Cataloguing culture : legacies of colonialism in museum documentation / Hannah Turner.

  • Turner, Hannah, 1986-
  • Books

About this work


"How does material culture become data? Why does this matter, and for whom? As the cultures of Indigenous peoples in North America were mined for scientific knowledge, years of organizing, classifying, and cataloguing--hardened into accepted categories, naming conventions, and tribal affiliations --much of it wrong. Cataloguing Culture examines how colonialism operates in museum bureaucracies. Using the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History as her reference, Hannah Turner organizes her study by the technologies framing museum work over 200 years: field records, the ledger, the card catalogue, the punch card, and eventually the database. She examines how categories were applied to ethnographic material culture and became routine throughout federal collecting institutions. As Indigenous communities encounter the documentary traces of imperialism while attempting to reclaim what is theirs, this timely work shines a light on access to and return of cultural heritage."-- Provided by publisher.


Vancouver, BC ; Toronto : UBC Press, [2020]

Physical description

xiii, 243 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


Writing Desiderata: Defining Evidence in the Field -- On the Margins: Paper Systems of Classification -- Ordering Devices and Indian Files: Cataloguing Ethnographic Specimens -- Pragmatic Classification: The Routine Work of Description After 1950 -- Object, Specimen, Data: Computerization and the Legacy of Dirty Data.

Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references (pages 216-227) and index.


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  • 0774863927
  • 9780774863926