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Local Collecting, Indigenous Curation, and Canon Formation: Making Central American Cultural History


In this talk, I explore more complex relationships among the network of agents responsible for the movement of things to locales in Europe and North America from their original places in territory that became the modern nations of Honduras, Belize, and Nicaragua. I argue that recovering more complex histories that feature actors excluded from or obscured in museum and disciplinary histories requires us to acknowledge that things can be meaningful sources of knowledge gained in other ways than through the disciplined methods that universities embraced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I show how the disciplining of things and knowledges formed a canon and in the process directed attention away from some indigenous peoples to others, from some historical periods, processes, and questions to a narrow range that continues to dominate scholarship today. 

I connect this with the marginalization of indigenous voices in the management of cultural heritage in the region, calling for a reconnection with the agency of original local and indigenous populations for whom things now in museums were meaningful traces of pasts.

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