ENGAGING WITH PASTS IN THE PRESENT: Curators, Communities, and Exhibition Practice

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engaging with pasts in thepresent: Curators, Communities, andExhibition PracticeMary Katherine Scottuniversity of east angliaabstractArising from a one-day symposium entitled Ancientand Modern: Exhibiting the Past in the Present at theUniversity of East Anglia, United Kingdom, the themefor this special issue of Museum Anthropology focuseson contemporary museum practice. The contributors arespecifically interested in the challenges of exhibitingpasts in the present while doing justice to the his-torical and modern peoples and cultures represented inexhibitions. The authors also explore related ideasabout collaboration with source communities and howcollecting practices have determined what is consideredvaluable and thus worthy of display in public museums.[museum practice, collaboration, source communities, eth-nographic collections]Museum exhibitions are always contested terrainsinvolving decisions about how to choose, display, andinterpret objects and themes based on culturalassumptions that vary over time, place, and institu-tional context (Lavine and Karp 1991:1). In recentdecades, exhibitions have been the stage for confron-tation, experimentation, and debate, often present-ing audiences with new ideas based on individualresearch and fieldwork (Cameron 1972:197; see alsoBasu and Macdonald 2007). How this research trans-lates into a practical application, such as an exhibi-tion, depends on the nature of collaboration amongcurators, museum staff, and other partners during theplanning stages, a process that can itself be a kind ofresearch (Bouquet 2001). When this collaborationhappens between Euro-American curators and indig-enous artists, consultants, and curators on exhibi-tions involving the latters own art and culturalheritage, traditional exhibition practices are chal-lenged and new ways of interpreting cultural differenceemerge.1This special issue of Museum Anthropologyfocuses on contemporary museum practice, and,specifically, the challenges of exhibiting the past inthe present while doing justice to the peoples andcultures represented in exhibitions. The essays alsoexplore related ideas about collaboration with sourcecommunities and how collecting practices determinewhat museum professionals and collectors, past andpresent, consider valuable and thus worthy of displayin public museums.2 It is necessary at the outset toacknowledge that the term source communities isinherently problematic. It can mean different thingsto different people, including members of so-calledsource communities who may not see themselves asbelonging to such an entity. It also runs the risk ofbeing, or appearing to be, patronizing. It is used inthis volume, in the absence of another suitable gen-eral term, to indicate an awareness among somecurators that there are people connected biologicallyor culturally to the original makers and transactorsof the materials in question. These curators recog-nize that such individuals may often have legitimateviews that could be shared with a broader public,which leads to an interest in engaging with thesecommunities.The theme for this volume arose from a one-daysymposium entitled Ancient and Modern: Exhibit-ing the Past in the Present, which took place onMarch 18, 2010, at the Sainsbury Research Unit forthe Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas (SRU)at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.The symposium developed as the result of an invita-tion to Nelson Graburn, Professor Emeritus at theUniversity of California at Berkeley and Curator ofNorth American Ethnology at the Phoebe HearstMuseum of Anthropology, to give a seminar at theSRU. He proposed to speak about the implications ofattempting to exhibit traditional Native Alaskanmaterial in the present, which was of interest tomuseum professionals and others involved with col-lections management and care. It was decided that asymposium could be organized with Graburn as key-note speaker accompanied by seven additionalmuseum professionals and academics. They wereinvited to discuss their experiences of exhibiting thepast in the present with exhibitions they hadrecently curated in Europe and North Americainvolving ethnographic material from Africa, Oceania,and the Americas.The speakers included Anne-Marie Bouttiaux,Curator and Head of the Ethnography Division atthe Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren,museum anthropologyMuseum Anthropology, Vol. 35, Iss. 1, pp. 19 2012 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved.DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1379.2012.01117.xBelgium; Henry Drewal, Professor of