Anthropology | Dancing Mummies and Hot Pots
A208 | 14397 | McGill
Above class carries COLL Arts and Humanities credit
Have you ever wondered why some ancient artifacts get into museums and
others do not? Do some museums seem to display strange objects that
have no place in a glass case, while others display fascinating and
important things but tell you nothing about them? What is going on?
Who buys stuff for museums and how do they decide what to buy? Once
they have bought it, who decides what gets shown to the public?
Museums are not at all what most people think they are. Over the
course of the semester, this class will examine how developments in
the field of archaeology have influenced museums, especially American
fine art museums.
We will discuss and debate the same topics early anthropologists such
as Franz Boas struggled with during the "museum age." We will also
consider why national governments are so interested in archaeological
objects and museums.
The introduction of the course will explore the history of museums to
help explain what museums have become today. During the second part of
the class, we will visit several museums to observe some of the
contexts discussed in class and to learn to see them from several
points of view: as art, as archaeology, as material culture, as
wealth, as culture, as propaganda, etc. After the fieldtrips, we will
focus on issues of acquisition, ownership, display, and illicit
trafficking of archaeological objects. As a class, we will debate the
role of archaeology and museums in the world today, consider multiple
legal and ethical dilemmas on these issues, and look toward what the
future may hold.