European Commission - 7th Framework Programme European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations last updated: February 2015

The Future of Ethnographic Museums

19-21 July 2013

Oxford, United Kingdom | Pitt Rivers Museum & Keble College, University of Oxford


  • What is the purpose of an ethnographic museum in the twenty-first century?
  • Who are they for and what should they contain?
  • Should ethnographic museums retain the evidence of their entanglement with the colonial past or prioritise the contemporary in their collections and exhibitions?
  • Who has the right to own and represent the material culture of others?
  • To what extent have new models of curatorial practice and anthropological theorising realigned the power imbalances of earlier eras?
  • How can such institutions respond to the movement of people and things in an increasingly transnational and transcultural world?

The conference will mark the completion of the five-year RIME project funded by the European Union, and involving ten major European ethnography museums. RIME’s (Réseau International de Musées d’Ethnographie) stated aim has been to encourage ethnographic museums to “redefine their priorities” in response to “an ever more globalizing and multicultural world”. Since then workshops, exhibitions and symposia have been held at the RIME participating museums. Underpinning much of the discussion at these events has been the fundamental question: what is the future of ethnographic museums? In order to address this question more fully, an international cast of distinguished scholars will speak at the Oxford 2013 conference and responses will be made by representatives of the RIME museums. This conference aims to move the debate about the purpose of ethnographic museums in the post-colonial period forward and to envision new ways of thinking and working in those museums in the future.


Keynote Speaker
James Clifford (University of California at Santa Cruz)

The conference will be addressed by other leading figures in the study of museums and anthropology including:
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University), Wayne Modest (Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam),
Corinne Kratz (Emory University), Sharon Macdonald (University of Manchester),
Annie Coombes (Birkbeck College, University of London),
Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi),
Nick Thomas (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge) and
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (New York University).

Papers will be followed by responses from representatives of the museums participating in the RIME project.


Conference Activities to include

  • A reception in the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum
  • A gala dinner
  • Music and performance events
  • Project posters
  • Publishers stalls
  • Networking opportunities

Conference Convenors
Michael O’Hanlon (Director)
Clare Harris (Curator for Asian Collections)
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.


Registration for this conference will open in October 2012, when further details about costs will be available. However, places will be limited so please indicate your interest in advance by contacting:

Further details will then be sent to you when registration starts.