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Lecture – Howard Morphy

November 8 2013 @ 12:00 am


will be given by

Professor Howard Morphy, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Research School of Humanities at the Australian National University

The Displaced Local: multiple agency in the building of ethnographic collections

Friday 8 November 2013, 5.30pm, in the BP Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG.

The event is free, but places must be booked at https://morphy.eventbrite.co.uk/


National Museums have always been both global and local, collecting widely and holding locally. Ethnographic collections provide a prime example, bringing together in a single institution collections representing different cultures from around the world. The recent globalization of museum discourse and practice has resulted in an inversion of this situation. Indigenous communities, the local cultures of original production, are regaining a degree of agency over the collections of their material culture that have been distributed globally. This has often been framed as a counter movement to the colonial processes that were entangled in the building of the collections. Such a perspective, however, can mask the agency and motivations of the builders of collections in the past and fail to recognize the transformational role that museums have played in ideational change. The lecture will focus on the motivations of Yolngu, Aboriginal Australians from Northern Australia, in collaborating with researchers and others in building collections over the past three-quarters of a century. This perspective from active engagement in the present provides a very different light on the past than one that subordinates the development of collections to the enterprise of a ‘colonial science’.

Enquiries to: RAI, 50 Fitzroy St, London W1T 5 BT; tel 020 7387 0455; email


November 8 2013
12:00 am
Event Category: