Hannah TurnerOct 5, 2021
Legacies of Colonialism in Museum Documentation
University of British Columbia Press 2020
How does colonialism still shape museums today? In Cataloguing Culture: Legacies of Colonialism in Museum Documentation (UBC Press, 2020), Hannah Turner, an assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of British Columbia, reveals the complex history of cataloguing museum collections. Using a case study of The Smithsonian, the book details the material practices that underpin the contested collections of the National Museum of Natural History. Turner’s research charts the early uses of ledgers and record books, through the use of drawings, card catalogues, and typed records, to computerisation of the collections’ records. The analysis has important implications for contemporary debates over repatriation of collections, and the book is powerful illustration of the importance of understanding the long shadow of colonial practices and knowledges on the contemporary institution. Cataloguing Culture is essential reading for practitioners and academics, as well as for anyone interested in the past, and the future, of museums.
Dave O'Brien is Chancellor's Fellow, Cultural and Creative Industries, at the University of Edinburgh's College of Art.