- Copyright Page
- List of Contributors
- Words or Things in American History?
- Artifacts and Their Functions
- Mastery, Artifice, and the Natural Order: A Jewel from the Early Modern Pearl Industry
- Food and Cognition: Henry Norwood’s A Voyage to Virginia
- On Pins and Needles: Straight Pins, Safety Pins, and Spectacularity
- Mind, Time, and Material Engagement
- Material Time
- Remaking the Kitchen, 1800–1850
- Boston Electric: Science by “Mail Order” and Bricolage at Colonial Harvard
- Making Knowledge Claims in the Eighteenth-Century British Museum
- The Ever-Changing Technology and Significance of Silk on the Silk Road
- Science, Play, and the Material Culture of Twentieth-Century American Boyhood
- The Sensory Web of Vision: Enchantment and Agency in Religious Material Culture
- Sensiotics, or the Study of the Senses in Material Culture and History in Africa and Beyond
- The Numinous Body and the Symbolism of Human Remains
- Symbolic Things and Social Performance: Christmas Nativity Scenes in Late Nineteenth-Century Santiago de Chile
- Heritage Religion and the Mormons
- From Confiscation to Collection: The Objects of China’s Cultural Revolution
- Persons and Things in Marseille and Lucca, 1300–1450
- Cloth and the Rituals of Encounter in La Florida: Weaving and Unraveling the Code
- Street “Luxuries”: Food Hawking in Early Modern Rome
- Ebony and Ivory: Pianos, People, Property, and Freedom on the Plantation, 1861–1870
- The Material Culture of Furniture Production in the British Colonies
- Material Culture, Museums, and the Creation of Multiple Meanings
- Chronology and Time: Northern European Coastal Settlements and Societies, c. 500–1050
- Materialities in the Making of World Histories: South Asia and the South Pacific
- Mapping History in Clay and Skin: Strategies for Remembrance among Ga’ anda of Northeastern Nigeria
- Remember Me: Sensibility and the Sacred in Early Mormonism
- Housing History: The Colonial Revival as Consumer Culture
- Collecting as Historical Practice and the Conundrum of the Unmoored Object
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter aims to show that ideas of the sacred, the numinous, and the contested, rather than of the rational, are most important in understanding how the meanings of material culture are formed and the role of museums. It considers how museums have offered rich contexts in which the changing, conflicting, and multiple meanings of material culture have developed. Scottish national identity, contested and unsettled, is shown in the contribution of museums and objects to discussions about a link between the Classical past and Scottish history in the early nineteenth century, the creation of a national museum in the second half of the nineteenth century, a temporary exhibition of Scottish history as part of a Great Exhibition in 1911, and two repatriation cases at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Recent developments in museum practice are discussed, including the impact of both growing professionalism and the recognition of the rights of groups in museums. The chapter concludes by arguing that objects generate and embody meanings that are shared, entangled, and co-constitutive. Instead of attempting to identify the “correct” meaning, it is therefore the responsibility of museums to explore the range of personal and shared rights that objects engender.
Neil G. W. Curtis is Head of Museums and Special Collections at the University of Aberdeen.
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