Encounters with cultural material in museum collections: an Indigenous perspective

Abstract: Successfully navigating the collection repositories of museums is a challenging and
nuanced task. Indigenous cultural objects in museum collections all over the world are widely
understood as having been removed from an original context to be placed with new meanings,
under new hierarchies of value in systems still pungent with the residue of the colonial imperative.
For Indigenous Australians, these conditions ensure that encounters with collected objects are also
encounters with the system under which they were collected, an encounter with the subjugation of
the prevailing ideologies of the time, and an encounter with a contemporary reluctance to engage
with difficult histories.
This final thesis presentation will focus on encounters with collected cultural material from my own Yuwaalaraay country, the inland freshwater region of north western New South Wales. These
encounters are explored in relation to contemporary postcolonial frameworks including Museums as a Contact Zone as developed by James Clifford and Mary Louise Pratt, as well as Martin Nakata’s Cultural Interface Theory. Through these lenses, I explore sites of agency and potential, as well as probe limitations brought about by persistently defining the relationships between museums and source communities as dichotomous– as the ultimate colonial legacy of the self and the other. This research invites a reconsideration of historical Indigenous cultural material in collections not as relics of the past, but as products of life and experience, fundamentally grounded by a uniquely Indigenous Australian consideration of the concept of ‘Country’.

Jilda Andrews is from Yuwaalaraay Country. She is currently completing a PhD through the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies at the Australian National University

Date & time

Fri 28 Apr 2017, 4–5pm


4-5pm Sir Roland Wilson Theatrette (Building #120)


Jilda Andrews


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