Author Archives: Haidy Geismar

Haidy Geismar

About Haidy Geismar

Lecturer, Digital Anthropology and Material Culture, UCL

Call for Papers: Photography in Print

Via Prof. Elizabeth Edwards, De Montfort University
22-23 JUNE 2015
Photographic History Research Centre De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

The 2015 PHRC Annual International Conference will address the complex and wide range question of ‘photography in print.’ The conference aims to explore the functions, affects and dynamics of photographs on the printed page. Many of the engagements with photographs, both influential and banal, are through print, whether in newspapers, books, magazines or advertising. We would like to consider what are the practices of production and consumption? What are the affects of design and materiality? How does the photograph in print present a new dynamic of photography’s own temporal and spatial qualities? In addition, photography can be said to be ‘made’ through the printed page and ‘print communities’. What is the significance of photography’s own robust journal culture in the reproduction of photographic values? How has photographic history been delivered through the printed page? What are the specific discourses of photography in the print culture of disciplines as diverse as history and art history, science and technology?

Photography in Print continues the theme of previous PHRC conferences, which have explored photographic business practices and flows of photographic knowledge. We would, therefore, like to invite abstracts for papers on these important themes of photography in print. We welcome papers not only on the printed media itself but also on its contextualising processes (e.g. techniques, reception, work practices, design and social impacts). We also welcome interdisciplinary studies from, for example science, history, anthropology, and mass-media. Papers might consider the following key topics but, of course, are not limited to them:

  • Photographic Press
  • Journals and Magazines
  • Photographic Books
  • Writing about Photography (historiography)
  • Photography’s printed ephemera
  • Printed photographs and social as well as technical change

Papers are welcome from all career stages. The PHRC can offer three small bursaries of £100 to help Ph.D. students with travel and accommodation expenses. Please indicate when submitting your abstract if you would like to be considered.

Abstracts of no more than 200-300 words should be sent to: by December 1st 2014.

Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters May 14-21, 2015

Via Jason Jackson, Mathers Museum

The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history. The call for applications for Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters closes November 15, 2014.

Across the world, as academically based scholars of social and cultural theory graft new shoots onto the older disciplinary roots of their work, their counterparts in the museum are drawing new meaning from the artifacts and images that fill their galleries and storerooms. This project leverages Indiana University’s resources in both humanities scholarship and museum practice to bring those groups together-marrying global theorists with practitioners of learning in localized, sensory environments, and asking what each can teach the other about the ties that join world cultures.

Today’s international museum professionals–many of them working in institutions whose missions and collections still reflect that institution’s Enlightenment-era faith in categorization, hierarchy, empiricism, and disciplinary clarity–must navigate their way through a series of challenges to the very relevance of their work. Which way will they turn through these crossroads?

For the purpose of this program, we identify three such crossroads as particularly pertinent to the ongoing vitality of museums as places of learning and discovery:

Cultural Crossroads: the challenge of understanding interconnected, global cultures that are no longer easily categorized, as they were in the era in which many of the world’s most prominent museums came into being, along a traditional normative scale ranging from “civilized” to “primitive”

Disciplinary Crossroads: the challenge of adapting institutions steeped in disciplinary tradition (as sites for the practice of history, anthropology, natural history, etc.) to the new work of scholarly disciplines increasingly inclined to draw upon one another’s methods and sources in their shared pursuit of understanding of the human condition

Artifactual Crossroads: the challenge of adapting to the blurred lines that now separate traditionally defined categories of “virtual” and “real” in our encounters with the material world

The challenge faced by museums–such as the Mathers–that seek to understand global culture is, in other words, no longer simply one of ensuring global coverage. It is instead to restore to the museum the vibrancy, nimbleness, and sense of opportunity that led scholars, curators, and their audiences alike to see in places such as the Smithsonian (or, more than a century later, the MMWC) the genuine opportunity for both the discovery (“increase”) and teaching (“diffusion”) of new knowledge about the world.

Others are facing this challenge already. Museum scholars and practitioners have considered elements of these problems in conferences, exhibitions, and published research. Nowhere, however, have we seen our crossroads defined as discrete elements of a single, common challenge: that of making museums-localized sites of interaction among humans and material artifacts-work in a world increasingly characterized by abstract social relationships and immaterial experiences. Such a challenge requires intellectual tools beyond those traditionally employed within the professional world of museums, just as it demands a level of engagement-with artifacts and with audiences-beyond that commonly associated with scholars in the academy.

Museums at the Crossroads accomplishes its goals through an eight-day program of workshops, tours, charrettes, and social interactions among its participants. The result of their collaboration will be threefold:

For IU: The institute yields a set of program or exhibition proposals, based on the MMWC’s mission and collections, intended to maximize the museum’s future impact on research and teaching within the College, the SGIS, and across the campus.

For conference attendees’ home institutions: The institute results in a corresponding “take-home” project based on two shared questions designed to force these local sites into a global dialogue: “What can your museum teach the world?” and “What can your museum learn from the world?” Through additional fundraising and intellectual collaboration beyond the initial grant period, we hope to realize these projects and link them to one another through virtual sites or traveling components.

For the larger community of scholars and practitioners: The work of the institute and its follow-on projects will be documented in diverse publishing venues, including Museum Anthropology Review, the MMWC’s peer-reviewed, open access journal. Published materials deriving from the institute will include a publicly and permanently available (via IUScholarWorks Repository) project report authored by the principal investigators in cooperation with campus faculty participants.

This project has been made possible by the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University.

For media inquiries: Judith Kirk, Assistant Director,, or 812-855-1696

For general questions or applications: Sarah Hatcher, Head of Programs and Education,, or 812-855-0197.

Review Essay: “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge”

This critical examination of the 2013 double issue of Museum Anthropology Review (MAR), entitled “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge,” (volume 7, numbers 1-2) was written by our spring 2014 class on the Anthropology in and of Museums, as part of the Museum Studies MA Program at New York University.  Contributors included Brittany Darrow, Christina Fernandez, Mary Kate Gliedt, Houda Lazrak, Jacqueline Masseo, Maria Montenegro, Edward Ovadek, and Laura Williams; and the project was overseen by our professor, Dr. Sabra Thorner (who facilitated class discussion on the journal issue and its broader context in Anthropology and Museum Studies, and had a final editorial role over the contents).  We’d like to collectively thank Barbara Mathé, Museum Archivist and head of Library Special Collections at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, who planted the seed for this idea and participated actively in several conversations about this issue’s contents and significance; and Jim Enote, Director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center at Zuni, New Mexico, who was a guest speaker in our class during the process.

In this review, we address the issue’s prominent themes and discuss the collection’s contribution to the field of digital repatriation and return. Our first concern was to define terms and unpack metaphors, and we found anthropologist Haidy Geismar’s concluding commentary to be our most helpful guide (see her essay, “Defining the Digital”).  She outlines three defining characteristics of the digital.  The first is that digital objects are born digital, and thus, their production and preservation depend on constantly changing forms of hardware and software.  The second characteristic involves translation into and out of binary code; through minute changes in coding, very different objects are created.  Thirdly, as metadata is permanently attached to digital files, the distinction between an artifact and the information about that artifact is increasingly difficult to discern.  Geismar emphasizes that the digital is a process rather than a fixed materiality; as such, digital collections present a unique set of circumstances, issues, and solutions, for museums and source communities alike.  These qualities were central to the case-studies addressed in this review.

The study of digital collections emerges originally from the 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a federal law that endowed native tribes and communities with the right to request return of human remains (and associated objects) held in publicly-funded U.S. institutions, but more importantly, ushered in a sea-change in museums’ commitment to more collaborative and inclusive engagement with “source communities.”  Digital collections emerged as a possible solution to repatriation—increasing source community access to objects and knowledge in contexts when analogue repatriation was perhaps impractical or impossible.  Images, films, objects, and texts have been digitally “repatriated.”  With this in mind, this issue of MAR examines how digitization influences methods and forms of knowledge production, and how digital objects move within and across different cultures of knowledge management and preservation.  Scholars, activists, community members, and museum professionals are together investigating and analyzing what digital repatriation means in terms of ownership, access, the production of knowledge, the maintenance of personal and collective identities, and the negotiation of power relations.

As objects and knowledge become increasingly inseparable, some scholars raise concern about the blurring of boundaries between originals and their copies.  Philosopher Walter Benjamin argued for the aura of a unique, original object (see his 1931 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”)—a sensation or atmosphere that it constructs, emanating from its singularity and its relation to the genius or divine inspiration of the maker.  Applying the notion of the aura to Indigenous objects held in public museums, source communities make claims to have their objects returned because these objects make their cultures, languages, knowledges, and lifeways, tangible.  The creation of digital surrogates raises important questions about the significance of original artifacts.  Many of the articles in “After the Return” acknowledge these complexities.

“Collaboration” is one of many strong themes in this issue: in its simplest form, pointing towards the working together necessary to achieve a larger goal.  Collaboration can be an effective strategy to improve both museums’ and Indigenous communities’ access to objects and information.  Yet it is important to remember that collaboration is an ongoing process, not a fixed destination: it must be striven for via listening and respect; it can also go awry when goals are understood differently by different parties.  “Contact zones,” is perhaps a more helpful metaphor in understanding the coming together of different peoples or communities, to establish ongoing relations amidst legacies of colonial power relations, including inequality, conflict, and/or coercion (see Clifford 1997).  We argue that every example of “collaboration” might be rethought as a negotiation between multiple viewpoints.  In the “contact zone,” struggle and negotiation may in fact be productive, enriching communities’ access to their objects of cultural heritage, and/or improving museum collections at the same time (see Srinivasan, Enote, Becvar, and Boast 2008 for an example of a “contact zone” in action).

One successful example of this in the MAR volume is the FirstVoices Initiative (see the article by Smith, Wells, and Brand), in which the provincial government of Vancouver Island endowed the Ehattesaht Chinehkint community with legal property rights to the contents of a digital language archive (see also Leopold, Sarkar, this volume).  Yet collaboration also occasionally breaks down, as evidenced by the article by Shankar and Hooee on the return of cultural heritage materials to the New Mexico pueblo of Zuni from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  In this example, Zuni elders refused a proposal to raise funds to acquire the infrastructure and tools needed to store the Doris Duke Storytelling Collection, resulting in no increased access to tapes imagined by project coordinators to be important in a language revitalization project.

These examples illustrate that “repatriation” is not an uncomplicated or inherent good; nor are communities necessarily unified in their desires/needs for further or reinstated access to artifacts originating from their homeplaces or made by their forbears.  Collections and their (potential) processes of return are so contested precisely because Indigenous communities and museums have had conflicting structures, systems, and strategies for accessing (and controlling access to) knowledge.  For many Indigenous peoples, objects are alive and therefore, must be treated with respect.  Different communities have different restrictions for the access to and use of traditional knowledge—based on the nature of the object or knowledge (if it is sacred or secret); and/or the age, gender, initiation status, or cultural origin of the person wishing to have access.

Putting objects, photographs, and other culturally-significant materials online challenges native communities who are often striving for more control, and/or reinstated ownership or custodianship, as they try to devise strategies of sharing and privacy consistent with traditional protocols (see the article by Anderson and Christen for an innovative strategy on this front).  In the Introduction to this MAR issue (see Bell, Christen, and Turin) the editors favor the idiom of “return,” rather than “repatriation,” as a linguistic emphasis on the processual nature of shifting relationships between public institutions and source communities.  “Return” is not a conclusion of a relationship or a solution to a concrete problem, but rather, an initiation of decentering the authority of museums and other holding institutions, an impetus to develop strategies of shared custodianship of objects, and value for other ways of storing and transmitting knowledge.  As Jim Enote argues in the Introduction, digital return is not just about sending copies of material culture home to communities of origin, but also about reinstating their legal control and enabling their cultural oversight over Indigenous ways of knowing.

Control can be shared between a museum and a community; it can also be ceded by an institution to an original source community.  In their article “Sound Returns,” authors Reddy and Sonnenborn mobilize four case studies in which musical recordings were returned to communities all over the world, in various ways, in order to illustrate successful transfer of power from the Smithsonian archives to local hands.  This labor can strengthen fragile communities—as they regain access to cultural forms that may no longer have been prevalent or current—and, in some cases, provide specific financial boon (in the form of royalties) to the original sources of these musical forms.  These efforts of return have also inspired dialogue about what is appropriate for public access, and what should be restricted (how, and under what terms).

In other examples, it is debatable as to whether power is being returned to communities in any meaningful way, or rather, if a particular project perpetuates community dependence on institutions.  For example, the Tlingit-Smithsonian collaborations via 3-D digitization technologies (see the article by Hollinger et al) illustrates a successful coming together of a national museum and a native community, in which original artifacts were returned to the Pacific Northwest, and replicas retained by the Smithsonian.  While this article celebrates the positive outcomes, for our class, this example in particular raised important concerns and questions.  The infrastructure required to conduct three dimensional scanning and printing is expensive and owned by the National Museum of Natural History: does a project like this reinforce the power of the Smithsonian, as native communities remain dependent on the national institution to use (and/or benefit from) this technology?  If original objects were damaged or destroyed, the replica would still exist in museum collections; yet what are the implications of this on long-term power relations between the community and the museum?  Thinking through this collectively, we return to Zuni elder Jim Enote’s words once again: a digital replica is not equal to an original; and technologies such as these might in fact reinforce the colonial power relations of old, allowing museums to retain originals and return aura-less surrogates to communities.  Enote’s caution illustrates that while one technological innovation—3D printing—was an exciting development for one “source community” (Tlingit), it was something to be suspicious of for another (Zuni); there is no singular solution to return (whether in the form of digital surrogacy, or shifting ownership) for all Indigenous peoples whose objects currently reside in museums.

Several digital repatriation projects outlined in this volume bear witness to the advantages of digitally returning culturally significant material to Indigenous groups.  However, hardware and software developments may also impede the successful return of tangible and intangible culture.  Hooee and Shankar’s experience with the Doris Duke Zuni Storytelling Collection illustrates that outdated hardware and information systems can prevent access to language revitalization resources.  Although audiocassettes containing Zuni story recordings from the 1970s are physically present at Zuni, the obsolete playback technology is too outdated for the community to listen to the tapes.  The current information system at the Zuni Public Library also lacks the infrastructure to store a digitized version of the recorded stories.  In this context, digital return is not a uni-directional process, traveling only from museums to source communities, but rather involves the flow of knowledge and representations in many directions and via multiple technologies.

Indeed, greater emphasis on the diverse set of challenges posed by digital technology is needed.  Colonial legacies embedded in collections; the expense of hardware and software maintenance and migration; geographical remoteness of many communities from urban centers; Indigenous restrictions of access to traditional knowledge; and the limited digital literacy of many in these communities represent just a few of many challenges in implementing digital “return.”  Several essays in this volume fail to acknowledge these social, political, and economic conditions, embedded in and central to the projects they describe.  For instance, how are Indigenous representations altered in a museum when 3-D objects are exhibited hand in hand with original ones (see Hollinger et al)?  Do colonial legacies subtly recreate power structures in the relationship between Smithsonian professionals and Inuvialuit culture-bearers as they produce a virtual exhibit of the MacFarlane Collection (see Hennessy et al)?  Should digital surrogates of objects provided by the NMAI to native groups be used to create local community exhibitions (see O’Neal)?  This volume presents a collection of success stories.  And while these are important to acknowledge, equally important to recognize is that each collaborative project between Indigenous groups and large public institutions is faced with a unique set of challenges (see Dobrin and Holton, for an example).  These limitations should be addressed in scholarly publications to prepare the stakeholders of future initiatives to creatively problem-solve, fully aware of the efforts that have gone before them.  Native communities’ needs must be considered on a case-to-case basis.

Further, the title of this special issue, “After the Return,” leads one to believe that the heart of the issue will be to discuss the effects that digital return has had on these communities.  However, while the majority of articles discuss a specific digital repatriation project, not much attention is given to what actually happens after the return.  How are Indigenous communities integrating, rejecting, adapting, contributing to, and responding to the advent and proliferation of new digital technologies?  For example, in the article “The Inuvialuit Living History Project: Digital Return as the Forging of Relationships Between Institutions, People, and Data” (Hennessy et al), the authors focus on the process of creating a digital archive, emphasizing the importance of the relationships forged during the project.  If the topic of this particular issue of MAR was to discuss what happens after the return, this article, among many others, falls short of that task.  Too much emphasis is given to how these digital repatriation projects came to be, not interrogating what their role has become within the relevant Indigenous communities.  The focus was on process, not on outcome, and indeed perhaps, as the authors of the Introduction assert in their favoring of “return” over “repatriation,” the emphasis on process was quite purposeful; nonetheless, there is something here that leaves the reader unsatisfied.  We can only begin to know the importance of these digital repatriation projects through studying how effective and useful they actually are to the communities going forward from the moment of “return.”

