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Words by Tina Palaić

Taking Care for and with Communities: Ethics of Collaboration

 Tuesday, 5 September 2023, at 14.00 at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum,
Metelkova 2, Ljubljana.


Katharina Nowak, MARKK, Germany

Michel Lee, National Museums of World Culture, Sweden & Kumu Basaw, Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Center, Taiwan

Ashley Coutu, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK

Tina Palaić, Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Slovenia

Invited guests will present their experiences of collaboration with various communities which they have been developing as part of TAKING CARE Project. Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care (2019–2023). They will outline the methodology of the collaboration and highlight the ethical dilemmas, considerations and strategies they have developed. We invite you to actively participate in the discussion following the presentations.

The event is organized by Tina Palaić and Ashley Coutu within the project TAKING CARE. Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care, which is co-funded by the Program Creative Europe.


Katharina Nowak

Experimental exhibition Water Messages at MARKK: Reflexive perspective on collaborations and co-creation in the curatorial process
Katharina Nowak

Taking the topic of Water as a starting point, the exhibition project Water Messages (25 February – 31 October 2023) began with a search for ecological knowledges, Water stories and skills documented in the MARKK’s historical collections. The aim was to relate these to climate justice and Water protection movements formulated by communities living on the forefront of the climate crisis today, who are reviving, strengthening and implementing them. The curators, Johanna Wild and Katharina Nowak, convened a Water Think Tank with the aim of bringing together different place-based ways of knowing and relating to Water that could inspire the elaboration of the exhibition concept. This exhibition would not be the same without the invaluable contributions and the astounding dedication that Kelsey Leonard, Carolina Caycedo and Oladosu Titilope Adenike brought to the project. In four chapters titled Living With Water, Water Kinships, Water is Life! and Protecting the Water – Fighting for Climate Justice, the exhibition brings together historical collections, photographs, examples from contemporary art and design, and material cultures created in the context of climate justice and Water protection movements.

Michel Lee
Kumu Basaw

We Are Seediq: Cooperation Between the National Museums of World Culture (Sweden) and the Seediq Community (Taiwan)
Michel Lee & Kumu Basaw

The Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm cares for over three hundred objects from Taiwan, nearly all of which come from Indigenous peoples. The information associated with these collections allow for some of the source communities, or their descendants, to be identified. The Museum has partnered with one of the source communities, the Seediq people, in a collaborative research and exhibition project to explore experimental methodologies within the context of decolonisation and restitution.

Ashley Coutu

Expanding ideas of care at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK
Ashley Coutu

In this talk, I will outline specific ways the TAKING CARE Project changed Pitt Rivers Museum's perspective on care, thinking about care in a much broader way than just “taking care” of the physical collections. The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 and is strongly rooted in Archaeology and Anthropology research as part of the University of Oxford museums. The majority of the collections came into the museum during the British colonial period, especially by colonial officers who were trained as Anthropologists at Oxford. So, the notion of care for us working in the museum is as much about thinking about the undoing of colonial harm and reconnecting people with objects which were taken, as it is caring for the physical objects. 

Tina Palaić

White Gold: Stories of Cotton at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum
Tina Palaić

As part of the TÀKING CARE Project, the Slovene Ethnographic Museum designed an experimental exhibition exploring cotton cultivation from its first agrarian processes to contemporary challenges in this industry. The exhibition focused on two collections dating into the early 20th century which shed light on cotton production and the manufacture of cotton fabrics, but more importantly they testify to the involvement of Slovenian actors in the colonial processes. To explore present-day cotton cultivation in India and Togo, SEM collaborated with two researchers who conducted interviews with farmers and other stakeholders in cotton sector. Interviews allowed exhibition visitors to learn first-hand about what kind of challenges cotton growers in both countries are facing and what strategies they are developing to overcome them.


Katharina Nowak, M.A. (University of Tübingen) is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tübingen. From April 2021 to March 2023, she worked as an assistant curator for the Oceania collections at the MARKK.

Michel Lee is a curator working with the China, Korea, and Sven Hedin collections at the National Museums of World Culture, Sweden.

Kumu Basaw works as a Cultural Heritage Researcher and Preservation Worker at the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Center, Taiwan.

Ashley Coutu is a research curator for African archeology and the Deputy Head of Research at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Tina Palaić works as a national coordinator of the Taking Care project at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. She explores different modes of decolonial museology in East-Central Europe with the focus on collaborative practices.

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