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Silvester, Jeremy. `Africa Accessioned: Museum Collections Make Connections'.
Thomas Laely  1@  
1 : Musée d'ethnographie de l'Université de Zurich, Suisse  (VMZ)  -  Site web
Pelikanstrasse 40, CH-8001 Zurich -  Suisse

The Africa Accessioned project aims to create a resource listing the location of African ethnographic collections held in European museums and, also, European artifacts in African museums as a tool to generate dialogue and collaborative projects.

The four African countries that will provide the initial focus for the project are Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project will, initially, seek to `map' relevant collections held in museums in Finland, Germany, Sweden and the UK. An initial exercise that has documented Namibian collections in Finnish museums will be used to demonstrate the project's potential to develop the notion of the `museum as process'.

The project recognises the contextual framework of the circulation of material culture along the colonial trade routes. The project seeks to position museums as mediums for global dialogue. The conversation will enable source communities to provide greater historical depth regarding the intangible cultural heritage and geographical places which can provide a more complete biography of an object in a collection, but also facilitate partnerships that generate wider forms of cultural exchange.

The project is not a campaign for the repatriation of African artifacts to the continent, but is likely to initiate discussions about the provenance of some objects held in collections. The willingness to revise displays and review collections to address the past will increase cultural dialogue and positive co-operation in the present and the future. Africa has been accessioned, but we can use the connections that these collections create to build bridges, rather than barriers.

Jeremy Silvester is the Project Manager of the Museums Association of Namibia (MAN), a member of the Board of ICOM Namibia and a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern African Development Community Heritage Association (SADCHA). Furthermore Silvester is the Chairperson of a Working Group established by the International Committee of Museums of Ethnography (ICME) for a pilot project called Africa Accessioned.


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