Disturbing things

Twitchin, Mischa. 2022. 'Disturbing things'. In: Museums as Spaces of Cultural Translation and Transfer Conference. Tartu University, Estonia 10-11 May 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

In one of the research conversations recorded at Frankfurt’s Weltkulturen Museum during Clémentine Deliss’ tenure as director, the philosopher Peter Osborne proposes: “I think it is the function of the museum to produce meaning, not to communicate knowledge” (Foreign Exchange, eds. Deliss & Mutumba, Berlin: Diaphanes, 2014: 186). How might one think through this difference between meaning making and communicating information in terms of potential translations of the term “transfer”, as this provides an index of and for curatorial politics in erstwhile ethnographic museums? That the ethnographic is sometimes translated today as “universal” when describing museums’ collections serves as a counter-example to conceiving of “transfer” in terms not simply of provenance but of the restitution of cultural artefacts. Beyond simply the understanding conveyed through curatorial explanations in museums, whether in catalogue essays or exhibit labels on the walls, the curatorial has now also to explain itself – indicating how “information” can be both disturbed and disturbing. As a cipher for the de- and re-possession of cultural heritage – as this has, for example, been addressed critically from Cicero’s indictment of Verres in 70BC to Quatremère de Quincy’s “Letters” in 1796, and on to Sarr and Savoy’s famous “Report” in 2018 – this paper will consider translation and transfer in the particular example of how the British Museum’s presentation of its Benin collections has changed over the course of the past century and what these changes might mean for the museum’s future.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


10 May 2022Completed

Event Location:

Tartu University, Estonia

Date range:

10-11 May 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 May 2022 10:01

Last Modified:

23 May 2022 10:02



Edit Record Edit Record (login required)