Indigenous Curation and Museum Ethics in the Post-Colonial Era

Christina Kreps, Ph.D., Associate Professor; Director of Museum Studies; Director, University of Denver Museum of Anthropology

IARC Speaker Series, SAR Boardroom

Thursday, March 18, 2010, 5:30–6:30 pm

Christina KrepsChristina KrepsPhotograph courtesy of Christina Kreps.Christina KrepsPhotograph courtesy of Christina Kreps.Christina Kreps, Ph.D.Christina Kreps, Ph.D.Indigenous Curation and Museum Ethics in the Post-Colonial Era

Photograph by Jennifer Day
Christina Kreps, Ph.D.Indigenous Curation and Museum Ethics in the Post-Colonial Era

Photograph by Jennifer Day

“Indigenous curation” is a term that has entered museological discourse in recent years to refer to activities, behaviors, bodies of knowledge, and technology related to the care, use, treatment, interpretation, display, and conservation of tangible and intangible culture. This presentation considers how the recognition of indigenous curation and greater collaboration between mainstream museums and source communities is one of the many outcomes of the post-colonial critique of Western museums and Museology. Such developments have given rise to more culturally appropriate and ethically responsible museological approaches as well as increased focus on the relationship between museums and cultural and human rights.

Christina Krep’s research, teaching, and applied work crosses a number of disciplines and concerns, including anthropology, museology, art, international cultural policy, and development. She has been studying the museum as a cultural phenomenon and cross-cultural approaches to museums, curation, and heritage preservation for nearly twenty years. Recently, she has been examining the role of museums in promoting and protecting intangible cultural heritage. In 2005, she was awarded a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship through the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to explore how indigenous curation and concepts of heritage preservation are examples of intangible cultural heritage, and thus, eligible to be protected under the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Currently, she is exploring what she calls “cultural humanitarianism,” or the integration of cultural concerns into humanitarian aid and efforts.

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In her teaching, she fosters a critical and comparative museology, coupled with reflexive practice. She sees museum anthropology as applied anthropology. Museums are a venue for making anthropological insights and knowledge accessible and relevant to the public. Museums, as institutions of public culture, are a forum for exploring contemporary social issues and concerns. She emphasizes the importance of civic engagement in our museum studies curriculum, on both local and global levels. 

Reading List

Kreps, Christina. Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation, and  Heritage Preservation. London: Routledge, 2003.

Kreps, Christina. “Appropriate Museology in Theory and Practice.” International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship. 2008. 23:1(23-41).

Kreps, Christina. “Curatorship as Social Practice.” Curator, 2003. 43/1:311-323.

Kreps, Christina. "Indigenous Curation, Museums and Intangible Cultural Heritage." Intangible Heritage. Laurajane Smith and Natsuko Akagawa, eds. London: Routledge, 2008.

Kreps, Christina. "The Future of Indigenous Museums in Theory and Practice." The Future of Indigenous Museums. Nick Stanley, ed. London: Bergahn Books, 2007.

Kreps, Christina. “Non-Western Models of Museums and Curation in Cross-Cultural Perspective.” Blackwell Companion in Museum Studies. Sharon Macdonald, ed. London: Blackwell, 2006. (Selected as Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2007)

Silverman, Helaine and D. Fairchild Ruggles. “Cultural Heritage and Human Rights.” Cultural Heritage and Human Rights. New York, NY: Springer, 2007.

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