New book by Dr Bryony Onciul (ICCHS alumna MA (2006) and PhD (2012) – Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonizing Engagement

Cover_Onciul_2015

Current discourse on Indigenous engagement in museum studies is often dominated by curatorial and academic perspectives, in which community voice, viewpoints, and reflections on their collaborations can be under-represented. This book provides a unique look at Indigenous perspectives on museum community engagement and the process of self-representation, specifically how the First Nations Elders of the Blackfoot Confederacy have worked with museums and heritage sites in Alberta, Canada, to represent their own culture and history. Situated in a post-colonial context, the case-study sites are places of contention, a politicized environment that highlights commonly hidden issues and naturalized inequalities built into current approaches to community engagement. Data from participant observation, archives, and in-depth interviewing with participants brings Blackfoot community voice into the text and provides an alternative understanding of self and cross-cultural representation.

Focusing on the experiences of museum professionals and Blackfoot Elders who have worked with a number of museums and heritage sites, Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonizing Engagement unpicks the power and politics of engagement on a micro level and how it can be applied more broadly, by exposing the limits and challenges of cross-cultural engagement and community self-representation. The result is a volume that provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the nuances of self-representation and decolonization.

Reviews

“This is an important and very useful book for museum professionals and academics who are concerned with issues of community outreach and consultation. It will also appeal to communities and their representatives who are about to engage with museums in policy and exhibitions development.” – Laurajane Smith, Australian National University

“At last, a book that goes beyond hopeful assertions about the value of community engagement, and really delves into the nitty-gritty of collaboration and representation, revealing the advantages – but also the challenges and risks – of working alongside, with, and for indigenous people.” – Conal McCarthy, Victoria University, New Zealand

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