Monday, 22 August 2016

Two talks on the Future of Ethnographic Museums, Past and Present

Image: "Totem Pole from Masset Village, Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia (Pitt Rivers Museum)" Frontispiece to Man volume 2 (1902) to accompany E.B. Tylor's paper "Note on the Haida Totem-Post Lately Erected in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford" Man 2: 1-3

I'm speaking at two conferences on the theme of ethnographic museums in late September/early October. First, on 29-30 September I'll be in Paris among a range of international speakers at the colloquium UN MUSÉE À IMAGINER: Le musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac 10 ans après. Un musée à imaginer, reflecting on the first decade of Paris' ethnographic museum the musée du quai Branly.


The organisers' overview of the meeting is as follows:
What was the project of the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac? How was it implemented, and how has it evolved? How does it affect museum conceptions in other parts of the world, and how has it changed conservation and research practices? 
This international conference looks back at the museum’s history since its opening, focusing especially on the issues it has faced during this period. It will examine the museum’s exhibition policy, the place of research and its connection with the museum’s collections, the methods and stakes of its relationship with audiences, and finally, the challenges presented by the evolution of relationships between museum institutions and the communities from which the objects originate. 
The conference is not intended as an overview of the museum’s legacy, and even less as a pretext for self-celebration. Instead, it looks at the museum’s place in a landscape of art and anthropology museums which has undergone deep transformation in the last fifteen years. 
The contributors will attempt to identify the role played by the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac as an object of reflection and criticism for institutions around it. Without claiming to cover everything, this conference will bring together major witnesses of the museum’s genesis and construction, people who work in its different sectors, researchers and observers from here and further afield, and representatives of the audiences and communities concerned by the museum and its collections. 
Rather than a string of speeches, the conference sessions will take the form of either round tables or discussions between two or three speakers, reacting to questions from informed facilitators and the audience. Its ultimate aim is to consider and imagine the museum of tomorrow.
The speakers in Paris include Anita Herle, Nick Thomas, Philippe Descola, Wayne Modest, Maurice Godelier, Gaye Sculthorpe, Hamady Bocoum, Boris Wastiau, and James Clifford, as well as a wide range of leading scholars and curators from the Quai Branly itself. The full programme for the meeting is online here.



Then on Thursday 6 October I'm speaking in London at the Science Museum at the 2016 Museum Ideas Conference, in a programme that also includes JiaJia Fei (Jewish Museum, NYC); Ken Arnold, (Medical Museion, Copenhagen); Onur Karaoglu (Museum of Innocence, Istanbul); Shyam Oberoi (Dallas Museum of Art); and Gravity Goldberg (Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco). 

The conference is on the theme of The Future of Museums in the Era of Participatory Culture, and I'll be speaking about some aspects of the paper that was just re-published in Museums ID magazine: Pitt Rivers AD 2065: The Future of Museums, Past and Present

Friday, 26 February 2016

Two forthcoming seminars in Sweden

"Irish Bill-hooks"from Pitt-Rivers' publication of excavations at Mount Caburn, 1881
I'll be giving two departmental seminars in Sweden, at Uppsala and Stockholm, this April. The outline for the paper I'll be giving - which is about using Victorian archaeological thinking to develop a new theory of the archaeological present - is below, along with the details of the times and locations:

Tuesday 19 April. The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire. Departmental seminar, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University

Wednesday 20 April. The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire. Departmental seminar, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University


The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire (Dan Hicks)

This paper puts 19th-century archaeological thinking about time and change into conversation with current questions about how we think about time in historical and contemporary archaeology. It begins with considering Pitt-Rivers' contention, in his classic statement on "the evolution of culture", that "there is nothing but unbroken continuity to be seen in the present and in the past" (Lane Fox 1875). Re-visiting Pitt-Rivers' 1891 lecture "Typological Museums", the paper aims to trace an unexplored and unexpected dimension of the Begriffsgeschichte of the development of the idea of "typology" in archaeology, and its significance today.

The conventional account is well known, running from Hildebrand (1873) and Montelius (1903) forwards, via Flinders Petrie to the linear historiographies of typological seriation that were relied upon first as data by the culture-historical archaeology, and then as theory by the social evolutionary archaeology. Taking a different path, this paper moves sideways and backwards from Pitt-Rivers' vision of the educational museum "in which the visitors may instruct themselves", in contrast with "a museum of reference",  "of research", for "savants", of which the British Museum, little more than a "large store of antiquities", was his preferred example. In this other kind of museum, where "casts, reproductions, and models are preferable", and where sequences are displayed sometimes where "there is actual evidence of the dates" but mostly by series created from type, Pitt-Rivers vision of archaeological typology can be retraced as a distinctive form of mimetic practice, of temporal thinking and of archaeological interpretation and exegesis.

