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3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

H. GLENN PENNY
Professor of History, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Iowa

Respondents:
DEBORA SILVERMAN, Distinguished Professor & University of California Presidential Chair in Modern European History, Art and Culture at UCLA

NANCY LUTKEHAUS, Professor of Anthropology, USC

Co-sponsored by the Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies

By the middle of the twentieth century, salvage anthropology had become a pejorative phrase.  Leading ethnologists not only hurled it at contemporary collectors but also past professionals who had filled the world’s largest collecting museums. In the last decade, however, a range of scholars, particularly those interested in community engaged scholarship, have set out to salvage the salvage anthropologists—recognizing the wealth of fugitive knowledge about human cultures and histories sequestered in their neglected texts. Even more fugitive knowledge, one could argue, is hidden in the millions of objects packed away in the back rooms, depots, and storage facilities of those nineteenth-century collecting museums.  According to Glenn Penny, releasing that knowledge first requires freeing those objects. Yet he also contends that as we do that we could and should allow those practitioners of the past be our guides toward the future. They once set out to fashion museums that would be sites for the production of knowledge about the multiplicity of human cultures and histories, not stages for its mere articulation.  If that is a vision worthy of the present, he explains, it is also one that will require reassessing how we think about and with museums in the future.

 

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