The Museum of Other People

    Adam Kuper

    The Museum of Other People

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This is a history of the ways in which foreign and prehistoric peoples were represented in museums of anthropology, with their displays of arts and artifacts, their dioramas, their special exhibitions, and their arrays of skulls and skeletons.

Originally created as colonial enterprises, what is the purpose of these places today? What should they do with the items in their custodianship? And how can they help us to understand and appreciate other cultures?

Informed by a lifetime of research and scholarship, this subtle and original work tackles painful questions about race, colonialism, difference, and cultural appropriation. The result is a must-read for anyone concerned with the coexistence of different modes of life. A formidable work ... one whose want has been much felt. Apparently easy answers to the question of what such a museum might be and universal 'solutions' to the restitution problem are elegantly shown to be entangled in contradictions and false assumptions -- Nigel Barley, former Assistant Keeper at the British Museum and author ― The Innocent Anthropologist

This is the must-read book for anyone interested in the history of ethnographic museums and how the urban public of Western industrial nations learned about the myriad "other people" living on our planet. Kuper applies his monumental knowledge of the history of anthropological scholarship to lay out his vision of how the ethnographic museums were born, thrived, and eventually moved to the margins of public imagination. Yet, as he rightly claims, big ethnographic museums face new beginnings in the 21st century ­- ones defined by creative exhibits, ethical stewardship, and modern education about lives and cultures of world's "other people" -- Igor Krupnik, Chair of Anthropology and Curator of Circumpolar Ethnology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Adam Kuper shows in his engaging new overview of the Western world's ethnology/antiquities/natural history museums that the issues of identity and ethics with which these key cultural institutions wrestle today have very deep roots indeed. His book is obligatory reading for anyone interested in the complexities of international repatriation, the boundaries of "art," and the role of museums in the modern world -- Ian Tattersall, curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History

A delight from the first to the last page [which] raises questions that could lead to ways out of the dilemmas ... The juxtapositions of the different positions, which Adam Kuper presents very pointedly, clarifies the arguments with a sharpness that I have rarely experienced. It will certainly provoke dissent, but that is what the discipline (especially in its museums branch) thrives on (or should thrive on) ... Wonderful -- Dr Anna Schmid, Director of the Museum of Cultures Basel

Format/pages: hardback / 415 pages

ISBN: 9781800810914

Publisher: Profile Books

Year: 2023

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