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Ethics and collecting in the ‘postmodern’ museum: A Papua New Guinea example

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It is commonplace today for museums to have collection development policies governing acquisitions and collecting, accompanied by statements concerning the need for ethical standards in acquisition, the latter referencing ICOM standards and appropriate legislation. This chapter turns from museum policy to focus on the events and issues met within the process of making a collection of pottery from Papua New Guinea, for a museum holding ethnographic objects. I delineate the preoccupations of the pot makers concerned and compare these with the aims and objectives of the museum as a collecting institution including the role of the collector as museum agent and fieldworker. In presenting this case study, I illustrate that the specific actions of ‘ethical’ collecting cannot necessarily be stipulated in advance, beyond the broadest/abstract statements of intention: but such statements of intention must be able to accommodate divergent local views, without being able to predict what these may be.




Bonshek, E. (2015). Ethics and collecting in the ‘postmodern’ museum: A Papua New Guinea example. In The Ethics of Cultural Heritage (pp. 145–163). Springer New York.

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