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Words by Nicholas Thomas

World Cultures / Natural History Workshop

Shared museum histories, connected collections and future potential

In April, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology welcomed us for a two-day workshop addressing shared museum histories, connected collections, and future potential, combining World Cultures and Natural History.

The sessions addressed ‘Connected Collections’, ‘Collections as Environmental Archives’, and ‘Danger, Damage and Hazards’, bringing together researchers and museum practitioners from Cambridge and beyond. Taking into account that the collections were often closely connected historically, but later separated out in disciplinary and curatorial terms, the talks aimed to address questions including: What happens when they are now brought together in the museum space? What are the implications where such collection separation was incomplete? How, and for whom, can ethnographic collections now be mobilised as vital archives of environmental and cultural knowledge?

The highlight for many was a hands-on session at MAA’s new Centre for Material Culture, placing objects, their materialities, potentials and vulnerabilities at the centre of conversations, facilitated by the MAA Stores Move team, who are working on redocumenting, repackaging and moving over 250,000 objects to the brand new site.

We also heard from two of MAA’s TAKING CARE artists in residence, Temsuyanger Longkumer and Tony Phillips, who discussed their experiences and objectives of working within galleries and collections.