Objects of Culture: Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in by H. Glenn Penny

By H. Glenn Penny

Within the overdue 19th century, Germans spearheaded a global attempt to maintain the fabric strains of humanity, designing significant ethnographic museums and development huge networks of verbal exchange and alternate around the globe. during this groundbreaking research, Glenn Penny explores the allure of ethnology in Imperial Germany and analyzes the motivations of the scientists who created the ethnographic museums.

Penny exhibits that German ethnologists weren't pushed by means of imperialist wishes or an curiosity in legitimating putative organic or racial hierarchies. Overwhelmingly antiracist, they aspired to generate theories concerning the crucial nature of people via their museums' collections. They received help of their efforts from boosters who have been enticed by means of partaking during this overseas technology and who used it to advertise the cosmopolitan personality in their towns and themselves. yet those cosmopolitan beliefs have been ultimately overshadowed through the scientists' extra glossy, specialist, and materialist issues, which dramatically altered the technological know-how and its targets.

By clarifying German ethnologists' aspirations and targeting the industry and conflicting curiosity teams, Penny makes vital contributions to German heritage, the historical past of technology, and museum reports.

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To a certain degree, this growth can be explained by ethnologists’ ability to take advantage of the technological advances of the late nineteenth century— the faster and more reliable communications and transportation, and the establishment of worldwide networks of Europeans — which eased the accumulation, preservation, and transportation of scientific specimens. Businessmen in Singapore helped museums acquire Bata clothing off Sumatra; government officials in Sydney provided Aboriginal weapons from Australia; steam-powered ships delivered Haida and Bella Coola masks from America’s northwestern coast; and telegraph lines and efficient mail services kept the museums in continuous communication with their contacts and collectors abroad.

The son of a wealthy merchant family in Bremen, Bastian spent over twenty-five years of his life abroad and became the father of German ethnolog y. 14 Moreover, much like his intellectual hero, Bastian’s ethnographic proj                 ect was governed by a set of methodological and political convictions rather than a single overarching theory. ” For this reason Humboldt had posited no great theory, no general explanatory system in his Cosmos; nor, as far as Bastian was concerned, was one necessary.

Indeed, the most fundamental shift that occurred in the arrangements of ethnographic displays resulted in many ways from transfor mations in the urban contexts in which they were based, especially the changes in the composition of these museums’ audiences and the willingness of their visitors to articulate their desires. ” It examines the relationship between the social and cultural forces discussed in the previous chapters and the changing character of the museums’ displays. It argues that essential changes in the ways culture was consumed around the turn of the century had a critical impact on the shape and function of these scientific museums.

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