Heritage image-making. How digital documentation makes the artefact in ethnographic museum collecting
This article reflects on the relationships between artefacts newly collected
by ethnographic museums and the digital images that illustrate such artefacts in
museum archives and catalogues. Taking three examples derived from collecting
activities and ethnographic fieldwork in China and Taiwan, the article reflects
on the potential of images to not simply “contextualise” artefacts, but to shape
the relationships that are established between museums, the makers of artefacts,
and the related source communities. More specifically, through three cases it is
discussed how images can: 1) come to position makers within a tradition, 2)
offer solutions to issues of rights over designs, and 3) link the collected artefact
to the land from which materials were gathered. In the concluding discussion,
four aspects of “images of collecting” are discussed: their materiality, their role in
the creation of value, risks of misinterpretation, and responsibilities involved in
editing and selecting images.
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