History events at the IHR

Anachronism: Classification and Display in Nineteenth Century Colonial Collecting and Contemporary Museum Practice

21 January 2013, 18:00 - 20:00

Event Type: Seminar


Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll (University of Cambridge)


This theory of anachronism will circle around the problem of historical collections and contemporary display. It will focus on a visual atlas made in 1864 as an example of colonial collecting. Contrasting the differing classification systems at work for German and British colonial collectors this research seeks to define the taxonomies that underlie historical collections. With an anachronistic reading of nineteenth century collections in the present it questions how that which was never displayed is displayed today.
Art history has been a discipline in which the methods of history are used to study art, but what happens if that relationship is reversed and art practice is used to understand history writing? This paper will show how artists write history and what is at stake politically in recognizing those works as art history. There is an acknowledged blind-spot in the historical record when it comes to indigenous and artistic voices, which is the result of a systematic effacement of everything outside the Enlightenment project since the Eighteenth Century. What are the cultural implications for our modern civilization to have a looming gap in the discipline in which Nineteenth Century Aboriginal Art History is largely absent? The gaps in history that this paper foregrounds are the voices that marked out intermixed cultural spaces and translated images between cultures in the period c. 1802 and 1901. The paper argues that history has failed often not only to represent art in its practitioners' own idiosyncratic terms but also to represent those artists that did not fit the colonial narrative being told. Instating the histories told by contemporary artists and indigenous artists in particular requires openness to anachronism. Yet, as historians are by discipline anti-anachronistic, to them it is in principle problematic to include the as yet still excluded as I propose to do here by using contemporary art to stand in for missing history.
 Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is a Newton Fellow at the University of Cambridge in the History and Philosophy of Science Department and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Her book Art in the Time of Colony will appear in July in Ashgate's series on Empires and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-2000. After writing her doctorate in Art History at Harvard on the Collecting and Display of Oceanic Art she has exhibited her art -research at the 32nd Venice Biennale, 2012 Marrakech Biennale, Ecole des beaux-arts de Cherbourg-Octeville, and Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her publications on the subject include Object to Project: Artist's Interventions in Museums (In: Sculpture in the Museum, 2012); Curating Curiosity: Wonder’s Colonial Phenomenology (Rodopi Press, 2008). Re-membering the Body, J.J. Winckelmann’s Ekphrasis (Word & Image Journal of Verbal and Visual Inquiry, 2005).

Venue: Room STB2, Stewart House, Basement

Venue: STB2 (Stewart House, basement)

Stewart House
University of London
32 Russell Square 
London WC1B 5DN


Related Events: Collecting & Display History