Travelling from numismatics, to Evangelical figuralism, to the idea of ethnographic analogy, to the idea of morphological type in comparative philology and the anthropology of race, unexpected parallels emerge: between the Oxford Movement and Oxford's Museums, Pre-Raphaelitism and Lubbock's Pre-Historic Times, between geological time-consciousness and Victorian self-consciousness,  between Kitto’s Pictorial Bible and Shelley's Hellas, and even between "object lessons" and biblical prophecy,

In Stockholm, we may possibly be right to suggest that in 19th-century archaeology ‘typology was the archaeological equivalent of evolution’ (Lucas 2001: 80). But in Wiltshire things were more involved. In Pitt-Rivers' practical commitment (following Max Müller) to relocating the study of human culture and "the arts of life" within the field of science (alongside "the works of God") rather than history (which studies only "the works of man"), a distinctive theory of archaeological time emerged. The paper argues that there was another dimension to the typological method within "the evolution of culture" - one concerned with mimesis, with prophecy, and with "Object Lessons".

Building on a line of argument developed by Laurent Olivier (2011), the fragments of this alternative past of the idea of typology represent today fragments with which we might reconstitute aspects of a  Victorian theory of the archaeological present. This theory was concerned with survival, with reflection, with secular knowledge of the non-biblical past, and it imagined archaeology to be a prefigurative technique, grounded in the conceit of "unbroken continuity" through which "The coming age is shadowed on the Past / As on a glass". 

The paper concludes by considering what all this might mean for how we think about Contemporary Archaeology - and how we do it.

References
Hildebrand, H. 1873. Den vetenskapliga fornforskningen, hennes uppgift, behof och rätt. Stockholm.
Lane Fox, A.H. 1875. The Evolution of Culture. Journal of the Royal Institution 7: 357-389.
Lucas, G. 2001. Critical Approaches to Fieldwork. London: Routledge.
Montelius, O. 1903. Die typologische Methode. Stockholm : Im Selbstverlag des Verfassers.
Olivier, L. 2011. The Dark Abyss of Time (trans. A. Greenspan). Lanham: Altamira.
Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F. Typological Museums, as exemplified by the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, and his provincial museum at Farnham, Dorset. Journal of the Society of Arts 40: 115-122.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Contemporary Past Revisited: A Conversation between Victor Buchli and Gavin Lucas



The Contemporary Past Revisited: A Conversation between Victor Buchli and Gavin Lucas

Tuesday 3 November, 2pm-4.30pm
Lecture Room, Pitt Rivers Museum

On Tuesday 3 November, we'll be hosting a conversation between two leading archaeological thinkers, Professor Gavin Lucas (University of Iceland) and Professor Victor Buchli (UCL). 

Chaired by Dan Hicks, the conversation will revisit Victor and Gavin's seminal edited volume Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past (Routledge 2001), before tracing the overlapping and distinct lines of thought that have developed in their work over the past 15 years. 

The conversation will explore Gavin's books The Archaeology of Time (2004) and Understanding the Archaeological Record (2012), alongside Victor's works An Anthropology of Architecture (2013) and most recently An Archaeology of the Immaterial (2015).

Spaces are limited, but if you're interested in attending, please email dan.hicks@prm.ox.ac.uk


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Temporality of the Landscape Revisited in Gothenburg

Trench locations for A435 road scheme in Warwickshire, Spring 1993
The Temporality of the Landscape Revisited in Gothenburg

I'll be giving a seminar in the Department of Historical Studies at Gothenburg University on Friday 16 November, from 13.15 to 15.00 (Hall C.402). The title for the seminar is The Temporality of the Landscape Revisited. Drawing on a programme of archival research into late 20th-century rescue archaeology in southern England, the paper will revisit and reassess Tim Ingold's 1993 paper The Temporality of the Landscape from the perspective of landscape archaeology as seen through the museum collection, exploring the potential for new forms of documentary archaeology. Further details are available from Christian Isendahl.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Photography and Archaeology (Session at EAA Conference, Glasgow)


Image: Test pit at Coleford, Gloucestershire, 1999 (photo: Dan Hicks)
I'm convening a session on Photography and Archaeology - co-organised with Lesley McFadyen, Joana Alves-Ferreira and Antonia Thomas - at the 21st annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA), which takes place in Glasgow between 2-5 September 2015. The session builds on a panel that Lesley and I convened at the Royal Anthropological Institute conference at the British Museum last year, on Archaeology and Photography

The EAA session takes place on the morning of Friday 4 September, between 8am and 12.30pm, in Room 204 of the Mathematics Building (University of Glasgow). There is a  full conference programme here, and a campus map which shows the location of the building here.)

