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Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums

Synopsis

Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes poses a number of probing questions about the role and responsibility of museums and anthropology in the contemporary world. In it, Michael Ames, an internationally renowned museum director, challenges popular concepts and criticisms of museums and presents an alternate perspective which reflects his experiences from many years of museum work. Based on the author's previous book, Museums, the Public and Anthropology, the new edition includes seven new essays which argue, as in the previous volume, that museums and anthropologists must contextualize and critique themselves -- they must analyse and critique the social, political and economic systems within which they work. In the new essays, Ames looks at the role of consumerism and the market economy in the production of such phenomena as worlds' fairs and McDonald's hamburger chains, referring to them as "museums of everyday life" and indicating the way in which they, like museums, transform ideology into commonsense, thus reinforcing and perpetuating hegemonic control over how people think about and represent themselves. He also discusses the moral/political ramifications of conflicting attitudes towards Aboriginal art (is it art or artifact?); censorship (is it liberating or repressive?); and museum exhibits (are they informative or disinformative?). The earlier essays outline the development of museums in the Western world, the problems faced by anthropologists in attempting to deal with the often conflicting demands of professional as opposed to public interests, the tendency to both fabricate and stereotype, and the need to establish a reciprocal rather than exploitative relationship between museums/anthropologists and Aboriginal people. Written during the course of the last decade, these essays offer an accessible, often anecdotal, journey through one professional anthropologist's concerns about, and hopes for, his discipline and its future.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Vancouver
Publication year:
  • 1992