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

  • Lindy Allen
  • Louise Hamby
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


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.


Indigenous People Torres Strait Islander Museum Collection Source Community Torres Strait Islander People 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research primarily arises from Australian Research Council (ARC) funded projects: LP0347221 (2003–2006) Anthropological and Aboriginal Perspectives on the Donald Thomson Collection: Material Culture, Collecting and Identity, awarded to the Australian National University and a collaboration with Museum Victoria (Lindy Allen, Dr Louise Hamby and Professor Nicolas Peterson); LP0667418 (2006–2009) Oral Tradition, Memory and Social Change: Indigenous Participation in the Curation and Use of Museum Collections awarded to the University of Queensland and a collaboration with Museum Victoria and Deakin University (Lindy Allen, Dr Diane Hafner, Professor Bruce Rigsby, Simon Wilmot and Rosemary Wrench); DP0879397 (2007–2011): Contexts of Collection – A Dialogic Approach to Understanding the Making of the Material Record of Yolngu Cultures, awarded to the Australian National University (Professor Howard Morphy, Dr Louise Hamby and Phillipa Deveson). Permission to reproduce images was obtained from relevant Yolngu and Pama, the University of Sydney Archives, the Donald Thomson Family and Museum Victoria.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indigenous Cultures, Museum VictoriaMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Research School of Humanities and the ArtsAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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