On Tuesday, March 10, Margaret M. Bruchac, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan Museum Studies Program visiting scholar, will speak on “Listening to Object Witnesses: Decolonizing Research in Museum Collections.” 6:30 p.m., Helmut Stern Auditorium, University of Michigan Museum of Art.
In this talk, Dr. Bruchac discusses strategies for recovering object histories through material analyses, consultation, and critical re-assessments of imposed museological categories (art, artifact, utilitarian, etc.) that may have distanced objects from their origins and isolated them from others like themselves. Case histories will feature new research into iconic creations (such as a seventeenth-century wooden war club embedded with re-purposed wampum beads and a shell bead wampum belt with a single glass bead) that function as “object witnesses” to entangled colonial settler/Indigenous encounters. Through her practice of “reverse ethnography,” Bruchac will reveal how, in many cases, memories can be reawakened when otherwise mysterious objects are reconnected with the stories, ecosystems, knowledges, and communities that created them. Object histories can also be recovered by tracking the desires and actions of non-Indigenous curators and collectors who transported these objects and stories to physically and conceptually distant locales.
Dr. Margaret M. Bruchac is an associate professor of anthropology, coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies, and associate faculty in the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Her new book, Savage Kin: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists, was the winner of the 2018 Council for Museum Anthropology Book Award.
The event is free and open to the public.