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Ancestors, Artefacts, Empire (Hardback)

Indigenous Australia in British and Irish Museums

World History > Australia & the Pacific

Imprint: British Museum Press
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 160 images
ISBN: 9780714124902
Published: 2nd September 2021
Casemate UK Academic

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Museums across Great Britain and Ireland hold Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (collectively referred to as 'Indigenous') cultural heritage of exceptional value, but which is largely unknown, rarely seen and poorly understood. Gifted, sold, exchanged and bartered by Indigenous people, and accepted, bought, collected and taken by travellers, colonists, explorers, missionaries, officials and others, these rare objects date from Captain Cook in 1770 to the present day. Numbering over 35,000 items, they represent all regions of Australia's vast landmass, from deserts, islands and coasts to tropical rainforests.The book uses nearly 160 artefacts, selected from over 30 public museums, both large metropolitan and small regional, to present a multi-stranded narrative that opens up vistas on Britain's Australian history as much as Australia's British history. More than twenty Indigenous, Australian and international experts weave together deeply-contextualised accounts of objects and object-types; of makers, communities and regions; and of collectors, networks and institutions, while also exploring the meanings and importance of this material in Australia, Britain and Ireland, and the world today. Distanced from their places of origin and dispersed throughout Britain and Ireland, these objects are gathered together for the first time. Out of museum stores and into this book, they are evidence of the complex, and often difficult, relationships between Indigenous Australians and British people and institutions, as well as being powerful conduits for telling that history anew and in ways that seek to challenge and rework its legacies.

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