9784 - Ethnomuseology at the Goeldi Museum of Brazil

The Goeldi Museum in Brazil has pioneered an approach known as ethnomuseology that puts indigenous people in dialog with their own heritage. Goeldi researchers have worked with various indigenous groups including the Wayana, Tikuna, Timbira, Kayapó and others. An ongoing project focuses on important early collections by Frei Gil de Vila Nova (1902) from the Irã-Amraire Kayapó and Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1905) from the Upper Rio Negro. Kayapó and Baniwa consultants have visited the Museum to study this heritage. Most types of objects present in the 1902 collection are still manufactured by the Kayapó, who maintain a rich ceremonial life. The Irã-Amraire Kayapó, once feared warriors, are now extinct, and the Goeldi collection is, in some sense, all that remains. For various reasons, the Kayapó have little interest in repatriation, and are instead more interested in acquiring digital cameras to record current ritual activities in a kind of inter-village competition with roots in prior warfare practices. Among the Baniwa, utilitarian objects like basketry are still manufactured, but ritual objects associated with male initiation cults have been lost due to missionary activity and other cultural changes. A main concern among the Baniwa is documenting such ritual objects, some of which have not been manufactured in two generations. Some groups Rio Negro groups have sued to recover pieces from ethnographic collections in order to use them in rituals as they attempt to revitalize traditions. These experiences in ethnomuseology highlight the diversity of indigenous concepts, attitudes and expectations about museum collections and cultural heritage more generally.

Keywords: museum science, Amazonia, cultural heritage, ethnology

Author: Shepard, Glenn (Goeldi Museum, Brazil, Brazil / Brasilien)


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