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Extreme Collecting: Challenging Practices for 21st Century Museums

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Extreme Collecting

Challenging Practices for 21st Century Museums

Edited by Graeme Were and J. C. H. King

248 pages, 45 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-363-1 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (March 2012)

ISBN  978-1-78238-514-1 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (April 2014)

eISBN 978-0-85745-364-8 eBook


View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“The book takes the study of materials innovation and design outside the prevalent focus on Western technoscience. Its focus on Pacific societies also raises the issue of digital return and, furthermore, digital technologies in the museum and heritage sector more broadly. In this connection, Were pushes beyond debates on authenticity and instead highlights digital technology’s productive potentials.” • Social Anthropology

“…the chapters are well written and informative…this volume brings us back to the persistent relevance of objects and collecting to museums. Although architecture and community building have taken center stage in museum discourse, this volume reminds us of what museums continue to do: collect. The primacy of objects in making places, museums, memories, and history remains central to their endeavor.” • Visual Anthropology Review

“This collection is an interesting concept, composed of telling case studies over a satisfying range of collecting topics... with some consideration of philosophical and theoretical perspectives.” • Linda Young, Deakin University


By exploring the processes of collecting, which challenge the bounds of normally acceptable practice, this book debates the practice of collecting ‘difficult’ objects, from a historical and contemporary perspective; and discusses the acquisition of objects related to war and genocide, and those purchased from the internet, as well as considering human remains, mass produced objects and illicitly traded antiquities. The aim is to apply a critical approach to the rigidity of museums in maintaining essentially nineteenth-century ideas of collecting; and to move towards identifying priorities for collection policies in museums, which are inclusive of acquiring ‘difficult’ objects. Much of the book engages with the question of the limits to the practice of collecting as a means to think through the implementation of new strategies.

Graeme Were is Chair of Anthropology at the University of Bristol. His current research focuses on material culture and ethnographic museums; digital heritage and source community engagement; and, ethnomathematics in the Pacific. His recent publications include Lines that Connect: Rethinking Pattern and Mind in the Pacific (University of Hawai’i Press, 2010), and Pacific Pattern, with S. Küchler (Thames & Hudson, 2005). He is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and an editor of the Journal of Material Culture.

J. C. H. King writes about the art and material culture of Native North America, and is interested in wider issues of museum ethnography, cultural policy and the visual arts, and the collection of contemporary art, photography, and ephemera. He became research Keeper of Anthropology at the British Museum, in 2010. His recent publications include: Three Centuries of Woodlands Art: A Collection of Essays (European Review of Native American Studies, 2007), ed. with C.F. Feest, Provenance: Twelve Collectors of Ethnographic Art in England 1760–1990, with H. Waterfield (Somogy, 2006) and Arctic Clothing, ed. with B. Pauksztat and R. Storrie (British Museum Press, 2005).

Subject: Museum StudiesArchaeology


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