Art History andAfrican-American Studies, and Adjunct Curator atthe Chazen Museum of Art at the University ofWisconsin at Madison; Magali Melandri, AssistantCurator for Oceania at the Musee du quai Branly inParis; Wayne Modest of the Horniman Museum,London (now Head of the Curatorial Department atthe Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam); and representingthe Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of EastAnglia, Steven Hooper (Director of the SRU and Pro-fessor of Visual Arts), Karen Jacobs (Lecturer in theArts of the Pacific) and myself (Ph.D. candidate in thearts of Mexico). Our presentations explored the dif-ferent challenges involved in displaying, researching,and caring for ethnographic collections, and reflectedon why these collections exist, or, in some cases, donot exist (see Modest, this volume).With these concerns in mind, the original confer-ence papers were reworked and submitted for thisspecial issue ofMuseum Anthropology. Each contribu-tor is mindful of the fact that behind all these materialcollections are the people who made and used them,both the historical groups and their living descen-dants. This empathy is clearly a theme that unites thearticles as the authors discuss their experiences col-laborating with source communities and explore theways we as guest curators and museum professionalsvalue and understand art and material culture fromthese source communities. In the articles that discussspecific exhibitions, collaboration of this kindaffected the authors vision for the way the exhibitwas to be organized and presented as well as how themuseum visitors interacted with and made sense ofthe works on display. Therefore, in choosing a themefor the volume, it seemed fitting to examine the roleof empathy and engagement with source communi-ties during the exhibition process within contempo-rary museum practices. That is not to say that theauthors are unaware of the larger sphere within whichthey are operatingnamely, as the inheritors of priv-ilege and power in a Western museum context for-merly associated with colonialism, racism, andexploitationthat continues to provoke contestationand debate. The specific case studies presented herereflect the larger issues that concern museums in gen-eral. The authors speak to the ways museums arebroadening their perspectives and dealing with theircolonial past by working with the material heritage ofcollectors and the peoples from whom the objectswere originally collected. They understand that theirrole as curators is not simply to encourage empathyand engagement but rather to transform this larger,inherited past from within (see OHanlon andWelsch2001; Stocking 1985). While engagement is not thecentral theme of all the articles, it is a recurring dis-cussion among them and an important challenge formuseum professionals (whether indigenous or not)who work with or plan exhibitions of the materialcultures of others. For these reasons, I would like toexplore it further in this introduction.The ContextIn relation to the discussions that occurred duringthe original Ancient and Modern symposium, thecontributors investigate the histories of collectingmaterials from the other; new methods for exhib-iting, enlivening, and contextualizing ethnographicmaterial; and the benefits and drawbacks of work-ing collaboratively on exhibitions with membersof source communities. Collaboration is a timelysubject, perhaps now more than ever, as museumsare redefining their place and purpose in responseto an increasingly globalized, pluralistic, and con-nected world (Phillips 2003:155). This has promptedsome museums to reinstall entire permanent galleryspaces in their desire to move toward greater inclu-sivity of native populations (Phillips 2011:252276).Museum staff recognize that source communitiesare now among the key audiences for exhibitionsabout their own cultural histories, and relationshipsbetween them and museum professionals are beingbuilt on knowledge sharing, the documentation ofthat knowledge, and sometimes the repatriation ofcultural artifacts to communities (see Graburn thisvolume; Peers and Brown 2003:1). The formationof relationships of trust and cooperation, ratherthan those of exclusion or superiority, has alsoinfluenced anthropological methodology, ethnogra-phers, and the communities they study (Clifford1997:208).Community engagement and collaboration as amuseum practice is a relatively recent developmentthat is quickly becoming the standard, especially inethnographic exhibitions. This engagement followswhat was known as the crisis of representation, aturning point in philosophy and art theory that had aengaging with pasts in the present2major impact in several disciplines, especially post-modern