Monday 23 April 2012

Museum Ethnographers Group Conference 2012

The Museum Ethnographers Group was established in 1975 and their aim is to promote an understanding of museum ethnography. Membership is not restricted to museum curators; anyone with an interest in ethnography can join and be kept up-to-date via the newsletter, twitter and website.

Last week the MEG’s annual conference was held in the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. This two day affair was an exciting opportunity for the team to meet up with museum folk from all over the UK and gain insight into the world of museums. The location itself was ideal (just a stone’s throw from the library!) with NMS looking inspiring after the refurbishment.

This year’s theme was 'Multiple Dialogues: interpreting ethnographic collections in the 21st century' which was of particular interest to us and Carmichael’s material collection. It was fascinating to hear the speakers and learn of the various methods for presenting and interpreting collections from all over the world. A speaker from Zeeuws Museum in the Netherlands, Caroline van Santen, spoke about a Blackfoot exhibit and how she worked closely with Clifford Crane, a Blackfoot Indian, in order to gain a greater understanding of the objects in the collection. Catherine Moore from the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent spoke about how she worked with the Angolan community in preparation for a forthcoming exhibit ‘TALA! - Visions of Angola’.

Another interpretation of the theme was the museums’ youth programs. A number of speakers discussed their thriving programs and upcoming exhibits as chosen by the young curators (14-24 years old). Two of these young curators co-presented a talk about their exhibit entitled ‘The Curious Case of the …’ a play on the Victorian cabinet of curiosities. These programs allow them to organise the exhibit from choosing the objects, researching the selected objects, labeling, presenting and designing the leaflets. These opportunities only made me wish I was ten years younger!

The conference was a great event and it offered us a new perspective on Carmichael’s collection housed at both the West Highland Museum and the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh.

A brooch from the Carmichael Collection, West Highland Museum

West Highland Museum

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]