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This conference was organized, on behalf of the Museum Ethnographers Group, by the 'Rethinking Pitt-Rivers' team and explored one of the developing themes of the project's research. The following text was the invitation to contribute that was circulated before the event. Please note that the Journal of Museum Ethnography no. 25, 2012, which reflects this conference's papers and discussions is now available. Please contact here for more information.

Annual Conference of the Museum Ethnographers Group [to be] held at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 April 2011

Words and Objects:

Writing on, around and about things

We invited papers from museum ethnographers and others that focused on the analysis of the words written on, around and about museum things; that is, the diverse forms of tangible and virtual documents written about objects including inscriptions, labels, display texts, indexes, catalogues and databases.

We were interested in papers that explore the role of words in the documentation, interpretation and presentation of objects—both historically and in the present, and in what such analysis tells us about both explicit and implicit aspects of museum practice. Speakers were asked to explore issues relating to translation and transcription which are often key to producing the textual adjuncts to objects.

During the final discussion at 'Making Things' (MEG's 2010 conference at the University of Reading's Museum of English Rural Life), there was an interesting but unresolved discussion about the point of analysing labels and catalogue entries. While some argued that the main point of such work was to throw light on original provenance and thus on indigenous purpose and meanings, others emphasized the value of a focus on old labels and texts for studying the lives of objects in museums. We hoped that the 2011 conference will continue and broaden this discussion.

Offers of papers discussing such questions in related fields were also welcome. As usual, one session of the conference was devoted to shorter reports on prospective, new, current or recently completed projects of interest to museum ethnographers. Main session papers were 20 minutes long (with 10 minutes for questions), the shorter reports were 10 minutes. Outline submissions should include a title, a short description of the paper's contents (no more than 200 words) and name and contact details of the speaker. Submissions should be sent to

Jeremy Coote
Joint Head of Collections,
Pitt Rivers Museum,
University of Oxford,
South Parks Road,
phone: (44)  (0)1865 613005
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The deadline for submissions is 7 January 2011. Booking for the conference will commence in early January 2011, please go to the Museum Ethnographers Group website for further information

Please note that all speakers at the conference are required to pay conference fees and that the Museum Ethnographers Group (and 'Rethinking Pitt-Rivers' project) do not have any funds available to meet speakers' expenses.

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