The schedule for the morning - which comprises eleven 15-minute papers - is provided below, and the abstracts for each paper are provided further down the page.

We hope to see you there!


LV19 – Photography and Archaeology

Schedule
  
0800– 0810. 
Introduction and welcome

0810 – 0830.
We are all aerial archaeologists now: the ascent and descent
of archaeology.
Oscar Aldred (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland)

0830 - 0850 Disrupting archaeological photography; the temporality
of recording a 1970s abandoned village.
Alex Hale (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and University of Glasgow) and Iain Anderson (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland)

0850 – 0910
Photographing Buildings.
James Dixon (Museum of London Archaeology)
FRIDAY
0910 – 0930.
Archaeological photographs and temporality: from time travel
to timelessness
Jen Baird (University of London, Birkbeck)

0930 – 0950
At any given moment - archaeology and photography,
Lesley McFadyen (University of London, Birkbeck) and Mark Knight (Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

0950 - 1000 Discussion

COFFEE BREAK

1030 – 1050
Between the medium and the metaphor: multiple
temporalities in photography and archaeology
Antonia Thomas (University of the Highlands and Islands)

1050 – 1110
Photography, Writing and “Fictionality”
Sérgio Gomes (University of Coimbra)

1110 – 1130
Unrepeatable Experiments: Archaeological Photographs,
Archives, and Lives
Dan Hicks (University of Oxford)

1130 – 1150
All the memory of the world
Joana Alves-Ferreira (University of Porto)

1150 – 1210
Photography and Intangible Heritage: The Archaeology of
Images in Turkana, Northern Kenya
Sam Derbyshire (University of Oxford)

1210 - 1230 The Antique Virtual: historical perspectives on aerial
photography and virtual cartography
Martyn Barber (Historic England) and Helen Wickstead (Kingston University)


Paper Abstracts

We are all aerial archaeologists now: the ascent and descent of archaeology
Oscar Aldred
The view from above offered by aerial photographs gives archaeologists an unprecedented perspective on landscape. Early aerial archaeologists used their gaze from the air to follow features on the ground and to examine landscapes under the threat of large-scale change. From the early-20th century through to the 1950s, the likes of O. G. S. Crawford and others photographed a less intensively farmed landscape than it is now, with well preserved features, and used techniques that remain bench marks. There is still much to learn from these innovators; not only how and what they photographed, but their approach to archaeology and landscape. In this paper I will explore aerial photography’s penchant at recording landscape’s deep time, as well as Walter Benjamin’s optical unconscious; qualities revealed that might otherwise remain hidden. Far from an aerial photograph being portrayed as a static snap-shot - capturing time - through the lens of aerial archaeology it becomes a device that mediates an optical unconsciousness, that hosts an abundance of time, and hints at glimpses of the expansive terrain of the human imagination. Aerial photographs are representational features with potential, showing subtle but not exposed things in-the-frame, and features that lie off-centre and out of focus. Linking these ideas with Ruth Benedict’s understanding of experience as human imagination, I will examine the potential, affect, (dis)orientation and the paradox of proximity while up above and when looking down. This is to consider an archaeology that is camera-like but of a different shutter speed and duration of exposure.

Disrupting archaeological photography; the temporality of recording a 1970s abandoned village
Alex Hale and Iain Anderson
In 1970s oil boom Scotland, a village was built to house 500 workers on the west coast of the Cowal peninsula. Economic change and out-dated production methods led to no oil platforms being built here. The village was abandoned before it was ever occupied.
Polphail presents a dichotomy of workaday, non-designated architecture (‘sadder than a deserted holiday campWalker 2002) and a dramatic location for graffiti artists, photographers and urban explorers to play out their ambitions, within an environment free from constraint. This peaked in 2009 when the then owner sanctioned a group of graffiti artists, Agents of Change, to use the village as their blank canvas - repopulating the village with figures, images and haunting reflections of its ghost inhabitants.
This paper proposes to examine photography's role in the understanding of a place where 'traditional' historic environment approaches and mechanisms are challenged and reduced to arguably secondary significance by unanticipated 'afterlives' that prolong and change the narrative of that place. Photography of the village fabric and the graffiti art has disrupted and altered our ideas about abandonment, temporality, destruction and ruination whilst also providing the principal media for recording the targeted destruction of both village and graffiti.
The village and its incarnations provides a fascinating focus for a national body of investigation and recording such as RCAHMS, whilst prompting thematic discussion of significance and imagery within a 'traditional' archive.

