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Rethinking Practice, Reimagining the Future:

Climate, Colonial Collections, and Contemporary Collecting

April 28th-April 29th 2022

National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

Kia whakato-muri te haere whakamua (Māori proverb)

(English Translation: I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.)

What does the future hold for world culture museums and their collections, and what role can or should they play in building the futures our communities desire or aspire to?

At a time of various world crises and museum reckonings, from climate and covid to colonial histories and legacies, the 2022 Museum Ethnographers Group conference calls for papers that engage with world collections in ways that seek to address contemporary concerns and inspire new futures for museums and their constituencies.

We invite case study presentations, creative responses and short work in progress presentations that consider a range of issues, including but not limited to:

Colonisation, Climate, and Sustainable Futures: How can world cultures collections and museum histories build understanding and hold conversations around colonialism as a driver of climate change, the Anthropocene and its attendant inequalities and violences? What can museums learn from responses to such inequality by community-led movements and activism? What is the current and future potential of world cultures collections as archives of environmental knowledge?

Contemporary Collecting: How are museums collecting the world in ways that reflect contemporary concerns about the future, for example, in terms of climate, covid, neo- and postcolonialisms, broader inequalities, and shifting nationalisms?  

Co-curating and Co-design: What do museum audiences and stakeholders think about the world’s past and its future? How can museums help realise their aspirations? How can museums meet the needs of audiences and stakeholders if they don’t already? Can collections-based co-curation and co-design projects help museums to redefine present and future relationships? What can museums learn about the relevance of world cultures collections through co-curating and co-design with communities in the UK and overseas?

Addressing Imperial and Colonial Histories and Legacies: What new practices and structural changes do museums need to create more equitable, anti-racist futures? How can museums Indigenise conservation and other universalised practices? We also welcome contributions that provide new historical and contemporary insights on Return, Repatriation, Restitution and Reparation, including those that present innovative contemporary approaches that are affecting new creative object futures. And in the absence of requests for return, what is the future of colonial-era human remains collections?

Digital Initiatives and Remote Access: How can our increasingly digital future bring world cultures collections closer to and in richer engagement with the world? Do Indigenous digital heritage values differ from Western digital heritage values, and, if so, in what ways?

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and sent as a word doc via email by January 14th 2022 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please include your name, institution where applicable and a contact email.

Conference bursaries:

MEG aspires to make the group and the Conference accessible to all involved in this field, and to diversify the membership.

Two UK bursaries are aimed at people working (paid or voluntary) or wanting to work in UK museums, without institutional support to attend the Conference, with up to £250 each for Conference fee, travel, accommodation and food. Applications are especially welcome from those underrepresented in the cultural sector and those on a low income.

If you are interested in applying for a bursary please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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