Seeding Authority: A Symposium on Decolonizing the Museum – November 8-10, 2018

Seeding Authority: A Symposium on Decolonizing the Museum – November 8-10, 2018

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For decades now, university faculty and students in several disciplinary fields have discussed the devastating impact of colonialism on the peoples who were colonized. If colonialism is the means by which Indigenous lands, bodies, and possessions were appropriated by others for their own use, then “decolonization” has been the process of reversing these acts, politically and culturally, while reconsidering history, agency, and accountability through an indigenous framework. These issues are particularly acute in Hawaiʻi, where colonization directly resulted in the dispossession of land and sovereignty. Currently, in different classes and programs, UH faculty and students are examining settler colonialism and its impact on the kanaka maoli population— be it in Hawaiian or American Studies, Art History, Political Science, Ethnic Studies, the Law School, or even Medical and Social Work.

Across multiple disciplines and research methodologies, the discourse around decolonization has had a profound impact, but its influence has had less effect on institutions such as museums and public history centers. Throughout Hawaiʻi, antiquated interpretations in exhibitions, programming, collections access and consultation policies are everywhere – from military historic sites and national parks to cultural heritage museums – even as students, faculty and practitioners in the fields of museum studies and public history strive to fundamentally alter these narrative presentations.

The goal of the symposium was to bring together students, faculty, museum professionals, and community members to have conversations on the process of decolonizing museums and public spaces – led by prominent scholars and professionals who are actively engaged in both the underpinning theories and the practical realities.

This conference was co-sponsored by the following organizations:

  • Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

  • Department of American Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

  • SEED IDEAS (Office of Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity), UHM

  • ʻIolani Palace

  • Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Other Institutional Support: 

  • Department of Ethnic Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa