Workshop: Tracing Temporalities, Unearthing Archives
TRACTS COST Action
27./28. April 2023
What are the ethical challenges of tracing temporalities and researching collections in museums and earth archives?
Collections are sites for preserving traces of the past for the future. Acquired, cared for, and interpreted in museums and archives, they have been developed concurrently with scientific disciplines. In geosciences, collections of geological and stratigraphic specimens extracted from territories worldwide have served to mark deep time. They contribute to the scientific imagination of nature that can be contained and classified. Ethnographic collections acquired to represent peoples and cultures have rendered them as if frozen in time. Conservation practice has worked to keep objects timeless, reflecting the moment they entered the collection. This ahistorical perspective is entangled with coloniality and continues to affect collections' classification, safekeeping, and interpretation. This poses ethical challenges for both collections comprising ethnographic objects and those acquired in earth archives, holding records of human and more-than-human pasts.
Collections seek to tell a coherent story about “nature” or “culture” from traces of social lives and geological formations. However, these traces and their environments defy and challenge the classificatory efforts and measurement practices. Although collections are kept to span through time, their objects are not timeless. They require vast energy, materials, and infrastructure. The cost of prolonging the lives of things and keeping collections stable in museums and scientific archives creates ethical dilemmas regarding resource management, preservation, and sustainability.
Organized by the COST Action “Trace as a Research Agenda for Climate Change, Technology Studies, and Social Justice” (TRACTS), the workshop will critically explore the ethics of collections in museums and geological archives through the lens of temporality. The event seeks to ignite an interdisciplinary exchange between the disparate fields of inquiry in the critical studies of different forms of collections and archives. Using a range of case studies of collections and (earth) archives, we dig into the ethics of acquisition, preservation, interpretation, use, and re-activation of this material today and explore its potential for the future.
Magdalena Buchczyk, Martin Fonck, Tina Palaic and Tomas Uson
How to join
TRACTS members and interested members of the public can attend the event online
Meeting ID: 837 5454 3844