This special issue of MAR discusses the implications of digitally (and otherwise) returning objects, knowledge, and other forms of cultural heritage from museums to the Indigenous communities from which they originated.  This is a significant effort in a defining moment in Museum Anthropology and related fields.  “Contact zones,” take many forms: efforts that have improved various stakeholders’ access, such as the international collective Reciprocal Research Network (see Rowley), or using a 3-D printer to reproduce Tlingit artifacts for museums when originals have been returned to their source communities (see Hollinger); and some that have illustrated how complex access can be as a goal, such as Zuni recordings held in the Library of Congress with limited accessibility both in the Library and in Zuni (Shankar and Hooee), or the Smithsonian Folkways recording process and its concern for degrees of knowledge within Indigenous communities (Reddy and Sonneborn).

Overall, the articles in this volume illuminate the complex nature of digital “return.”  Museum anthropologists have only just begun the investigation into its practice and possibility.  Their attempts have been innovative and intriguing, and the future of the field can be glimpsed in their successes and failures.  The digital mediation of our social lives, as Geismar tells us, is no longer emergent, but rather, already well-established.  Taken as a whole, the articles in this issue of Museum Anthropology Review (2013) prove that “return” is both a metaphor and a genre of social relations worth examining, one that wields the potential to revolutionize both the future of museums and the representations of Indigenous peoples, ushering in partnership, respect, power-sharing, and collaboration as foundational to all future endeavors.

Works Cited

Bell, Joshua, Kimberly Christen, and Mark Turin, eds. “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge.” Special Issue, Museum Anthropology Review 7, nos. 1-2 (2013).

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” 1931.

Clifford, James. “Museums as Contact Zones.” In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. 188-219. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Srinivasan, Ramesh, Katherine M. Becvar, Robin Boast, and Jim Enote, “Diverse Knowledges and Contact Zones within the Digital Museum.” Science, Technology & Human Values 35, no. 5 (2008): 735-768.


On Scanning Fluff

Haidy Geismar, UCL


I’ve been working on a paper for a workshop on “Transforming data: drawing otherness into data debates” next week. I will be talking about one of  my current research projects, Te Ara Wairua – Pathways of the Intangible. In collaboration with Kura Puke and Stuart Foster of Massey University and Te Matahiapo Research Organization in Aotearoa New Zealand we have been exploring how digital technologies can connect to a Maori Korowai (cloak) held currently in the UCL Ethnography Collections.


Tukutuku roimata, I.0013, see,[/caption]

Together we are developing a critical perspective on the ways in which digital technologies can, or cannot, be used to connect communities to far away collections. We all have different interests and investments in the project, and these have generated different research questions. Kura Puke and Te Matahiapo have brought the Maori conception of Wairua (meaning spiritual energy), to the project. This is a category that instantiates Maori philosophies of the virtual within which the digital fits neatly inside. Wairua is understood as a form of connectivity across space and time connecting people, through taonga such as the Maori cloak. Stuart Foster, a spatial designer, is interested in creating virtual environments in which people can simultaneously experience the same events and objects. As curator of the Ethnography collection and director of the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology, I am interested in thinking about the process of digitization and exploring different digital modalities in order to critique the world view and subject position that is all too often celebrated unthinkingly in contemporary efforts to reconstruct objects as 3d Digital surrogates.


Huirangi Eruera Waikerepuru, Mereiwa Broughton, Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Tengaruru Wineera being projected through Facetime into UCL Octagon Gallery from Wharenui Te Ururongo, Pouakai, on June 17, 2014


Representatives of Ngati Ranana, and UCl Museums and Collections engaging with Te Matahiapo in the UCL Octagon Gallery, June 17 2014

 Together our project has had a number of different events and outputs. We have held several virtual powhiri – ritual environments in which Maori elders have been able to connect to communities in London through real time broadband and cellular connections. We have exhibited the cloak within a digital environment using specially developed sound carrying light. These LEDs channel live sounds to bathe the cloak with light drawing attention to the materiality and environmental qualities of the digital and creating a DIY method of facilitating connection between communities and artefacts across time and space. We have experimented with 3D imaging of the cloak, using laser scanning, photogrammetry, and different software platforms.


An attempt to create a 3D image of the cloak using photogrammetry

In the places I’ve presented this already we have started to think a lot about deconstructing the positivism of 3D scanning in museum projects. The Korowai, made up of flax, wool, and the hair of the polynesian dog is remarkably resistant to digital data capture – its very difficult to scan textiles or to recreate the exact form of hair tassels. I’m interested to explore this process in terms of what the digitization process can illuminate about the object even if it is a failure in terms of creating a perfect simulacrum. Do my “failed” scans and photogrammetric representations of the cloak expose something else about the object? A sense of loss and disconnect? or do they open the door to alternative ways in which digital technology may represent the cloak?

I’ve therefore been thinking about failed scanning and failed digital representation. I took a piece of wool, similar to that on the cloak, from the Ethnography Collections to UCL’s Institute of Making and have spent some time trying to scan it with the intention of showing the limits of current technologies to represent certain kinds of objects. Working with the Institute employee and artist Zachary Eastwood Bloom we struggled to scan the fluff to various degrees of failure.


