UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interrogative conceptual displays : a new direction for museums of anthropology Willmott, Jill A.

Abstract

This thesis consists primarily of a detailed account of an experimental exhibition installed at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia. The exhibit is termed "experimental" because it was an attempt to do something new in the field of visual education and thereby to provide one possible solution to the problem of the increasing gap between museum and theoretical anthropology. In recent years this problem has become so acute that many academics can find nothing good at all to say about the work of museum-based anthropologists, let alone collaborate with them, and vice versa. While this fact in itself does not necessarily constitute cause for alarm, it seemed to this student that a great deal could be gained from a rapprochement of the two branches, and after careful consideration that the exhibition hall was an excellent place to demonstrate this. To this end I designed an exhibit which uses the most important assets of any museum — its collections — in a new way: instead of the artifacts being ends in themselves, they are employed as means for conveying one of the current issues of theoretical anthropology — the concept of exchange, and the whole display is arranged to raise questions, rather than answer them, and to stimulate new thinking. In this way it was hoped to demonstrate the possibility of introducing into the museum some of the exciting ideas under study by the theorists, and at the same time to indicate the advantages of looking at some of these concepts from the point of view of the goods involved.

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