Reconfiguration of Indigenous Curatorial and Social Practices in Western Paradigms


In fact, the museum in western society is symbolic, complex and multi-layered. Moreover, it is a sign of liberation, domination, learning, and leisure. The museums are associated with the cultures that generate them, the films, the photographs and other forms of presentations. The museum acts as a site for the exposition via collections, displays, art galleries, historic sites, and buildings. Thus, the museums depict society’s cultural practices and values. The role of museums as the representatives of people’s values remains a debatable issue.
Actually, the museums have been subjected to radical shifts in the post-colonial times due to particular forces. The indigenous curatorship has undergone a remarkable develop through its global spread and its integration of features that are associated with the Western museologies. However, the museums have reinvented themselves through the adoption of new roles, the alignment to economic rationalism and embracement of democratic processes. This paper will demonstrate the reconfiguration of indigenous curations and social practices into the Western concepts of museology.


Activities Associated with Museology

Museology describes the examination of museums, museum curation and the ways the museums develop via the influence of political and social forces. The essential universality of the museological behavior encompasses collection, retrieval, and conservation; this is matched by the ever-increasing awareness diversity of these practices beyond the western perceptions of the museum. In fact, indigenous museums have been seen as a poor imitation of western models. The indigenous museologies and their materialization as museums have been sealed from the global developments. Actually, indigenous curation is a broad concept.

Kreps defined the indigenous curation non-Western models of museums, as an aspect of cultural heritage preservation and curatorial methods. The complex nature of cultural expression can be summarized as the ‘museological behavior’, and it involves any activity that relates to the body practices that depict a consideration for the preservation of valued cultural resources and traditions. Thus, its features include the creation of spaces and the structures for the collection, storage, and display of cultural material, and the practices, knowledge, and strategies associated with their use, care, treatment, interpretation and preservation. Furthermore, the museological behavior is characterized by the heritage conservation that involves conceptual frameworks that facilitate the transmission of culture over time.

Reconfiguration of Indigenous Curatorship into Western Forms of Museology

What is important, the current museology has played a critical role in the deconstruction of the assumptions held for a long time regarding museum practices, curator and curatorship. The purpose, power structure, relationship to the audience and the function of the museums has experienced close examination. Conventionally, the Western art museums have positioned themselves as the institutions of dominant culture. Actually, their activities, which include curatorship object collections, inclusions, exclusions and the analysis of the objects on the exhibitions, are based on the authoritative versions of history and cultural practices. The curators have also been striving to ensure that their object display reflects the principle of plurality and diversity due to the influence of the Western versions of museology. The particular concepts, which include feminism, post-colonialism, and postmodernism, have been isolated, as they represent the themes that have influenced the transformation of the indigenous museologies into the Western museum art practices.

The Western museology exhibits ethnographic collections. The display of such objects for a large audience is a common contemporary practice, and some events like the major World Fairs are critical promoters. The objects that are on exhibitions originate from the indigenous communities; in some cases, the objects may originate from former colonies. The museums collected the materials based on the premise of imperial context and performed tasks of safeguarding the cultural practices against the loss or damage. The western civilization was perceived to be dominant, while others were regarded to be primitive and indigenous. Thus, the western forms were seen as a strategy that is universal and more liberal.

However, the establishment of positive relationship has occurred between the indigenous communities and the collections museums. Actually, the indigenous values and interests have been taken into consideration by the museum staff through the recognition of the indigenous people as their authorities of cultural heritage. Thus, there is a growing integrated relationship between the indigenous people and the western museums regarding the management of the ethnographic collections. In fact, this change demonstrates the shifting power relation, whereby the museums and the indigenous communities establishing the trust, which did not exist in the past. Most museums are currently being westernized and are functioning to correct the unequal relationship with the indigenous ethnic groups, because these object collection facilities materials or displays that can be used to establish a positive contact.

The Western museology is based on the premise that museological behavior and museum concept represent uniquely western and modern cultural phenomena. Actually, this observation holds true; the diverse cultures preserve materials that have exceptional value through the creation of sophisticated structures and spaces that are aimed at keeping the objects in safe environment. The technological utilization in the preservation and curation of the materials is a critical feature that is common in the development of indigenous curation and social practices into modern and westernized forms of museological practices and behaviors. Kreps observed a strong correlation between the indigenous museological forms and the Western museology; the indigenous museological concepts and their functions are analogous in many aspects to the Western museological practices. The examples include the following: Maori meeting houses of New Zealand, Micronesian bai and haus tambaran of New Guinea represent the structures that act as the places to store, create and exhibit sacred valued objects. Moreover, they act as the centers for educating younger generations on the issues that are related to their cultural practices, history, arts and religious beliefs. In addition, it has been noted that the contemporary museums in Pacific are neither foreign nor new concepts, but they represent the extensions of the older traditional practices.

The museum concept and the aspect of object collection and preservation were perceived as a western form of museology. However, most of the cultures keep the materials of a distinctive value, interpretation, and meaning. Furthermore, the majority of the traditional cultures have established the elaborate systems of object collection, display, preservation and care. In many aspects, the indigenous museologies share a great number of features with the western curatorship. The expression of the museums as a western museological concept is not right, since many of its facets in the museum practice are in harmony with the traditional models of curatorship. In many cases, the belief of the Western museology dominance and the weak understanding of traditional indigenous models have led to the perceived differences between two forms. Thus, this fallacy has blinded the people from noticing the fact that the existence of a difference in the treatment, care, collection and preservation of objects is just an expression of the existence of diversity regarding the museological behaviors. Thus, the indigenous museology is reconfigured to the western forms of curatorship and social practices with such an approach.

In fact, there is a growing recognition of the traditional models with their form of curatorship, and such a situation can be attributed to various advancements that have occurred in the museum world. One of the reasons that can explain the recognition of the non-western forms of curatorship is their global spread. The indigenous museology is no longer limited to metropolitan areas or urban center that is inhabited by the elites. Both small and big non-western forms of museology are found all over the world, and they have formed the part of the global cultural networks. Actually, this global spread has led to the debate regarding the custodianship and the rightful ownership of the cultural properties. There is an ongoing dialogued that is linked to the partnership between the indigenous communities and the museums. The progress of the indigenous, non-western and traditional forms of curatorship and social practices and its engagement in the global arena will lead to the adoption of the characteristics that are perceived to be the concepts of the western forms of museology and curatorship.

Moreover, there is an ever-increasing usage of the professional curatorship in the indigenous forms of museology. Thus, it would be irrational to suggest that certain methods of cultural preservation are unsuitable for the non-western objects; the acknowledgment of the native curatorship should not diminish the role of the professionalism in the museum management. The recognition of the indigenous curatorship is a step toward the democratization and the decolonization of the museums and their practices. Thus, the museums have diversity just like the communities and this fact further confirms the existence of different approaches to object care and heritage preservation. In fact, the ongoing negotiations and agreements regarding the management of museums, objects collection, heritage conservation and material care represent the signs of smooth progress that is linked to the configurations of the indigenous curatorship practices and social changes that are consistent with the Western forms of museology.

Over time, the division of architectural spaces, which contain the materials that represent particular cultural areas, have characterized the artwork exhibitions. The sections suggest an aimed project of a map for human cultures and societies. Armstrong argued that the museums should not represent the alignments of closed boxes. The artworks need to evoke multiple words. Instead of anchoring them to the traditional backgrounds, there is a need to allow museums to free from the ethnographic straitjackets and to restore various concepts that are consistently rethought, borrowed, altered and reinvented. The museology uses the materials that represent the ethnic groups such objects are associated with during the process of classification and selection. For example, there are Dogon people due to the existence of Dogon masks. The concept of reconstructing the ‘natural history’ using a variety of ethnic groups is unacceptable. However, the anthropologists do agree that their duties involve taking the discrete entities from an imagined simultaneity outside the time, identifying them, classifying them and placing them in the museum files. Although, it is not an issue of describing individual rites anymore. The argument against the indigenous curations is illustrated by the depiction of Aborigines culture via the fig trees, ancestral power, rock holes, secret ceremonies, sacred sites and the Billabong at Mukkamukka; the argument has not received any acclamation of wisdom but has placed the Aborigine community in its traditional niche of the ‘European imaginaire. The stagnation of the traditional artwork is unfavorable, and this can explain the introduction of the elemental concepts that are associated with the Western museology.

