Weapons, Culture and the Anthropology Museum
Largely due to the tastes of nineteenth century Western collectors and curators, weaponry abounds in ethnographic museums. However, the relative absence of Asian, African, Native American and Oceanic arms and armour from contemporary gallery displays neither reflects this fact, nor accords these important artefacts the attention they deserve. Weapons are often those objects in museums which most strongly record traumatic histories of colonial conquest around the world, showcase a society’s most complex technologies, and encode a wealth of historical information relating to violent conflict, cultural identities, and indigenous masculinities.
This volume brings together an international collective of museum professionals, indigenous cultural historians, anthropologists and material culture specialists to address the historical role of weapon collections in ethnographic museums, and to reconsider the value of studying arms for the purposes of writing richer cultural histories. From Australia to the Amazon, from Uttar Pradesh to ancient Ulster, the essays in this book endeavour to return ethnographic weapons to the centre of material culture studies. In doing so, they offer a blueprint for a more sophisticated future treatment of world weaponry.
Dr Andy Mills is a Research Associate in History of Art at the University of Glasgow, UK. He has worked as a curator of Pacific art, has curated European arms and armour, and has worked as a specialist weapons researcher for several ethnographic museums.
Tom Crowley is an anthropology curator at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London. He was the principal convener of the Weapons and the Anthropology Museum conference, held at the Horniman in 2015.
“The editors are effective in trac[ing] the cultural history that made weapons important objects of display. […] The book offers a precious contribution by tracking the history of these artefacts, reconstructing their meanings, and showing new possibilities for making their display cogent and meaningful for a modern audience. The contributions answer to the need of recontextualising the objects into their native cultures, past and present, and reconsidering the very dynamics that led to the constitution of modern collections. While the book focuses on ethnographic museums, [it] is particularly relevant also for other institutions, such as war museums and their display of ancient and modern weapons, equipment and vehicles.”
Michele F. Fontefrancesco
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy
Buy This Book