Cataloguing Culture
260 pages, 6 x 9
20 b&w photos
Hardcover
Release Date:15 Jul 2020
ISBN:9780774863926
PDF
Release Date:15 Jul 2020
ISBN:9780774863940
EPUB
Release Date:15 Jul 2020
ISBN:9780774863957
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Cataloguing Culture

Legacies of Colonialism in Museum Documentation

UBC Press

How does material culture become data? Why does this matter, and for whom? As the cultures of Indigenous peoples in North America were mined for scientific knowledge, years of organizing, classifying, and cataloguing hardened into accepted categories, naming conventions, and tribal affiliations – much of it wrong.

Cataloguing Culture examines how colonialism operates in museum bureaucracies. Using the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as her reference, Hannah Turner organizes her study by the technologies framing museum work over 200 years: field records, the ledger, the card catalogue, the punch card, and eventually the database. She examines how categories were applied to ethnographic material culture and became routine throughout federal collecting institutions.

As Indigenous communities encounter the documentary traces of imperialism while attempting to reclaim what is theirs, this timely work shines a light on access to and return of cultural heritage.

Museum practitioners, historians, anthropologists, and media scholars will find the practices and assumptions of their fields revealed in this indispensable work.

Cataloguing Culture is much needed inspiration for museum professionals and information managers to reconsider the nomenclatures and lexicons applied to Indigenous material culture. It’s a valuable resource for understanding how respectful, well-informed naming can be a meaningful step toward reconciliation. Words matter and must be chosen wisely. Alissa Cherry, research manager, Museum of Anthropology at UBC
This is by far one of the most exciting and original examinations of the history of ethnographic museums I have come across. Jane Anderson, co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property
Cataloguing Culture is a significant reflection upon the colonial ideologies embedded in the classification processes of museums. Truly illuminating. Alison K. Brown, Personal Chair in Social Anthropology, University of Aberdeen
Hannah Turner is an information and museum studies scholar, and is an assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of British Columbia. She has published in journals such as Museum Anthropology, Knowledge Organization, and Cataloging and Classification Quarterly. From 2018 to 2019 she was a lecturer in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Preface

Introduction: “The Making of Specimens Eloquent”

1 Writing Desiderata: Defining Evidence in the Field

2 On the Margins: Paper Systems of Classification

3 Ordering Devices and Indian Files: Cataloguing Ethnographic Specimens

4 Pragmatic Classification: The Routine Work of Description after 1950

5 Object, Specimen, Data: Computerization and the Legacy of Dirty Data

Conclusion: A Museum Data Legacy for the Future

Notes; Bibliography; Index

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