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Call for Papers for the Museum Ethnographers' Group Annual Conference 2015

Nature and Culture in Museums

When: Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 April 2015

Where: Powell-Cotton Museum, Kent

Conference organiser: Inbal Livne

Collecting and studying the natural world and ethnography simultaneously has occurred in a ‘museum’ setting since the time of John Tradescant the elder in the early seventeenth century. This relationship between nature and culture continued well into the twentieth century, for both private collectors and publicly accessible museums. The Powell-Cotton Museum is perhaps one of the most overt expressions of this dual passion, bringing into the twenty-first century a Victorian vision of the world that is at once both historic, and incredibly contemporary, due to its approach in forming relationships between objects from the natural world and our world, today. 

Unlike many museums, the Powell-Cotton Museum has retained the juxtaposition of nature and culture and has in fact cemented it further. Through the recent refurbishment of one of our permanent galleries, visitors can engage with and learn from both disciplines simultaneously, to create new ways of seeing all ‘things’ in the world around them. This has not come without challenges and has thrown up many questions. How do we create balanced relationships between nature and culture? Is it possible to present material culture and the natural world ‘naturally’, or is the museum space just contrived presentation of our own visions and agendas as twenty-first century museum curators and educators?
The 2015 Museum Ethnographers Group conference will continue this theme. Those wishing to present papers will be asked to think about their work in relation to one of the following three themes if possible:

  • Unnatural spaces: should we aim to present material culture within its ‘natural world’, i.e. as it would be presented by the people who made and used it? Or are our attempts to carefully consider indigenous views merely making the museum a more contrived space in which to view objects?
  • Collaboration
  • Can there be meaningful relationships between nature and culture in museums?

At this year’s conference we would like to offer the opportunity to present papers in a variety of delivery formats, including workshops, film, debate, presentation or propose something we haven’t considered.
Please consider all learning styles when delivering your paper, thinking about clear structure, strong visuals and accessible language.
Those wishing to present should aim for twenty minutes. There is also the option to present a ‘work in progress’ paper of ten minutes on any topic relevant to MEG. 
Please send titles and abstracts by January 12th 2015 to Inbal Livne.
Your abstract can be written, an audio file or in a film format.
Please also contact the above address if you have any questions about the conference or submitting an abstract.

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