The man inhabited Australia a long time ago. First Australians came there at least 40,000 years ago. Australian political entity has existed since 1788. Since that time, the British invasion has brought radical cultural transformations, the causes of deaths and destructions amongst the aboriginal inhabitants. Currently, the Aborigines still face the misfortunes of discrimination, racism, and poverty. At the international scene, the Aboriginal community is culturally prominent in spite of the small population. In fact, it can be derived from this observation that the indigenous museological practices among the Aborigines have not helped them to advance their desired agenda and the niche in the whole community. Furthermore, the British settlements during the colonial times caused an erosion of Aboriginal cultural practices through the adoption of Western forms of museology. Thus, there has been growing integration between the Aborigines indigenous curation and the Western museological elements.

Actually, it is evident that cultural artwork has undergone tremendous transformation due to the western influences. A history of anthropology and modern contemporary art needs to consider the Western subjectivity and the change of social, institutional practices.5 The history of collections, which is not limited to museums, is the core to the comprehension of the ways the social groups that have invented modern art in an attempt to create their exotic materials, facts, meanings and display analysis. The matters have been raised regarding the authenticity of artistic and cultural products and values, which have been placed on both old and new creations, and moral, and political criteria that have been chosen in the material collection process. One such example represents the Frobenius acquisition of African materials that have been excessive. Other issues, which have remained unanswered, include the complete definition of collection and the balance between public displays and scientific analysis. A classic example is the In Santa Fe that is a superb collection of the Native American art located at the School of America Research, which is characterized by the restricted accessibility. The Musée de l’Homme is a French term that refers to the ‘museum of man’. The Musée de l’Homme displays less than 10 % of its collections; the remaining collections are kept in steel cabinets and can also be heaped in the structural basements. Moreover, it has been observed that the non-western materials are being stored in European museums, while such specimens might not be even available at the place of origin. The indigenous museological behavior has not been dominant over the Western material collection. The ruling of the Western culture is profound because the contemporary cultural authenticity places significant emphasis on the inventive present and the past, preservation, revival and its objectification.

In fact, the indigenous museums have been unstable; this instability has predisposed them to exogenous forces in a process that is referred to as westernization. Moreover, they have diverted from their original forms in many ways. The presence of the indigenous leadership or staff does not guarantee that the museums are indigenous projects. The term of ‘indigenous museum’ is contradictory in itself, since the purpose of the external exhibition as a central feature in the museum presumes that its audience is culturally or temporarily ‘foreign.’

Actually, museology is one of the dynamic cultural concepts. The museums’ core purpose is to represent country history and reframe its complexity to the European eyes, which are both miscegenated and hybrid. This identity is described as an evolutionary narrative that has successive phases, which lead to the westernized modernity in museologies. Many people, including the natives and other users, represent current active participants in the artwork thanks to the increased diversities and cultural interactions. The museums have radically changed since 1960 and more focus has been provided to the ways images are formed and perceived. The cities are beginning to lack bounded physical conglomeration as they drift into the cyberspatial forms. The advancement of the internet technologies and the improved transportation has made the concept of the city definition as geographical localities to remain irrelevant. This observation accounts for the social changes, and the museums are thriving due to the materiality of the urban space and aesthetic experiences among the city visitors and the dwellers. The contemporary galleries have been twisted, ravaged and transformed in the complex conduits of national cultures. The archives contain long histories that link them to the contradictory forces that include populism, religiosity, distinctiveness and the public duties. The critical drivers that have facilitated the transformation in the museums are the technological advancements and the growing hybridization of the surviving artifacts. The museum professional does not provide the sophistication, but it originates from the arbitrariness and the fragility of primitive experiences.