3d scan of a piece wool from the ethnography collections

Whilst there are craftspeople who could create a perfect simulacrum of wool using digital tools, the photographic metaphors currently used to describe 3d museum collections failed us in trying to understand the kinds of images of wool and fluff we generated directly from the 3D scanner. The conversation turned at the Institute of Making in the same direction my conversation with Kura and stuart had turned – what other properties of digital materialities could bring us closer to these objects?

Eastwood Bloom’s own work mirrors that of our work within Te Ara Wairua. He has been interested in converting 3D digital scans of objects by editing the scans to create new kinds of objects and like us is interested in the process of translation that the digital affords – converting light into shape, two dimensions into three. Uncannily just as we were converting the cloak into a landscape using gaming software, converting sounds channeled from New Zealand into light to connect to the Cloak at UCL, and converting images of the cloak into sound,  Zachary was experimenting with creating digital terrains from audio outputs.

This convergence shows the benefits of having a make space like the Institute of Making on campus  enabling academics to move their ideas into material realm no matter what their discipline or skills set. These experiments, and our research project with the cloak, are increasingly working with the digital as a medium of translation rather than a technique of perfect visualization which has important effects for the possibilities of how we may use digital collections to connect objects to communities in ways other than that of the simulacrum, using discourses other than that of “virtual” repatriation.

Survivor Objects

“Survivor Objects” considers the meanings of material objects that have been tempered by trauma. By bearing historical witness, such objects can come to hold a privileged place in cultural memory and, as a result, play a powerful role for present-day communities. The symposium features faculty, graduate students, curators, and conservation specialists from across the country.  Please see the full program for panel and paper topics.

Details are available on the website


CALL FOR PAPERS: The Craft Museum: Ideals and Practice

March 13, 2015, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Keynote: Sir Christopher Frayling, former Rector, Royal College of Art

Paper submissions from senior and emerging museum professionals, scholars, and educators are invited for this symposium, which will examine the role of the craft museum in modern culture. Coinciding with the renovation of the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian’s national craft museum, this program seeks a lively dialogue on craft’s institutional mission, and the execution of programming devoted to the collection, conservation, presentation, and study of craft. The issue of how to interpret the field of craft in a museum setting is increasingly urgent as the boundaries of its teaching, practice, reception, and the discipline’s very definition shift dramatically in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Potential topics include:

-       The museum as an engine of craft research and scholarship

-       Diversifying audiences for craft

-       Materiality and the digital museum

-       Viewing craft: new approaches to museum design

-       Evolving interpretations of skill

-       The conceptual turn in an aesthetic field

-       STEAM? Museums and craft education

-       Competing interpretations of craft in museums of art, anthropology, and archaeology

-       Museum citizenship, ethics, and the public trust

-       Interpretive and collection strategies for post-studio craft

-       The future of studio craft collections

-       The relationship between museums and the academy

-       Craft’s position within large institutions

-       The state of the dedicated craft institution

-       The history of craft museology

Please submit a 300-word abstract and short CV to Nicholas Bell, The Fleur and Charles Senior Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art, and Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, at Proposals are due by December 5, 2014. Applicants will be notified of their status by January 2, 2015. The symposium will be webcast.

RAI Horniman Museum Collecting Initiative (2014-2015)

As part of Collections People Stories: Anthropology Re-Considered, an Arts Council England (ACE) funded project taking place at the Horniman Museum, 2012-2015, we are seeking PhD Students or Postdoctoral Fellows, who plan to carry out fieldwork in 2014-2015 to make small collections for the museum.

Deadline: 30 September 2014

Collections People Stories: Anthropology Re-Considered is undertaking a detailed review and documentation of the Horniman’s Anthropology collections, highlighting the range, scale and importance of both its stored collections and those on display. The project sets out to investigate new and innovative ways of collections research, engagement and interpretation. It will facilitate academic and community consultation and debate, to both unpack the legacy of the anthropology collections and unlock their values for communities and visitors today. The different activities and events over the course of the project will feed into establishing a vision, and funding bid, for a major new anthropology gallery at the museum.

The Horniman has had a long legacy of fieldwork collecting. As part of the Collections People Stories project, they are keen to further expand on their remit of contemporary collecting at the museum.

We would like applicants to collect a single object or small selection of objects related to their own research area that would be of interest to the museum. The object needs to be visually appealing and culturally significant, an object that would easily lend itself to being displayed at the museum. The object/s collected should also have a rich context and we strongly encourage the use of photographs and videos showing the object being used and/or being made.

We are also interested in proposals that employ different models of field collecting, for instance asking local people what they would collect to represent themselves etc.

Please send us a proposal (up to 1,500 words) outlining, in brief, your research interests, fieldwork plans, including a proposal of objects you would like to collect for the museum.

£500 in expenses will be given to 3 people, selected by the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Please note: This fee includes object acquisition, packing and transport costs, so please take this into account within your proposal. Please also bear in mind museum conservation and storage issue when choosing your object. The Horniman’s Acquisition Policy can be found here:

Those selected will be expected to meet with Horniman curators before fieldwork, write a short report for the museum and an object narrative which will be posted on the museum’s website,

If you have any questions regarding the Horniman Museum collections, or want to know more about the holdings from your specific research areas, please contact Sarah Byrne,

All submissions should be sent by 30 September 2014 to: Amanda Vinson, Royal Anthropological Institute, 50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 5BT (

Made in Palestine

Christopher Pinney, UCL

[Please note: this  post was written before the intensification of the current Israeli offensive on Gaza]

I decided to transgress the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) injunction and attend a conference on ‘The Photographic Imagination’ in Tel Aviv in June 2014 for several reasons.  The two central ones concerned, firstly, the Apartheid analogy. Having taught a short course at the University of Cape Town in 2000 it was quite apparent that there were many courageous dissident academic intellectuals that had been a key element of the resistance during the 1980s and earlier. Collaboration with them would have been quite different from buying South African produce. The second reason has an element of illogicality, which is repeatedly pointed out to me: Syria. At a time when a nearby regime is murdering so many of its opponents (albeit opponents increasingly gripped by a fanatical politics), it seemed disproportionate to single out Israel for one’s disapproval.

