Monday, April 9, 2012



FROM “Hunting the Collectors: Pacific Collections in Australian Museums, Art Galleries and Archives

  • Editor: Susan Cochrane and Max Quanchi 
  • Date Of Publication: Feb 2007 
  • Isbn13: 9781847180841 
  • Isbn: 1-84718-084-1 
 CHAPTER 3: The perils of ethnographic provenance: the documentation of the Johnson Fiji Collection in the South Australian Museum RODERICK EWINS 

This essay addresses the vexed questions of provenance and authenticity of objects that have been collected and made accessible for study. It calls for an exploration of the way in which these have often been uncritically accepted solely on the basis of notes and comments made by the original collectors. The difficulty is that the authority with which collectors were able to speak varied enormously, and even when the collectors obtained objects personally from the original owners, it cannot be assumed that they understood clearly the names, purposes or provenance of the objects they obtained” [RE] ..... The problem with things is that they are dumb .... And if by some ventriloquism they seem to speak, they lie once removed from the continuity of everyday uses in time and space and made exquisite on display, stabilised and conserved, objects are transformed in the meanings that they may be said to carry [1 Crew & Sims 1991: 159.]” – “ ..... Most collectors had made little or no effort to establish exactly where, or by whom, they had been made or used. And second, a few of these collectors had passed on notes with the objects, ranging from terse to quite expansive, about the names, nature and uses of the objects in their originating society. Such notes were, as usual, carefully transcribed into the catalogues of the Museum, and thence onto labels identifying the objects in display cases, to give them some voice and overcome their dumbness ..... The trouble with all of this transcribing and labelling was that in many cases the ventriloquist’s voice did indeed lie. Most dangerous was the case where the lie was mixed with smatterings of truth. Non‑specialist visitors and observers in the Museum, if they read these labels carefully (as I have observed many doing), were given a range of false impressions and thus attitudes, even convictions. They were no longer, as they were when entering the museum, merely uninformed. They were now misinformed, and took away with them erroneous and misleading information on which to base future judgements, and to pass on to others.” [RE] Pages 32 & 33

 Roderick Ewins Link: Click Here 
BOOKlink: Click Here  

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