A cultural history of Marischal Anthropological Museum in the twentieth century
This thesis is the first in-depth exploration of the social, cultural and historical development of Marischal Museum throughout the twentieth century. The study explores a range of museum and archive sources to reconstruct the Museum's cultural history, and to highlight significant issues which make the Museum an important case study in historical museum studies. This thesis examines the changing nature of museums, and in particular, the shifting relationship between anthropology, empire and museums. Museums are considered here as hubs at the centres of complex and geographically wide-ranging social networks. Wider political and cultural changes are seen to be expressed in the architectural structure, collections and displays of the Museum. I explore these changes through an examination of the exhibition galleries, processes of acquisition, storage, classification and display from the early twentieth century to the present day (2003). A combination of cultural historical, anthropological and museological approaches are drawn upon to provide an in-depth analysis of Marischal Museum's internal social relations and cultural practices over time. The thesis argues that museums are shaped in important ways by their social, cultural and political contexts, as well as by the persons who create and use them. The internal processes of museums need to be understood as cultural historical processes involving social contacts, patterns of acquisition, classification, documentation, and decisions about gallery architecture and display. Analysis of these processes can shed light on public exhibitions, and the contemporary role of museums in society. It is argued that museums are more than repositories of material objects. Instead, the materiality of the museum sites, including their spatial dimensions and their diverse collections, is entirely bound up with the social relations of the people who have shaped the institution over time, and who continue to be referred to in the present practices at the Museum. The past informs the present in museums as they draw upon and reinterpret their histories.