SWICH Closing Conference

Multiple Voices of a Colonised World

6 - 7 September 2018 at Weltmuseum Wien

This conference invites critical engagement with the questions of the present and future roles of ethnographic museums within a changing Europe. Coming at the end of the EU funded SWICH project, a collaborative alliance between ten ethnographic museums in Europe, the conference will explore the multiple ways that these museums have tackled and continue to tackle contemporary challenges surrounding questions of citizenship and belonging, and of (who owns) cultural heritage in the post-colonial, post-migrant Europe of today.

Invited speakers will reflect on themes such as “Non-European Perspectives on Colonialism”, “Diversity in Curatorship” and “Building Networks” which will all continue to be of importance for ethnographic museums in the years to come.

Thursday, 6  September 2018

Welcome and Introduction
Start at 1.30 p.m.
Claudia Augustat (Weltmuseum Wien), Steven Engelsman (Leiden), Laura van Broekhoven (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford)

Panel 1: Non-European Perspectives on Colonialism in Museums

Throughout the SWICH project, discussions often revolved around the question of how to address the colonial past, both as an issue for ethnographic museums, but also its articulation within broader discussions of how colonialism shapes our contemporary national, regional and global realities. From a European perspective, this is sometimes perceived as if it is simply an issue distinct to ethnographic museums, or presented as a uniquely European problem, failing to address global perspectives or the interconnected nature of these issues. The panel therefore foregrounds the non-European perspectives. It considers the standpoint of scholars from formerly colonised states, and the role of European ethnographic and world cultures museums not only in shaping where we are today but also their possible roles for fashioning future practices.
Confirmed Speakers: Áile Aikio (University of Lapland), Asoka de Zoysa and Ganga Dissanayaka (University of Kelaniya), Amy Lonetree (University of Santa Cruz), Sang Hoon Jang (National Museum Korea)
Chair: Claudia Augustat, Weltmuseum Wien

Friday, 7  September 2018

Panel 2: Diversity in Curatorship

This panel brings together two main themes of the SWICH project: Stereoculture: The Art of Listening and Creative Dialogue. Many museums of ethnography and world culture have been trying to re-invent their practices to fashion our institutions as creative, dynamic spaces. Concepts such as inclusion, poly-vocality or participation have become key concepts within the work that we do.

Several ethnographic museums have opened their storages for members of heritage and diaspora communities. Additionally, contemporary artists are invited to use museum collections as sources of inspiration for the creation of works of art or projects of cultural critique. Such practices are seen as fruitful, especially as they facilitated a sharing of authority and voice. What does this mean for curatorial departments inside museums? How can we rethink the role of the curator in the long term? How can concepts like diversity, shared authority, knowledge democracy and multi-vocal approaches become more sustainable and not just a temporary phenomenon? What does this mean for how these museums do their work within shifting global politics?

Confirmed Speakers: Tal Adler (Humboldt University Berlin), Heather Ahtone (American Indian Cultural Centre and Museum, Oklahoma City), Camilo Antonio (UrbanNomadMixes, Vienna), Lotten Gustafsson Reinius (Nordic Museum, Stockholm), Christina Kreps (University of Denver), Alexander Martos and Niko Wahl (Volkskunde Museum, Vienna)
Chair: Michel Lee, National Museums of World Culture, Stockholm

Panel 3: Building Networks – Learning from Experiences

One important aspect of the SWICH project was to allow partner museums to build a platform of theoretical reflections on and exchange of practices. It has intensified the relationship among museum professionals, fostered the debate on the mission and roles of ethnographic museums, and created a sense of community throughout many of these museums in Europe. This panel aims to expand this community to other European networks of museums and cultural institutions focusing on intercultural dialogue, the social role of museums, the legacy of difficult and contentious heritages, and the relationship between museum, memory and diaspora communities. What are the main challenges faced during the collaboration between various museums/institutions? How can different experiences be shared and communicated to a wider audience? What are the crucial points emerged during the EU programmes?

Confirmed Speakers: Elena Montanari (Politecnico di Milano, MeLa), Margherita Sani (Istituto Beni Culturali, Bologna, NEMO), Karin Schneider (University of Applied Arts, Vienna, TRACES)
Chair: Rosa Anna di Lella, Museo delle Civiltà, Rome

Additional programme
Book Presentation: The Art of Being a World Culture Museum
6.00 p.m., WMW Forum, Weltmuseum Wien
The Art of Being a World Culture Museum. Futures and Lifeways of Ethnographic Museums in Contemporary Europe. Edited by Barbara Plankensteiner. Photography by Wolfgang Thaler.
Published by Kerber Verlag.


The conference will be held from 6 September /1.30 p.m. to 7 September / 6 pm at the WMW Forum, Weltmuseum Wien, Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna.

For registration, please send an email to claudia.augustat[at]weltmuseumwien.at

WHEN: 6-7 September, 2018 WHERE: Weltmuseum Wien CITY: Vienna, AT

Registration required.