Curating absence in the Tibet Museum

Link to join the seminar on Teams

The aim of this talk is to trace out the beginnings of a curatorial strategy that gives a museological presence to absence. Researchers have considered the concept of absence useful when analysing the display choices of a small number of museum and heritage sites, but it has yet to be applied to the act of museum-making, nor a South Asia context. Using the development of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)’s New Tibet Museum as a case study I will negotiate several categories of absence and particularly the loss, lack and want of Tibetan material culture. In doing so, this study reflects upon the affordance absence brings to the curatorial practices of the museum’s staff. Rather than seeing absence as a limitation, a melancholic longing, or a sign of victimhood it is used here to purposely disrupt dominant narratives of Tibet and to give presence to Tibetans as they assess the museological possibilities of their material culture. In the process I will highlight how recognising material absence in museum spaces – by acknowledging its impact rather than ignoring it – becomes a powerful museum-making strategy that has the potential to be applicable across a number of exile, refugee, and displaced heritage contexts.

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Michaelmas 2021

Online on Teams (the link is above)

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm (Weeks 1-3 and 5-8)

Convened by Elizabeth Hallam and Clare Harris