Photographing Buildings
James Dixon
This paper takes as its subject the photography of standing buildings as part of the wider archaeological recording process. When we photograph buildings, there are certain shots we must take: elevations, general room shots, close-ups of architectural details and so on. These are all important and useful photographs, providing visual cues linking the appearance of the building at the time of recording to its structural description and the archaeological analysis of how it came to be the way it was on the day it was visited. Occasionally, as with rectified photography, the photographs themselves are the recording.
I argue here that this approach may give too much weight to art-historical approaches to standing buildings that over-emphasise the design of buildings and their ‘completion’ as intended by their architects, in effect producing a series of images intentionally comparable to the architect’s drawings. While we gain a useful visual record by recording in the manner we do, such traditional processes also obscure what may be more interesting to archaeology than the appearance of the whole structure, namely the ongoing process of ‘building’ – the whole life of a structure from conception to demolition and beyond – and buildings as experienced, lived space.
Here, I will make use of over a century of non-archaeological photography of buildings, from Louis Lumière to Marie-Jeanne Hoffner, to ask firstly whether we could use different kinds of photography of buildings to answer more distinctly archaeological questions and secondly how we might go about integrating these approaches into current practice.

Archaeological photographs and temporality: from time travel to timelessness
Jen Baird
Archaeological photographs are often seen as neutral pieces of evidence whose purpose is to preserve or salvage that which was being excavated. This evidence obtains part of its authority by looking a certain way: for instance, there are accepted visual conventions for framing, lighting, and scale, all of which evolved from pre-photographic documentary conventions.
The supposedly scientific, evidentiary qualities of such documentation are at odds with what might be called an archaeological aesthetic. Among the components of this aesthetic is a particular representation of time. This paper will explore the ways in which time operates in archaeological photographs and the implications of this for archaeological knowledge. With particularly reference to Classical archaeology, it asks what temporalities are seen, or not seen, in archaeological photographs. How do archaeological photographs relate to the understanding of and representation of archaeological chronology? Is the tension between indexicality and beauty in archaeology’s photographs also the tension between time and timelessness? Finally, what might a more careful consideration to the visual constructions of temporality add to our understandings of archaeological photographs, and archaeological tempos and temporalities, more broadly?
Between the medium and the metaphor: multiple temporalities in photography and archaeology

At any given moment - archaeology and photography
Lesley McFadyen and Mark Knight
This paper is about how archaeology and photography share similar properties especially when it comes to exploring ideas concerning extent (space) and duration (time).
Archaeology deals with what's left of movement, of being alive. It excavates 'the incline that matter descends' (Bergson 1911). Bizarrely, archaeology is often perceived of as a discipline that produces flat and quiescent representations of past events - a series of spatial snapshots as opposed to lived histories.
Early photography was the same in that its long-drawn-out exposure times could only register what survived of movement, but not movement itself. Yet its very inability to capture movement made it all the more precise in its ability to reveal the inert. Its focus, its depth of field, was highly sensitive to inanimate things (buildings and artefacts) which it reproduced at extraordinary resolution. Even as photographic technology advanced, and its capability to arrest movement improved, time was still involved in the production of an image - the photograph was still a composite of extent and duration.
Theorising photography, the photographic process, is our way of thinking differently about archaeology. It is our opinion that neither discipline produces flat quiescent representations of past events.

Between the medium and the metaphor: multiple temporalities in photography and archaeology
Antonia Thomas
In this paper I use the Brodgar Stone, a decorated Neolithic slab which was found in Orkney in 1924, as a case study for thinking through the multiple temporalities of both archaeology and photography.
Beginning with one photograph, I will explore the way in which the representation of this stone has shaped its ongoing biography as an artefact, and what this can tell us about the way in which archaeology has dealt with the relationship between visual culture and time.
The discussion will lead on to the contemporary experience of recording and photographing the wider assemblage of decorated stones from the Ness of Brodgar to examine the role that photography plays in constructing archaeological narratives.
Returning to the image of the Brodgar Stone, I will argue that a more considered discussion of photography allows an exploration of the multiple temporalities that archaeologists encounter though their own practice.

