Arianna Huhn, Cal State San Bernardino

[this is a working abstract, to be modified based on the interests of panelists on issues related to museums, museology, colonial era collections, repatriation, and related issues] In 2018, the tenuous relationship between African material culture and museums came into the popular limelight with Black Panther’s museum heist scene – a smug curator defending her knowledge of an artifact that was stolen from “Wakanda” and is then reclaimed by the film’s adversary, Erik Killmonger. While fictional, the scene reignited debate about the contentious ways in which many museums obtained their African collections – through pillage, missionary confiscation, unlawful sale, etc. – and the broader problematics in the collection and curation of Africana. These issues were compounded further with the 2018 opening of the much-anticipated Museum of Black Civilizations (MCN), which opens new possibilities for the return of looted artworks to the continent by assuring climate controlled storage and gallery spaces (previously an impediment). Amid such excitement and flurry, I aim for this panel to consider broadly and with nuanced perspective the relationship between Africa and museums, with attention to the collection, storage, conservation, and curation of artifacts, photographs, ephemera, documents, etc. on and away from the continent. Potential points of focus could be the shaping of curatorial narratives, overcoming challenges in the display of African art, the politics of repatriation claims, culturally relevant collections management strategies, community engagement and outreach, analyses of African museum exhibits and collections, and strategies for the incorporation of material culture into University teaching. A mix of collections- and exhibitions-based and more broadly theoretical papers is desired. Particularly of interest might be papers rethinking the colonial legacy of African collections (on and off the continent) – not just documenting connections, but considering what can and cannot be done with these linkages. A uniting question might then be, “How can we reimagine the relationship between Africa and museums?”

Please submit your proposed contribution to this panel by MARCH 1st to ahuhn[at]csusb.edu.