anthropology (Baudrillard 1994; Cliffordand Marcus 1986). In anthropology this crisis pro-voked an increased sensitivity for questioning theauthority of modern ethnographers to represent cul-tural others (Clifford 1988; Marcus and Fischer1986). As Basu and Macdonald point out, the veryconcept of otherness [was] perceived as a construc-tion of the disciplines own practices (2007:6).James Clifford (1988) was one of the harbingers ofthe predicaments of representing the other. Hewas concerned with how anthropology and museumdisplays have a tendency to freeze the history of indig-enous peoples in a timeless past or present, preclud-ing the possibility that they might ever find creativeways to respond to modernity and carve out theirown futures. Clifford was particularly opposed to theidea that there were essentially two ways to representindigenous peoples: as premodern, ahistorical, andtraditional; or as modern peoples assimilated intoWestern culture and thus inauthentic cultural rep-resentatives (Clifford 1988:213, 273). Often pairedwith historical artifacts or photographs, these dichot-omies frequently serve to reify rather than challengenotions of historical authority regarding what nativeart and culture should look like (Mithlo 2003:157; seealso Chaat Smith 2009).Engagement and collaboration have contributedto the modernist museums shift to the more politi-cized sphere that Hooper-Greenhill (2002:152153)calls the post-museum, a term that denotes a pro-cess rather than a building and one that Phillipsbelieves imparts a sense of rupture with historicaltraditions of museology (2003:161). The growingliterature on museums collaboration with sourcecommunities is wide ranging; many scholars debatethe merits of traditional ethnographic displays orga-nized by non-native curators as opposed to therelinquishing of curatorial authority in community-led exhibitions. They question just how much collab-oration is appropriate or desirable for an accurateportrayal of culture, which can range from full-scaleintervention to shared authority and organization tominor consultation. Some trends include the decen-tralization of authority and power sharing andefforts to move toward dialogue with communitiesas compared with the monologism of the earliercuratorial vision (Ames 2003; Fienup-Riordan 1999;Salvador 1997); the creation of indigenous advisorycommittees (Kahn 2000); and more transparency inthe exhibition-making process (Bal 2007; Weibeland Latour 2007). This also includes giving duecredit to all collaborators and revealing informationthat may be contradictory to a certain vision ofthe past (Bouquet 2001:182; Phillips 2003:165166;also see Phillips 2011:272274).These steps have helped many museums re-estab-lish themselves as places of research, with the focusbeing more on the process of making an exhibitioninstead of the blockbuster potential of the product(Bouquet 2001:178; Phillips 2003:158, 161). Thisincludes the activities organized throughout the col-laborative process, namely, educational workshopsand lectures, performances, museological training forsource community partners, and, in some cases,ongoing political support to protect collaboratorscultural heritage and rights (Phillips 2003:161). Thiskind of agency found in the activities and relation-ships between people, between people and objects,and between people and spaces (Gell 1998), is funda-mental to reflexive museology. It allows for otherprocesses that can communicate an exhibitionsmessages to the public rather than just the physicalarrangement of objects and their explanatory text.The museum thus becomes what Pratt (1992) called acontact zone, where Clifford notes peoples geo-graphically and historically separated come intocontact with each other and establish ongoing rela-tions (1997:192). Finding ways to translate thesemessages in a coherent way that accurately reflects thechanging and fluid nature of the cultural situation inquestion is the challenge, as opposed to creating afacsimile or mechanical reproduction of some idealversion of the original (Asad 1986:156; Benjamin2008). In collaborative exhibitions, this translationcan become complicated when competing agendasare at stake and the compromises made blur mes-sages, create contradictions, or otherwise lead to sim-plistic conclusions about a people and their history(Kahn 2000:71; Peers and Brown 2003:11; Phillips2003:166).Phillips (2003:158) finds that there is no singlemodel for collaborative exhibitions; rather, they arebased on different levels of collaboration. She identi-fies two possible types, the community-based (decen-tralization of curatorial authority; the museum servesengaging with pasts in the present3as the venue and the curator and staff facilitate thewishes of the source community in designing andorganizing the project) and the multivocal (wheremuseum staff and community members worktogether to present multiple perspectives and reflec-tions on the same cultural subject). Some scholarsargue that adding multiple voices is not enough in thecontext of the new museology, the discourse theyuse to explore social relationships and stimulateconsciousness regarding the ethnography of repre-sentation (cf. Vergo 2000:21). They believe the full-scale collaboration found in the community-led exhi-bition and participation at every level of the museumis necessary for cultural, moral, and historical accu-racy (Bouquet 2001; Kahn 2000:71; Peers and Brown2003:2, 78; but see Dubin 2002:98; Zimmerman2010). While critics of multivocal exhibitions mightargue that there are too many different voices claim-ing authority over history, multivocality may alsoovercome some stereotypical attitudes by acknowl-edging that everyone has some knowledge to share(Phillips 2003:162). Where multivocality can produceeither harmony or cacophony, community-led pro-jects can likewise reveal either common purposes orhotly disputed interpretations. However, both typesof collaborative exhibitions may help forge new andlong-term relationships, and allow fresh interpreta-tions of material collections and cultural histories(Peers and Brown 2003:910).Nevertheless, more accountability by museumstaff and increased accessibility to collections forsource community members helps lead to positivechanges that pave the way for greater engagementwith source communities, empowering them whileeducating the wider public. But we also must not benave in thinking that more engagement and collabo-ration are the only way forward in combating curato-rial elitism and prejudice. Over-romanticizing sourcecommunities can do equal disservice to the realitiesof peoples lives and to cultural productions in thepast and the present. Current exhibition-makingpractices, when they are good, are as much explor-atory journeys as finite objects. The essays in this vol-ume reveal different journeys in different culturalsituations that exemplify how empathetic engage-ment with collaborators and the subject matter ofan exhibition can lead to instructive and productiveoutcomes.The EssaysThe contributors to this volume made great efforts toinclude diverse voices, particularly indigenous voices,in their work through collaboration, fieldwork, inter-views, archival research, publication, and other prep-arations. This is not tokenism (see Dubin 2002:98)but humanization through the attribution of infor-mation and histories to formerly nameless and mar-ginalized peoples (see Herle 2003:201). The casestudies on specific exhibitions relating to a particularnative group or cultural region (whether historic,contemporary, or both) present the collaborativeapproaches used, the new museological strategiesguiding design and organization, and the fundamen-tal goals or questions raised in these endeavors.Despite the geographical distances between the con-tributors, based in Europe or North America, and thesource communities they worked with in the Pacific,Africa, Mexico, and Alaska, these curators found cre-ative ways to engage with native and diaspora artists,scholars, curators, public officials, performers, andother community members. The strength of thisdiverse grouping lies in the wide range of issues incontemporary museum practice and collecting histo-ries that they address across several world regions.Steven Hooper and Karen Jacobs, along with guestco-authors George Nuku and Maia Jessop, examinehow early collecting and exchange practices betweenthe original makers and the Europeans who collectedtheir objects determined notions of value cross-culturally. Using their exhibition Pacific Encounters:Art and Divinity in Polynesia 17601860 at the Sains-bury Centre for Visual Arts in 2006 as their case study,they examine how engagement helped the descen-dants of these groups to establish new relationshipsand feelings of kinship during the exhibition process.The past represented by the 18th- and 19th-centuryartworks or taonga displayed contain spiritual andancestral power, which is still relevant for many mod-ern Polynesians. The presence of Polynesian artists,curators, public officials, and dancers helped rituallyactivate this spiritual essence through public and pri-vate ceremonies, performances, artist residencies,school tours, and other activities. The turn from thepresentation of culture to its enactment resulted inan exhibition that was transformed from a space ofrepresentation into a space of encounter (Basu andMacdonald 2007:14; see also Weibel and Latourengaging with pasts in the present42007). However, what remains at the center of the lar-ger contact zone of the gallery space are the collec-tions themselves, which become a kind of contactzone as they renew their role as mediators of culturalknowledge, history, and relationships (Peers andBrown 2003:5).Magali Melandri seeks to answer at what point wecan separate the contemporary from the tradi-tional, especially when the subject of inquiry is theart of an indigenous culture. Melandri sought toaddress this question as co-curator of the collabora-tive exhibition Kwoma Red at the Musee du quaiBranly in Paris in 2008. The exhibition featured thepaintings of creation myths by three contemporaryKwoma artists from the Sepik River region of PapuaNew Guinea, as well as older works representingKwoma mythology collected during the 20th century.Through a careful chronicling of French Museumpractices and a detailed narrative about the planningof Kwoma Red, Melandri shows how the exhibitionwas built on collaboration with the artists and othersfrom their Kwoma community, an important movethat challenged established curator-led exhibitions ofethnographic others that until very recently charac-terized museum practice and anthropology in France.In addition to efforts to include members of thesource community, a goal of the exhibition was toshow how traditional myths are part of an ever-changing present. Adapting to the political, techno-logical, and social forces of the modern world hasalways been the nature of Kwoma art, whose aestheticis based in older styles but is constantly evolving tomeet contemporary demands (cf. Clifford 1988:207on Igbo art). The artists are thus both traditionaland contemporary as they not only embody thechanging state of awareness of their present histori-cal moment (Melandri, this volume) but also demon-strate through their work the necessity ofcommunicating Kwoma values and older forms ofknowledge to new audiences.Anne-Marie Bouttiaux discusses the importanceof multi-sensory awareness at masquerades amongthe Guro of the Ivory Coast in Africa. Bouttiauxsfieldwork at these masquerades became one of thesubjects of an exhibition she curated called Persona,Masks of Africa: Identities Hidden and Revealed. Inaddition to other masks and costumes from regionssouth of the Sahara, she displayed a number of Guromasks, the designs of which have changed little overmany years. Guro dancers, however, in their effortsto create a persona and distinguish themselvesfrom their competition, incorporate popular nightclub or street dance moves into an otherwise tradi-tional and choreographed performance. The effect ismesmerizing; it was this kind of artistaudience rela-tionship through performance that Bouttiauxwanted to establish in the gallery setting to evoke theGuro voice in these vibrant performances. How-ever, she argues that the deadening effect museumshave on the objects of living cultures is severe; pas-sive observation by gallery viewers cannot replaceactively experiencing the dynamism of a masquerade.She finds that attempts to enliven the masks throughcareful display strategies and the inclusion of addi-tional media from her fieldwork (e.g., films, photo-graphs, sound) in some ways only furtherdecontextualized them and placed them in a timelesspast or present. She explores how contemporaryexhibition practices and display can be addressed toavoid the othering of a society whose modernmasquerades represent the convergence of urban andrural culture.From his years of fieldwork in the Republic ofBenin, Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo, Henry Drewal hasobserved and participated in the interactive perfor-mance tradition known as call and response, a kindof awareness and dialogic engagement in ritualevents and daily life. As guest curator of the travelingexhibition Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits inAfrica and its Diaspora (Mami Wata is pidgin Eng-lish for Mother Water), Drewal, like Bouttiaux,wanted to utilize this kind of multi-sensory experi-ence, or sensiotics, as he calls it, to engage sight,sound, smell, touch, and even more personal sensessuch as emotions and feelings. The activation ofthese senses was the foundation for encouraging dia-logue between viewers and the works on display,learning about the history of different historical rep-resentations of Mami Wata and other water spiritsin Africa, providing a metaphor for a history of slav-ery made possible by water transport, and reflectingon how water usage is affecting the health of the pla-net for which we are all accountable. Different sec-tions of the exhibition were designed to provokedifferent kinds of responses, creating an active andinteractive space for museum visitors. Historical andengaging with pasts in the present5contemporary imagery provided multiple voicesor perspectives of Mami Wata, but it was the finalsection that truly formed a link between past andpresent. Several current African and African dias-pora artists were invited to install their contempo-rary interpretations of Mami Wata, with theirreflections about her providing the basis for much ofthe catalogue text. Their interaction and collabora-tion with Drewal during the planning stages of theexhibition included preparing grant applications,delineating the essential goals of the exhibition, andplanning an exit pieceall aimed at reaching diverseaudiences. But as with any exhibition, trying toengage viewers is a major challenge. For Drewal, thisengagement is crucial because it is the gateway todeeper understanding, reflection, and insight basedon disparate personal histories and experiences.Building on his several decades of fieldworkamong Native Alaskan peoples, Nelson Graburn givesa detailed account of an exhibition that in fact nevermaterialized. He reveals how this project, because ofthe various obstacles that precluded it from everbeing displayed, was a learning opportunity for himand his team of organizers in working collaborativelywith Native Alaskans, themselves serving as co-cura-tors. Graburn situates the specific changing exhibi-tion and collections practices at the Hearst Museumwithin broader trends, including the introduction ofnational repatriation legislation, the establishment ofindependently run museums by native peoples, andthe upward trend of collaborative museumcommunityexhibitions, to show how these important turningpoints have helped indigenous peoples begin to con-front and come to terms with the sometimes trau-matic events of their colonial past. Although neverexhibited, planning for the exhibit involved localNative Alaskan artists and scholars in the process ofmaking an exhibition and put them in contact withcultural artifacts long held in museum storerooms.This engagement was instrumental in establishingpositive relationships between the Hearst Museumand Native Alaskan communities. The re-introduc-tion of communities to formerly inaccessible materialheritage and documents (e.g., photographs) not onlyprovides evidence of ones heritage and cultural iden-tity but can also prompt the re-learning of forgottenknowledge and skills, [and] provide opportunities topiece together fragmented historical narratives(Peers and Brown 2003:6; see also Herle 2003:201).Collaboration with community members in the exhi-bition process, particularly in the planning and inter-pretation, did just that and also proved to be anenlightening experience for the museum staff whowere involved.I look at the tensions between the traditionaland the contemporary by describing my experienceco-curating an exhibition of Maya tourist art. Craft-ing Maya Identity: Contemporary Wood Sculpturesfrom the Puuc Region of Yucatan, Mexico, presentedthe woodcarvings of four Maya artisans with whom Icollaborated during several years of field research inpreparation for the exhibition. A major goal of theexhibition was to show how these tourist arts wereculturally and aesthetically complex modern Mayasculptures that, along with other relegated examplesof tourist art, deserve more art historical attention.The exhibition also provided evidence (via videointerviews, personal testimonies in signage, and theexhibition catalogue, et cetera) that the productionof these kinds of tourist arts promotes the continua-tion of traditional ideas that contribute to ongoingnotions of a Maya identity. The presence of theartisans at all three of the U.S. and Mexican venueswhere the exhibition traveled between 2009 and2011 served as further evidence, as they spoke abouttheir identity and heritage in gallery talks and tours,gave woodcarving demonstrations to art students,and had conversations with school children, donors,newspaper and radio reporters, museum and aca-demic staff, and the general public. With the publicprofile of these artisans suddenly raised to a levelthat contrasted with the relatively quiet lives theylead in rural Yucatan, there was concern that theymay have felt as though they were on display. Thus,following the final leg of the exhibition in Yucatan in2011, I spoke to each of them at length, asking whatwere highs and lows, successes, and failures. Whilesome aspects of the process might have been handleddifferently, the challenges, problems, and unexpectedsituations that arose were also learning experiencesfor all involved.The historical exchange relations and collectingpractices of Europeans, central to Pacific Encounters,are also central to Wayne Modests investigation ofhow and why we value what is now called ethno-graphic material. Modest provides a thoughtfulengaging with