The recognition of indigenous forms of museums and curatorial practices contain the relevance that touch on political and cultural concerns for the non-Western or indigenous people, whose culture representations materials have been collected and stored in the museums. In fact, there is an assumption that the indigenous people are not concerned about the care and preservation of their cultural materials; this observation has been used as a basis for the collection and retention of cultural materials in the western museums. The removal of particular materials from an ethnic group has led to the erosion of some traditional and indigenous cultural practices, which include religious practices and spiritual beliefs; thus, this paves the way for the Western museology.

Over time, the representatives of the indigenous communities have combined forces with the critics to call for a scrutinization of the historical advancement of the museums and the ethnic group collections that are based on the Western colonialism. Furthermore, it deals with the examination of the collections that represent the result of colonialism, which is embedded in the unfavorable relationship.

The reconfiguration of indigenous curation and social practices into the western paradigms of museology is one of the products that are linked to the post-colonialism. As a result of colonialism, many artifacts and materials were stored in the Western museums. The forms of westernized museum and curatorial practices must be perceived as the products of cultural and historical context created to serve particular aims and interests.

The Western museology has bred specific ways of thinking about the museums and the curatorial practices; it is a discursive field with various domains of actions and thought. Actually, it has produced the knowledge that is linked to the preservation of cultural materials and the exercise of authority over the curation. The Western museology has rested solely on a single system of knowledge that is referred to as the ‘Western one.’ This knowledge has prescribed the ways the indigenous cultural materials ought to be collected, represented, perceived and curated. Thus, on-western objects have been reconfigured and systematically organized to fit into the western constructs of art, culture, heritage and history. Due to the hegemony of the Western museology, many individuals find it difficult to think and talk about museums, the heritage preservation, and the curation. A significant focus lies on the Western Museology.

Some domains of the indigenous museologies and social practices, which include religious rituals and ceremonies, are limited in accessibility, viewing and interpretation. Only people with specialized powers and abilities are allowed to conduct activities that are related to their display, retrieval, and analysis. In fact, this observation is inconsistent with the Western museologies, where the curatorial authority has been conferred to the professional museum staff. The Native Americans, just like any other indigenous people, are concerned about the public display of some museum collections and the rights that control accessibility and usage. In some traditions, only men or women may be allowed to have access to particular spiritual authorities. In the Western museologies, the objects are viewed as inert, as they are valued on their ground of material rather than supernatural properties. Thus, it can be observed that the objects are embedded in the socio-cultural context and they are in a direct relationship to the individual lives; they also represent a part of the continuous cultural practices among the indigenous people. The curation of the material is based on the social structure and organization; this may reflect a relationship among the society, objects, and people. However, the impact of objects on individual lives and their sacredness is diminishing, as the systems transform to embrace loose attachment of objects to social organization and the view of inert materials. This observation is an actual process of westernization.


Many traces of indigenous museologies form essential parts of the western representations, and the Western art practices find expressions in the indigenous curations. The Western and indigenous museologies are highly interlinked between each other. In fact, there are many areas of western museum practices, which are analogous and consistent with the indigenous curatorship. The indigenous curatorship is characterized by a global spread; this feature has enabled the indigenous curatorship and its associated social practice to adopt more elements of the Western museology.

However, there are some areas, which have remained relatively resistant to the change in the indigenous models of museums and curation. For example, the accessibility to some sacred shrines is limited or restricted among certain communities. An instance of such observation is the provisional museum of the Central Kalimantan that exhibits the limitation to viewing and interpretations of the objects associated with the religious rituals and ceremonies. The restrictive nature is not dominant in the Western museology. Moreover, it is important to note that the museological areas, which were subjected to limited accessibility, had adopted a western model, but embraced the consultation of the people bestowed with specialized abilities to interpret and conduct some rituals on the given materials. The contentious relationship between the museums and the indigenous ethnic groups, who act as the source of curatorship, still exists. The issues of debate include the object collection methods, material preservation, and the custodianship of such cultural objects.