So I went, in the spirit of openness, empathy and wanting to be challenged, not knowing what might unfold. In the previous three weeks I taught in Krakow and spent much time in Kazimierz and the ghetto, and read Tadieusw Pankiewicz’s Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy and Wladyislaw Spzliman’s The Pianist. I felt I was in no doubt about the profound historical shadow that would inform much of what I would encounter in Israel/Palestine.

We flew El Al (a condition of the conference organisers) and (I was subsequently informed), because I was half of a married couple, did well in the psychological profiling at London’s Heathrow Airport (it seems single females have the hardest time). Getting on the El Al flight was considerably more straightforward and hassle-free than boarding any flight to the US or India. There were no preliminary checked baggage x-rays, pat downs or random extraction for additional lengthy screening — all of which have become frequent features on those other routes.  Similarly on arrival — a few hours after the Pope’s visit had closed Ben Gurion (other conference participants complained of circling over the airport until it re-opened) — security and immigration was courteous and rapid, nothing like the totalitarian protocol of which the guide books warned.

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Our first experience of what a Palestinian cab driver we would subsequently spend a lot of time with called ‘the situation’ came after we left a visit with other members of the conference group to the Israel Museum (in West Jerusalem) and attempted to take a taxi to East Jerusalem (where we were booked into a Palestinian hotel). Several taxis plain refused to take us, proof as an Israeli friend later observed that the ‘green line’ which is ignored politically (Israel absorbed Palestinian East Jerusalem after the second Intifada) is strictly enforced socially. Finally one taxi driver agreed to take us, but with the proviso that he didn’t know the area and we would probably get lost (we gave him a detailed street map with directions). En-route he wanted to know how why it had taken us so long to visit Jerusalem (‘the origin of the world’) and how come we had made such a terrible mistake booking into a hotel on the wrong side of town (‘filthy’, ‘chaotic’: I told him I spent several months of the year in rural India and was used to such things). This was our first experience of ‘the situation’. The Old City is a textbook palimpsest of overlapping and disjunctive identities, all increasingly subject to military regulation since the second Intifada. But it is only in Bethlehem, on the other side of the Wall, where you start to experience the rhizomic involution of territory. Through the presence of massive settlements, one is shaken by the intractability of an invasion that has been fully sanctioned by the present regime, and it is only then that one can start to grasp the political dimensions of material culture in Palestine. The estimated 300,000 West Bank settlers make their presence felt through serried, semi-fortified encroachments  around much of Bethlehem whose alien architecture stands as a very visible political demand.

In the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour you look across a valley to the Har Homa colony in which vast tower blocks, regiments of condominiums, are advancing towards Palestinian territory. They are monolithic and endlessly repeated: dwelling paces but also ideological embodiments of an unstoppable state-sanctioned invasion: material culture mobilised in the cause of politics.


A Fateh-proseltysing (and decidedly anti-Hamas) cab driver took us under his wing, and after a chilling slide show delivered on his smart phone (young child cavorting on the beach of Tel Aviv juxtaposed with a Palestinian child in Hebron having an IDF machine gun pointed at his head), we departed for Herodium and Hebron. It was there that two other kinds of settlement presence can be experienced. The first involves sporadic land-grabs fuelled by an extraordinary frontier spirit: settlers will occupy hill tops overnight and wait for the Israeli Defence Force to install water and electricity supplies. Tents become portacabins which rapidly become houses, forming the nucleus for whole new towns built in months. Central to this process is a politics of invisibility in which the near-total Israeli military control of much of the West Bank is denied. On the road up to Herodium (in an Oslo Accord Area C, under full Israeli military control), for instance, you pass a large IDF base on your right, filled with armed personnel carriers and surveillance equipment. At the top of what remains of Herod’s extraordinary creation (from where you can see the Dead Sea and Jordan in the distance) there are helpful photographic panoramas, provided by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority which identify topographical features and nearby towns. The Bad Fulah ruins are identified and also Solomon’s Pools even though they are, as the legend says, ‘hidden’. But in the foreground (such exorbitance being one of the inconvenient conditions of photography) lies the un-named sprawling military camp, built to protect several recent settlements nearby and new kibbutz. On another of the photographic panoramas an unknown visitor has helpfully hand-written the word ‘settlement’ below the printed name of Tko’a.


Departing Herodium we encountered another aspect of ‘the situation’ that seemed to give some insight into the the subsequent abduction and murder of three youths that resulted in the lockdown of Hebron. A Settler resident and her adolescent child approached our driver and asked whether she could get a lift to the bottom of the hill. We said fine, no problem (it was very hot, she looked parched). Our driver explained that he would like to help but that legally he couldn’t (the fine for driving Israeli citizens in a Palestinian green licence plated cab was 50,000 shekels and two years arbitrary detention he later told us). We were starting to get a sense of the existential dilemmas and anxieties that both Palestinians and Settlers face in this extraordinary occupied landscape where the occupation itself is made invisible and the occupied are forced to apologise to the occupiers.


As a casual visitor to the West Bank you encounter the tyranny that Palestinians are living with on a daily basis in relation to their material culture. I heard plenty of stories from the conference in Tel Aviv from participants and friends of theirs who had been strip-searched, forced to miss flights, and in extreme cases, detained for two days and then formally deported because of evidence of West Bank visits. A Polish friend told me she had been required to check in five hours before departure and that every item in her luggage meticulously inspected before each book was held upside down and shaken vigorously in ways that reminded her of 1980s martial rule in Poland (don’t take any books she said).


Driving further south, toward Hebron (El Khalil), where we would encounter another form of Settler presence, we criss-crossed in and out of Area A — nominally Palestinian Authority-controlled zones — where it is illegal, as numerous large red road-side sings declare, for Israeli citizens to enter (‘at risk to their lives’) and I noticed that our driver would, as a form of bodily hexis, unbuckle his seat belt whenever we passed a red Area A sign. After a while I started to do so too.  Hexis, so Bourdieu argued is ‘political mythology, realised and embodied [and] turned into a permanent disposition’. In this case the unbuckling seemed to perform the mythologised possibility of political freedom, promised by the red road-side signs but obliterated everywhere else.


Hebron has a peculiarly bitter and contested history. It was the site of the massacre, in 1929, of sixty-seven Jews following rumours of attacks on Arabs in Jerusalem, and in 1994 of the murder of twenty-nine worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque by US-born member of the Kach movement, Baruch Goldstein. Apparently one tour company offers a day tour of Hebron starting with a Jewish guide who narrates ‘their’ history, followed by an afternoon with a Palestinian who provides the competing, and incommensurable account. The Ibrahimi mosque was initially closed but has now been partitioned with both Muslim and Jewish access heavily controlled both spatially and temporally. The old town has been completely reconfigured by the conflict. Most of the Palestinian markets are closed, the majority of shops having been welded shut by the IDF. Despite the notices prominently displayed in the Jewish sector which complain about the thriving Arab market, it is a desolate picture, the open parts ‘roofed’ with wire netting to protect those below from the garbage which Settlers throw down on their new neighbours in an attempt to drive them out.  Security turnstiles control access to the mosque and the Settler-controlled part of the town is off limits to Palestinians. Foreigners can get through after an inspection of passports and Israeli border entrance stamps and can mingle with Settlers who openly carry semi-automatic weapons in the largely deserted streets along which IDF vehicles frequently zoom.  After Sabbath many dozens of Settlers march with cordial IDF protection through the Arab old town raising slogans about how this will become part of Israel. Closely scrutinised by many peace observers (from Temporary International Presence in Hebron, among others) this was a ritual-political occupation of space of the kind that is familiar from Northern Ireland.


Hebron is full of amazing things: embroidered cushions, beautiful kaffiyas and amazing glass work with a distinctive striated green sedimentation that reflects the quality of sand from the village of Bani Na’im and the sodium carbonate from the Dead Sea. The glassworks were established in Roman times and Hebron glass beads (especially efficacious in the protection they provided against the evil eye) were traded throughout many parts of Africa (becoming known as Kano beads). Export restrictions mean that this local industry now faces exceptional difficulties.


We threw away the wrapper for the Hebron kaffiya which proudly said made in Palestine and hid it in an internal zipper in my suitcase (it was a ‘fashionable’ red one, not the politically ‘authentic’ black and white variety). My book on old Hebron, which detailed the full-blown Apartheid division of the town, I could at least say was bought in the Educational Bookstore in East Jerusalem, now a de facto a part of the Israeli state. The assistant there had said it was easier to import class A drugs than books sympathetic to ‘the situation’. The Hebron glass was bought in the old city of Jerusalem (‘a small shop’ I would say if necessary), although I would be unable to remember its exact location. As it happened, we passed the profiling. I had been thinking that next time I visit the West Bank I’ll go via the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, in order to ensure that I can fully consume the extraordinary riches that are made in Palestine. But I now understand that Israeli border controls there are even more severe. I departed with a sense of the double politics of material culture in this part of the world. Landscape and the built environment are fiercely contested in ways that make disputes about the future of Stonehenge seem positively parochial. The built environment and its aesthetics (condominiums versus olive groves) are centrally important. And then there is the question of the distribution of the sensible, what is made visible and invisible in a traumatic politics of appearance (and non-appearance).  But there is also the question of Palestinian material culture in a more prosaic sense, those made objects, material manifestations of Palestinian endurance and resilience which the visiting anthropologist (or indeed any visitor) is unable to consume because of the impending shake-down at Ben Gurion International Airport or the Allenby Bridge. The Israeli state has tacitly declared these to be taboo, contaminating artefacts that reveal unauthorised itineraries or illegitimate sympathies. Never has a politicised study of material culture been more necessary.



Mundane Objects: Materiality and non-Verbal Communication by Pierre Lemonnier

Haidy Geismar, UCL

The latest issue of Hau has a symposium on Pierre Lemmonier’s latest book, Mundane Objects, with commentary by Bruno Latour, Chris Ballard, Tim Ingold, Paul Graves-Brown, Susanne Küchler and a response by Pierre Lemmonier. The series of comments essentially sum up a “state of the art” comment on material culture theory, which Tim Ingold pithily sums up to date:

Perhaps there is something to be said for going back to the anthropological debates of the 1960s and 1970s on such themes as symbolic condensation, the distinction (or lack of it) between ritual and practical-technical actions, and how to do things with and without words. Arguably, our understandings have not been much advanced by subsequent approaches to material culture, for example by treating it as a system of signs whose meanings could be read off from the objects themselves, by entering them as candidates for social life but only as tokens of exchange among human beings, or by focusing on their consumption at the expense of their production.Nor—and here I agree wholeheartedly with Lemonnier—is there anything to be gained from leaving the heavy lifting to such philosophical juggernauts as “agency” and “materiality.” Most agency-speak is as tautologous as the functionalism it replaced: where before, if the presence of a thing has effects (and it would not be present if it did not), these effects were attributed to its functioning, nowadays they are attributed to its agency. The argument is no less circular, and equally ridiculous, especially coming from the mouths of celebrity philosophers. The concept of “materiality” is just as vacuous, no more so than when the abstraction that led from materials to materiality is followed by a counterreification from materiality to materialities, leading to the absurdity of describing a thing made from many different materials as an assemblage of multiple materialities. We have had more than enough of both agency and materiality, and they have got us nowhere. We need to go back to basics. But do we start with objects or affects, artifacts or materials,communication or participation? In each of these pairings, Lemonnier opts for the former. I opt for the latter (Ingold 2012). I wonder whether there might be some way of putting these two perspectives together. Now, that would be an advance.

In other commentary, Latour applauds Lemmonier’s emphasis on techniques and technology as a way to subvert the ethnocentric preoccupation with a crude object focus that comes with many contemporary theorizations of materiality, recognizing the very plasticity of the material world and Susanne Küchler provocatively thinks through the nascent material qualities of computers and other interactive digital technologies.



Copies, Copyright and Preservation

Special Issue co-edited by Ines Weizman and Jorge Otero-Pailos

Future Anterior invites essays that explore the relationship between copyright and preservation from a historical, theoretical and critical perspective. Both copyright and preservation laws are aimed at protecting unique human achievements, but they point to different, even opposing threats. Whereas copyright is meant to protect private interests from public encroachments, preservation mostly aims to safeguard the public interest against private forces. But as the categories of private and public are redrawn under the pressures of globalization, what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for preservation?

Both preservation and copyright law attempt to answer a basic question: Who has the right to make a copy? This question has a long but unexplored history within preservation. Carlo Fea, the Italian neo-classical jurist and preservationist, passed laws to forbid overzealous collectors form taking original sculptures from churches and using poor replacement copies as payments for cash-strapped priests. But as copying techniques improved, it became common to place copies outdoors and to move original works of architecture and sculpture inside museums (think of the copies that replaced the original capitals of the Doge’s Palace, or the replica of Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria). These days, preservation and copyright are both challenged by new modes of digital production, which put new pressure on the notion of absolute authorship and ownership.

What makes mechanical architectural copies so interesting is that, even though they emerge at the same time as reproductions in other fields, they escaped the same association as representative phenomena of modernity. Yet, just like the print, the photograph, the film or the digital file, architectural copies are a product of architecture and a media form in themselves, part of an endless series of ‘aura-less’ multiplications. Legal scholar Bernard Edelman has shown how in nineteenth-century France photographs were at first considered to be mere mechanical reproductions of reality, and hence in the public domain. It was only when photography became accepted as an artistic practice that it received legal protection and ‘the real as object in law [became] susceptible to appropriation, sale and contracts’. To what degree does contemporary art still serve as the measure and instrument for the regulation of copies? Can copyright law help explain the opposition to consider preservationists as artists, or even authors? Essays may investigate these questions, as well as critically analyze modes and practices of appropriation in preservation as they compare to other fields.

As the production of architectural copies is becoming more digital, networked and diffused, we are witnessing more aggressive legal attempts to control the right to reproduce architecture. As Winnie Won Yin Wong wrote (Future Anterior 9.1) recent legal attempts to define “trade dress” signal an attempt to regulate, not just architectural form, but also ambiance and atmosphere as property. From the perspective of preservation, which relies heavily on design guidelines to implement legally binding decisions, what is the future of aesthetic regulation? We welcome essays that explore how objects (and specifically architectural interiors, buildings and cities) have been and are today presented, discussed and contested (in court, or other legal debates) as a dispute over authorial, private or public property.

In preservation, intellectual copyright is hard to define and regulate – harder than in most other arts. Its potential scope is also overwhelming, implying that almost every gesture in the construction of space would have to be protected. What sorts of architectural and urban copies are subject to copyright? If copyright is the right to copy, replicate, duplicate and receive the financial benefits of this act, could one argue copyright law in fact enabled architecture to be copied, replicated, mass produced and exported across the world? How did the circulation of copies help or undermine the idea of preservation in-situ? How could the history of national and international copyright laws inform that of modern preservation?

Future Anterior invites papers from scholars in preservation and its allied fields (juridical studies, architectural history, art history, anthropology, archeology, geography, political science, urban studies, and planning) that explore these and related questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Future Anterior is a peer-reviewed journal that approaches the field of historic preservation from a position of critical inquiry. A comparatively recent field of professional study, preservation often escapes direct academic challenges of its motives, goals, forms of practice and results. Future Anterior invites contributions that ask these difficult questions from philosophical, theoretical, and practical perspectives.

Articles submitted for peer review should be no more than 4000 words, with five to seven illustrations. Text must be formatted in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. All articles must be submitted in English, and spelling should follow American convention. All submissions must be submitted electronically. Text should be saved as Microsoft Word or RTF format, while accompanying images should be sent as TIFF files with a resolution of at least 300 dpi at 8” by 9” print size. Figures should be numbered and called out clearly between paragraphs in the text. Image captions and credits must be included with submissions. It is the responsibility of the author to secure permissions for image use and pay any reproduction fees. A brief author biography (around 100 words) must accompany the text.

For further manuscript guidelines, please visit:

Acceptance or rejection of submissions is at the discretion of the editors.

Please do not send original materials, as submissions will not be returned.

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