Photography, Writing and “Fictionality”
Sergio Gomes
Images and words enhance the web of relationships within which they acquire their meaning. In this web, images and words play with each other and in so doing challenge their ability to mean. In this game, the web acquires and transforms its shape. I call these different shapes “fictionality” – a territory in which images and words dwell, and which we share in order to understand each other.
In this paper, I will discuss “fictionalities” focusing on the relationship between photography and writing. I will look at this relationship in two ways - as an “archaeological intervention” (Lucas 2012) and as a “historiographical operation” (De Certeau 1988) – in order to grasp how archaeologists play with “fictionalities” in the production of knowledge.

Unrepeatable Experiments: Archaeological Photographs, Archives, and Lives
Dan Hicks
This paper reports on archival research undertaken in 2014 into the author's own archaeological fieldwork, carried out for English archaeological units between 1989-1999. In doing so, the paper thinks through some of the limits of life-writing in archaeological thought and practice.

All the memory of the world
Joana Ferriera
In 1956, Alain Resnais created a 20’ documentary-film entitled “Toute la Mémoire du Monde”. Shot at the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, it shows its labyrinthine architecture through the dramatic journey of a book. The film addresses the exponential process of bringing together memories - the eternal process of accumulating them - and thus becomes a meditative piece on the fragility of human memory. Two years later, Italo Calvino wrote “The Adventure of a Photographer”, a reflective short story involving Antonino a photographer with a desire to document everything and how, caught in a state of isolation, he turns himself into a “hunter of the unattainable”. Calvino points out that, paradoxically, it is the compulsion to document that dooms photography to transgress the limits of the visible, opening up a surface that belongs to the imagination only.
In 2014, Daniel Blaufuks presented in Lisbon “All the Memory of the World - Part One” - an exhibition which presented a vast array of works associated with the creation of an “atlas of images”. Through the process of collecting, the work stresses the necessary condition of absolute compromise and understands memory making as a “changing shadow”.
Such a “constellation”, as in the mythological metaphor of Atlas, points to the ethical sensibility of photography, still cloistered in the idealism of totality while also an image of reality. Given that the shadows of the past will change with the light projected onto it, how are we to read such a “fragile house of cards”?

Photography and Intangible Heritage: The Archaeology of Images in Turkana, Northern Kenya
Samuel Derbyshire
The histories of remote, non-industrialised communities in the contemporary world are rarely the focus of archaeologists. One of the most significant reasons behind this absence is the intangibility of these communities’ heritage. Hunter-gatherer and pastoralist peoples tend to have an extremely ephemeral impact on the landscapes in which they dwell, and rarely collect or curate everyday objects. This situation stands in contrast to urban and semi-urban areas, where contemporary and historical archaeologists have successfully engaged with changing material culture to unveil aspects of social history that have eluded the written record.
This paper introduces on-going archaeological research with the pastoralist nomadic Turkana people of northern Kenya. This research utilizes historical photographs in the retrieval and construction of social history. Collections of historical photographs at museums in the UK have facilitated the formation of a series of material culture typologies that span the last century in Turkana. Over the past year a selection of these images has been the focus of a series of repatriation and elicitation sessions. The process of tracing objects in photographs through the events of the last century is brought to life by the voices of those who experienced them, or were taught about them first hand. Photographs facilitate an understanding of the various shifting and converging social, economic, political and environmental landscapes to which Turkana communities have belonged, and the various ways in which these communities have negotiated, embodied and enacted fundamental changes in their worlds through time.

The Antique Virtual: historica perspectives on aerial photography and virtual cartography
Martyn Barber and Helen Wickstead
This paper uses aerial survey to examine concepts of the real and the virtual in mapping, counterposing recent debates surrounding digital mapping technologies with nineteenth century concerns surrounding aerial photography. The virtual was a significant part of modern visualities long before the spread of computers.
Today, aerial photographs are often treated as virtual maps, but the unsuccessful efforts of early aerial photographers, for example the French pioneer Nadar, or Lt-Col Henry Elsdale of the Royal Engineers, demonstrate that treating photographs as if they were maps required fundamental changes in ways of seeing. These 19th century failures allow us to analyze the kinds of difficulties involved in establishing aerial photographs as virtual maps, both on the part of the map-reader and the map-maker.
In this paper we investigate the development of virtual images in analog technologies. Viewing virtual images became essential to the development of methods for mapping from aerial photographs, allowing maps to be created directly from the hallucinatory stereoscopic images that existed only within the mind of the cartographer. We interrupt the assumed equivalence between aerial photograph and map by highlighting the work that has been necessary to allow aerial images to appear like virtual maps.