative efforts that would see the creation of new research centers and, most importantly, grant the indigenous communities permission to visit and have a say on the presented collections.
Another theme involved in the process of decolonization of a museum is the collection management or in other words, tradition care. Collection management is a crucial aspect of the way this process ought to be handled. It involves a systematic approach that ensures every aspect of a particular exhibit or a collection belonging to an indigenous community is not ignored, mocked, or thrown to the underside and hence being forgotten. It ensures proper handling and truthful portrayal and avoidance of a selective approach in showing the contents of the exhibits.
Pervasive ways that involve discrimination has continued to exist within the confines of safe museum practices. It has invariably led to the dictation of the way collections are acquired, processed, organized, documented, and stored. Regarding this evident history and sustained incubation of this colonial system of practice, museums have remained to be a painful institution to visit for those communities who were colonized. Recently, the indigenous communities have increased their efforts to air their views on cultural conservation and preservation. In return, it has led to museums taking a step back and reconsidering to polish their policies and strategies that directly affect the infringed communities.
The theme to be highlighted in the rest of this article will be the collaborative practice and how it influences the process of museum decolonization. As highlighted earlier in this article, the museum issue is susceptible. It needs a well-tailored approach to avoid the aggravation of the colonized groups. The museum is continuously viewed as a trophy cabinet for the colonizers. It acts as a constant reminder of violence acknowledgment and misappropriation of resources from the habitats of the colonies. As at now, there is no clear cut description on how this should go about, but it is a positive thing that it is an ongoing conversation to try to salvage the little that there is left, and instill respect and recognition to the afflicted communities. This article seeks to elaborate on how the process should indeed be carried out.
Effects of Neocollaboration.
Neocollaboration is one such process that has been suggested to assist in the decolonization of museums. It has taken into account the inclusionist approach, which has seen the empowerment of the indigenous community to portray their history as they prefer the story to be told. It is a process that has seen collaboration in numerous aspects, such as shared curatorship and research partnerships with the community, to convey their heritage. It is a process that calls for intense consultations and dialogue in collaboration with the population affected with exhibitions of the collections.
Additionally, some museums have made decisions that were not consultative. These decisions end up in the museums having the autonomy of deciding what collections require showcasing and which ones will not see the light of day. It is for the same reason regarding the integrity and ethical basis of the entire thing. It begs the question as to whether the process is genuinely directed at showcasing the cultural collections or is just a mere ploy to celebrate the gains by the colonizers to become some sought of modern colonization.
It is a conversation that not everyone wants to have due to the multiple holes present in their justifications of the unlikely events that took place during colonialism. There are no standard ways to sanctify those events. The creation of contact zones will surely help in the process of having honest conversations and a way of telling the stories as they are. Contact zones allow for the creation of neutral spaces where there is an atmosphere of inclusivity. Collaborative partnerships get forged, and the process takes place genuinely. It provides a platform for the empowerment of the indigenous community members. The results are achieved by telling the events as they were and also the right to gain access to the collections that provide linkage to them (Boast 56). These interviews and conversations can be recorded between the museum and the cultural communities and be stored in this contact spaces and be available for everyone to view.
Effects of forgotten exhibits on the process of decolonization of museums
The issue of forgotten exhibits stems from the old nagging question of the museum's authority of what to showcase and what not to. Partly it has been associated with a lack of clear guidelines of how to go about it given the sensitive nature of the exhibits to be showcased. It has proven to be a hampering effect in the process of a collaborative approach of decolonization. Because how do you hold conversations with the same community you want to have a collaboration with, and yet the exhibit speaks exceptionally harmful about them? Additionally, it will create an uproar that will inevitably slow the process of cooperation and decolonization (Laenui 154). Lack of a concise methodology and approach in targeting the controversial issues is the most significant sticking point in this process.
Conducting dialogues before accepting to undertake a project on controversial issues will go a long way in trying to solve these issues. Interfaculty consultative efforts may bore a sense of direction on whether to carry on or halt the process of taking up the projects (Pinto 4). In addition to that, dialogue and consultative efforts involving the community involved with exhibits are the right approaches.
The proposal from such associations will surely give ahead way of what to be done. If they, as a cultural community, decline the suggestion to showcase the exhibition, then there is no need to carry it out. There will be no advantage in trying to have a collaboration with them but at the same time, alienate the same community that the exhibition touches. It will only create an uproar and a lot of backlashes, highlighting the issue of ethics, misrepresentation of their voices, and general misrepresentation of their opinion (Pinto 5). But the fact remains, hidden and forgotten exhibits hamper decolonization.
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