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Words by Ashley Coutu

Programm 2020 'Matters of Care Museum futures in times of planetary precarity'

How can ethnographic and world cultures museums use their collections and galleries as spaces which create active discussion around the impact of humans on the planet, while also highlighting what long-term perspectives can tell us about sustainability for developing positive futures? The project TAKING CARE places ethnographic and world cultures museums at the centre of the search for strategies to address issues regarding the future of the planet.

Sunday 28 March

17:30 – 19:00         Reception in Pitt Rivers Museum

19:30                      Dinner in Oxford


Monday 29 March

The sessions on Monday will focus on biocultural heritage, and cover a range of topics around environmental justice, community conservation and the preservation and representation of environmental knowledge from different global perspectives. Our range of speakers working in communities in various parts of the globe will showcase the diverse ways of documenting and capturing these stories (filmmaking, memory books, quilting, oral histories, museum collections), and look into ways to ensure these processes of learning and gathering are ethical and sustainable. How do we practice what we preach, how do we find ways to do better, and what role should museums like ours play?

Queen’s College Shulman Auditorium

9:00 – 9:20         Welcome from Laura Van Broekhoven, Director of the Pitt
                           Rivers Museum and Claudia Augustat, Curator at the
                           Weltmuseum Wien and Taking Care Project Leader                        

9:20 – 10:00       Wayne Modest, Professor and Director of the Research
                           Center for Material Culture, National Museum of World
                           Cultures, NL

*KEYNOTE*       ‘Spaces of/for Care’

10:00 – 10:20     Questions and Discussion

10:20 – 10:40     Pauline von Hellermann, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology,
                           Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

                           'Reflections from environmental anthropology’

10:40 – 11:00     Iokiñe Rodríguez Fernandez, Senior Lecturer in
                           International Development, University of East Anglia, UK

                           ‘Becoming (in) visible in environmental justice struggles:
                           using participatory mapping, filming and writing to support
                           the indigenous research agenda’

11:00 – 11:30     Tea and Coffee Break, Shulman Auditorium Foyer

11:30 – 12:00     Itandehui Jansen, Filmmaker and Programme Director,
                          Film & TV, School of Design, University of Edinburgh, SCT

                          'Kii Nche Ndutsa (Time and the Seashell)’

12:00—12:40    Lotten Gustafsson Reinius, Professor of Ethnology,
                          Stockholm University and Nordic Museum, Stockholm, SE
                          and Camilla Andersen, Documentary Photographer and
                          Filmmaker, Oslo, NO

                          ‘Eyes on and from the changing Arctic’

12:40 – 13:00    Questions and Discussion for 4 speakers

13:00 – 14:00    Lunch for TAKING CARE Partners and Speakers, Queen’s College Dining Hall

14:00 – 14:40    Naman Ahuja, Professor of Indian Art and Architecture,
                          Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

*KEYNOTE*      ‘From India IN the World to India AND the World’

14:40 –15:00     Questions and Discussion

Activism is often seen as destructive or iconoclastic: on the contrary, this panel explores how activism can be about caring for communities, environments, their pasts and futures.

15:00 – 16:30     Roundtable Discussion ‘Stolen Culture, Stolen Climate:
                           new connections in the colonial museum

                           led by Dan Hicks, Curator and Professor of Contemporary
                           Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum, UK

This panel explores the connections and commonalities between activism, cultural restitution and the conference theme of "Museum Futures in Times of Planetary Precarity" with contributions from Onyekachi Wambu,  Executive Director AFFORD- African Foundation for Development, Roseanne Chantiluke, Independent Researcher, Dr Natasha Reynolds, Université de Bordeaux, and Dr Chris Garrard, Co-Director, Culture Unstained      

16:30                  Refreshment Break, Shulman Auditorium Foyer

18:30 – 19:15      Subhadra Das, Curator, UCL Science Collections, London,

*KEYNOTE*         'Taking Care of Business: What is a Museum For?’

19:15 – 19:45       Questions and Discussion

20:00                     Dinner for TAKING CARE Partners and Speakers,
                              Queen’s College Dining Hall

Tuesday 30 March

We will use Tuesday to more practically discuss how we can use our collections and galleries as spaces which create active discussion around the impact of humans on the planet while also highlighting what long-term perspectives can tell us about sustainability for developing positive futures. Can we find practical steps each museum might envision taking that can make a difference now, and what might we learn from each other’s current efforts?

Pitt Rivers Museum

9:30 – 11:00          Breakout groups

Group 1: How do museums of world cultures transform as places of care in
               response to global racial injustice?; led by TBC

Group 2: Designing and implementing public programming on climate
               change and biodiversity; led by Chris Jarvis, Oxford University
               Museum of Natural History, UK

Group 3: How do colonialism and environmental precarity overlap in your
               collection? How does this overlap take material form?; led by
               Alessandra Benedicty, Wayne Modest, and Rita Ouédraogo,
               National Museum of World Cultures, Netherlands

Group 4: What are the practical steps we can take to reduce waste as
                museums and how do we include our visitors in this process?;
                led by Vered Balan, University of Oxford Sustainability Team and
                Ashley Coutu
, Pitt Rivers Museum, UK

Group 5: How do communities conserve local knowledge and traditions
               regarding environmental sustainability?; led by Cissy Serrao,
               Quiltmaker and Director of Poakalani Hawaiian Quilt Designs,
               Honolulu, Hawaii, USA


11:00 – 11:30        Tea and Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:00        Breakout group presentations and recommendations to Taking Care partners

13:00                     Sandwich Lunch

13:00 – 16:00        TAKING CARE Business Meeting


19:00                     Dinner for Conservation Workshop attendees


Wednesday 31 March

Pitt Rivers Museum

9:30 – 16:00          Conservation Workshop, led by Jeremy Uden, Head of Conservation, Pitt Rivers Museum, UK


Specific objectives

  • To overcome the Eurocentric approach of conservation
  • Developing innovative strategies that think about cultural care and preservation together
  • Understanding the needs of objects from an indigenous perspective
  • To develop preservation infrastructure both in the participating museums as well as within communities locally and internationally

Expected results

  • To find ways of transforming conservation practices into collaborative work
  • To learn from best practices and failures
  • To enhance value of museum collections through additional insights from outside perspectives


  • Scholars and university students from different disciplinary backgrounds: conservation, anthropology, museology
  • Museum experts: conservators, curators
  • Representatives from source and indigenous communities
  • Heritage experts outside the West

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