Unsettled Objects: Post-colonial perceptions of belonging, exile and home

Unsettled Objects: Post-colonial perceptions of belonging, exile and home

UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (RILA)
Date: Tuesday 28 September 2021 - Thursday 30 September 2021
Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Venue: Zoom
Category: Conferences, Public lectures, Academic events
Speaker: Alexandra Alberda (Manchester Museum), Noorah Al-Gailani (Glasgow Museums), Khadijeh Baseri (National Museum of Iran), Katie Bruce (Glasgow Museums),
Website: unsettledobjects.eventbrite.co.uk

An evaluation of centuries of European colonialism is at last emerging and moving to centre stage. Museums, archives, universities and related institutions whose own histories are inextricable from colonialism are being forced to examine their practices unquestioned for centuries.

For many indigenous peoples their history, identity, culture and traditions are often contained within their artefacts. However, for over 300 years many activities associated with colonialism have resulted in colonised peoples being physically separated from their material heritage which may now exist only in museum or archive collections.

How can entrenched ways of seeing, collecting, conserving, and curating the knowledge and material inherited from imperial collecting become inverted, subverted, and diverted?

How can colonial institutions function as both a target of criticism and a means through which colonising nations re-evaluate their colonial past?

Can museum objects themselves act as catalysts for critique and reinvention?

The volume of demands for accountability, transparency, and repair for injustice past and present is increasing. Conversations are often harder to hear than accusations, condemnation or dismissal. We want to start these conversations.


Place: Who decides whether an object or objects are in the right place? How do we define that place? Do objects have a ‘home’?

Relationships: objects define and can be defined by their relationships with people and cultures. Objects can tell many stories, sing many songs. Whose stories are we listening to? How do the stories that get told affect the objects?

Fragmentation and dispersal: Often the true importance of sacred objects to the people and cultures who created them are obscured or hidden. They may only be whole when united with the legends, songs, and ceremonies associated with them. Can the material objects survive the separation from their sacred intangible whole? What is lost when a collection is fragmented and dispersed? Who loses? Who gains?


  • Alexandra Alberda (Manchester Museum) - Comics and Belonging: Relationship-focused and Fragmented Stories
  • Noorah Al-Gailani (Glasgow Museums) - Unsettled objects: Heirlooms that have to leave their homelands with their owners
  • Khadijeh Baseri (National Museum of Iran) - Persepolis treasury tablets
  • Katie Bruce (Glasgow Museums) - Unsettled Objects: a catalyst for rethinking the relationship of a modern and contemporary art to a museum’s collection
  • Neil Curtis (University of Aberdeen) & Eve Haddow (University of Queensland) - Caring and Sharing: curating the cultural collections in the University of Aberdeen
  • Stephanie de Roemer (Glasgow Museums) - Conservation conversation: caring for ‘unsettled objects’
  • Anthony Kalume (University of Brighton) - The Vigango Resting Place Project
  • Minhazz Majumdar (Curator) - Contemporary Traditional Arts of India: Paradox or Reality 
  • Laura Phillips (Queen's University, Kingston) - A Settler View from Ongoing Colonized Lands
  • Fatemeh Safaii Rad (London Metropolitan University) - The need for revised museological interpretation of Persian carpets
  • Motsane Getrude Seabela (DITSONG National Museum of Cultural History) - Looting in the Name of the Lord: in Search of Home for the Reverend William Govan Robertson Objects
  • Giovanna Vitelli (Hunterian Museum), Alma Nankela (National Heritage Council of Namibia) and Jeremiah Garsha (University College Dublin) - Acknowledging and Restoring Relationships and Belongings
  • Francesca Zappia (RILA Affiliate Artist) - Objects on an Enlightening Mission. The casts of French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher

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