Unpacking the Collection

Part of the series One World Archaeology pp 209-229


Pathways to Knowledge: Research, Agency and Power Relations in the Context of Collaborations Between Museums and Source Communities

  • Lindy AllenAffiliated withIndigenous Cultures, Museum Victoria Email author 
  • , Louise HambyAffiliated withResearch School of Humanities and the Arts, Australian National University

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Museum collections have in recent decades been a pivotal point of reference for indigenous people and source communities across Australia. This chapter seeks to demonstrate how collaborative projects between the museum sector in Australia and Aboriginal people and source communities have created new insights into heritage collections. At the same time engagement with museum collections has provided a focus for Aboriginal people to explore their own history and created an environment that supports the regeneration and maintenance of knowledge and the construction of group identity. In this chapter, we explore the nature of collaborations drawing on case studies from projects involving remote communities in Arnhem Land and Cape York of northern Australia. These projects have focused on collections held by Museum Victoria in Melbourne. We explore the way in which indigenous people have initiated and been a part of engagements with museum collections of images, objects and field material that relate to themselves and their own history. We discuss a research model that promotes the value of museum-based research while giving due recognition to the authority of source communities. In this context, the contemporary museum environment is one of a contested site where knowledge is negotiated and a field site where both contemporary and historical indigenous agency emerges.