‘Objects Otherwise’ by Haidy Geismar (University College London)
This talk takes as its focus four objects from different collections that I have worked with over the past years. A box. A cloak. An Effigy. A pen. Each object opens up a host of questions about the interaction between old collections and new technologies, about processes of translation, remediation, and representation, about the legacy of nineteenth century colonialism and collecting within twenty-first century new media; and about the re-articulation of locality and cultural difference within museum technologies. How do new technologies, such as 3D-printing, scanning, social media, and new web-based interfaces alter our understandings of what a collection is, how objects encode knowledge and meaning, tell stories, and what spaces are being created for cultural differences? Here I synthesise my work over many years with ethnographic collections from the Pacific, with photography collections, and with new media, to explore the object lessons and politics of perspective that are emerging for the twenty-first century collections.
Haidy Geismar is Reader in Anthropology at University College London, where she is also Vice Dean for Strategic Projects and the Curator of the UCL Ethnography Collections. Since 2000 she has worked with museum collections and communities in Vanuatu and New Zealand. Her research focuses on the contemporary resonance of historical collections, indigenous articulations of intellectual and cultural property, indigenous contemporary art, the politics of display and critical museology, and the capacity of new media to translate and remediate cultural protocols and the materiality of artefacts. She has published extensively on these issues, including ‘Moving Images: John Layard, Fieldwork and Photography on Malakula since 1914’ (2010, University of Hawaii Press, with Anita Herle and collaborators in Vanuatu, winner of the John Collier Prize for Anthropological work on still photography), and ‘Treasured Possessions’ (2013, Duke University Press. She is in the early stages of a project looking at the skill and knowledge networks embedded within digital photography. Her keynote draws from a forthcoming book, focused on the translation of old collections into new media, entitled ‘Museum Object Lessons for the Twenty-first Century’.