pasts in the present6reflection on what happens when things are not val-ued enough to be collected in the first place and theimplications of this lacuna for the future. Looking atbroader concepts of ancient and modern, Mod-est examines the historical attitudes that shapedearly collecting practices in Jamaica. As a formercurator of a Jamaican museum, he presents aninsightful and revisionist argument about thisscantly researched area of Jamaican history. Duringcolonial times, Jamaica was seen as a place of nature,not culture, because the authentic indigenous peo-ples (the Taino) had been decimated by disease andslavery. The Black Africans brought in to replacethem were the products of colonization, and thusnot quite primitive but also not quite moderneither. The collecting practices of early missionaries,colonizers, entrepreneurs, and other collectorshelped create a nation that is steeped in ambiguity asthey found scientific specimens of flora and faunamore worthy of preservation than the material cul-ture of Black Jamaica, the resident colonial immi-grants. Through a survey of ethnographic holdingsin numerous British museums, Modest reports rela-tively few Taino artifacts and almost nothing associ-ated with colonial Black Jamaican culture. Thishistory of non-collecting continues to foster Jamai-cas ambiguous identity as both modern and primi-tive, and has negatively impacted opportunities tolearn about the past via the kinds of exhibitions thatwould be possible today. The importance of thisessay is that it encourages reflection on our own col-lecting and exhibiting practices and existing preju-dices concerning what is deemed valuable in aculture and its history.In essence, exploration of these prejudices is aprincipal concern of all the contributors to this vol-ume. They argue that the future of exhibition practicemust be one where curators and those whose culturesare on display develop relationships, whether throughcollaboration, dialogue, or reconceptualizing history.Engagement and communication will help all sidescome to terms with a problematic past and createfresh perspectives on how to interpret this past andthe contemporary culture of its inheritors. Makingdialogue and collaboration standard practice betweenEuro-American and source community scholars,artists, and museum professionals will ensure thatexhibitions of cultural histories take account of, andare respectful of, the people, cultures, and artsrepresented.Concluding ThoughtsThe goal of this volume, as well as the symposiumthat preceded it at the University of East Anglia, is topresent some recent strategies in museum- and exhi-bition-making practices. In the exhibitions we orga-nize, being mindful of how collecting practices haveshaped our perceptions and prejudices about a cul-ture is just as important as prioritizing engagementwith and empathy for source communities. Givenpractical constraints, convening a larger forum withgreater representation by scholars and professionalsfrom source communities around the world was notpossible. We recognize that more debate and dialogueon this topic is needed from all practitioners andstakeholders involved in the field of cultural produc-tion (Bourdieu 1993:37). A complementary volumeabout recent exhibitions curated by indigenous cura-tors and their own exploratory journeys would mostcertainly be instructive and move the debate aboutcollaboration forward.At present, we offer this special issue of MuseumAnthropology as a small step toward thinking aboutthe future of exhibitions of ethnographic collections.Educating the gallery viewer about the contemporaryrealities of the groups and cultures on display is cru-cial for bringing these societies out of the realm oftimelessness and misrepresentation. Each of theseauthors, often combining empathy for, collaborationwith, and insights of source communities, has takensteps to create opportunities for interested parties tohave a greater voice, allowing the members of differ-ent cultures to find mutual understanding and, asShelton has said, to sit well with each other(2003:192).AcknowledgmentsI am grateful to Steven Hooper and Karen Jacobs, whomentored me during the preparation of this volume andprovided advice and guidance. I also appreciate the sup-port of many colleagues at the SRU who helped me planand organize the original symposium, to the contributorsfor their dedication to the symposium and publication,and to the editors of Museum Anthropology and anony-mous reviewers for their guidance, perceptive comments,and enthusiasm for this project.engaging with pasts in the present7notes1. For debates about the validity of the term art cross-cultur-ally, please see Morphy (1994).2. 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