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Title: Rethinking heritage and display in national museums in Ghana and Mali
Author: Mew, Sophie
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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The research project explores the trajectories of cultural heritage institutions in Mali and Ghana and their relationships with their publics in a range of contexts. The principal case studies are the National Museums of Mali and Ghana. Following on from cabinets of curiosities and the formation of modern public museums in Europe, periods of intense salvage ethnography in West Africa in the early 20th century enriched collections in Europe and shaped the organisations of collections of the future national museums in post independent West Africa. Within the conceptual frameworks of the civilizing missions of museums, indigenous material culture was displayed and positioned within rapidly changing societies as testimonies of pre-colonial pasts, albeit framed by colonial assumptions and contingencies. These re-presentations of cultural heritage are one of the many legacies that continue to haunt the museums today in West Africa. I examine whether the institutions have emerged from their colonial foundations to occupy a space in local African discourses and to what extent they are indeed able to do so. Colonial legacies associated with these institutions have incited a re-evaluation of the roles of the museum as appropriate avenues for stimulating local cultural knowledge according to a closer association with local audiences' perceived needs. Interesting initiatives have been set up across Mali and Ghana to foster local participation. As part of these initiatives, attention has focused on some rejections of museums by local groupings. Conceptually in this thesis I consider the category of the non-visitor as a means to analyse this phenomenon. The initiatives also serve to explore tensions over the management of cultural heritage(s), state agencies and the economic pull of tourism in the realm of museums today. Within the wider contexts of transnational museums, the thesis concludes with concerns over existing concepts of a universal heritage, questioning to what extent access to world cultures is universal within the framework of museum settings in West Africa.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral