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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

 

About

Alarming environmental shifts and crises have raised public awareness about the future of the planet. While planetary in cause and scale, the negative effects of the climate crisis are unequally distributed, affecting most intensely some whose positions are already extremely fragile, including Indigenous and formerly colonized peoples and contributing to rising global insecurity and inequality. The major environmental risks are connected with other issues, including political instability, failures or alleged failures of democratic government, and the rise of populism, racism and associated expressions of intolerance.

The project TAKING CARE - Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care started on October 1, 2019 and places ethnographic and world cultures museums at the centre of the search for possible strategies to address these issues. TAKING CARE is a large-scale European cooperation project led by the Weltmuseum Wien; scheduled to run for four years, it brings together fourteen partner organisations and is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, which has contributed €2,000,000.

Our claim is that world culture museums should no longer be conceived primarily as repositories of heritage to be preserved. They are places of encounter and practice, of social experimentations and innovation, of knowledges and skills, where diverse ways of knowing and being in and with the world, and narratives of diversity can be (re)discovered, co-created and publicly shared. In our time, of crisis and political polarisation, such caring and careful spaces are needed more than ever.

 

MAA hosted the summative conference of a previous Creative Europe network, ’Sharing a World of Inclusion, Heritage and Creativity.’ From left, Nicholas Thomas, George Nuku. Cambridge, July 2018.


Programme

MAA's contribution to TAKING CARE is focused in two areas. In March 2021, we hosted a pilot, online workshop: Nature/Culture/Empire/Collecting. The discussion addressed:

  • the connected histories of natural history and ethnographic collections
  • the hidden co-production of such collections, through the involvement of Indigenous and local field assistants, go-betweens and other collaborators
  • artefact collections as archives of environmental knowledge and sustainable practice
  • what we can gain in the present by reconnecting collections which have been divided between science and world cultures museums
  • how we can activate collections to narrate environmental change, and envisage sustainable futures

 

These will be the themes of a full three-day programme with the same title, now scheduled for 9-11 March 2022. We anticipate running a hybrid event, enabling both in-person and online participation. To register your interest, please contact Melanie Hugow (msh66@cam.ac.uk).


Artist residencies

MAA will also host three artists' residencies. Each artist has engaged or will engage with MAA and the Museum's collections through a series of visits, leading to interventions and exhibitions which will feature in the Museum's galleries over a period of approximately a year in each case.


Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.