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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology


At the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, we try to ensure that everyone is given the respect that they deserve and are represented as best as possible. Vocabulary is constantly changing as people do, so we update our terminology for people, cultures and objects as best as we can.

We steer away from using colonialist terminology (terminology that degrades and dehumanises people) in our descriptions and captions, unless we are discussing something and need to add context. For example, we prefer to say that ‘photographs were made’ rather than ‘taken’.

Talking about “race”, ethnicity, and skin colour

These do not all mean the same thing. These words do not tell you about who a person or group of people are or were. People from different ethnicities and cultures may have different shades of colour with a variety of phenology. Using descriptive words like “Black, “Brown”, “Mixed”, “Coloured”, “White” solely to describe a person does not do them justice. There may be some people who prefer to be referred to using these terms. At MAA we are a want to understand who people are through their own terms. We prefer to specify what the person’s nationality is.

Using titles and words from other cultures

When talking about titles in other cultures, for example royalty, use the full title of the ruler and not just their name. For example, when talking about Queen Elizabeth II, we would not abbreviate her name to just Elizabeth. So, when mentioning Kings, Queens, Chiefs and leaders from other cultures we use their name and their title.

Sometimes we do not always have to create or use an English word to translate a word in another language. To represent someone or their culture effectively, it is sometimes best for us to use their language, especially when it comes to the names of objects because it is one of many ways that we put the ownership of the object back in the hands of the original owners. Using non-English words helps audiences immerse themselves in, and further understand, the culture and people of the object.