Critical Companions Series: Objects of Science and Culture

The Critical Companions Series celebrates innovative and rich thinking. The series aims to traverse disciplinary silos to provoke different perspectives and invite new conversations.

Ethnographic museums across Europe are full of objects with a troubled past. The interests of early collectors rarely extended to detailed provenance and the often-colonial context of early collecting left such material tainted by unpalatable histories, not easily rescued even by the new taxonomy of ‘world culture’. But these collections have lives beyond their historic problems. As archives of shell, fibre, hair, tendon, feather, leather and wood, they also offer environmental snapshots of the place and time of their origin, some more than a century old.

Through a case study of an Australian shell ornament held in Stockholm’s National Ethnographic Museum, Christine Hansen’s project explores the opportunity to reconceive such collections as baseline environmental data. Reconfiguring ethnographic collections as both scientific and cultural not only invites western biodiversity scientists into museum storehouses, it shines a light on non-western knowledge systems in communities of origin, born of deep ties to more-than-human life-worlds. In this exchange, new environmental understandings are advanced and new relevance is given to objects stranded in European collections.


00:00   Introduction and Welcome to Country – Rebecca Lawrence
01:20   Objects of Science and Culture – Christine Hansen
33:55   Recognising Swedish Colonialism and Historic Trauma


Christine Hansen, historian and curator, QVMAG Tasmania
Rebecca Lawrence (Chair), Senior Research Fellow, Sydney Environment Institute

This event was held via Zoom on Thursday 15 October, 2020.

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