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Fictional case study

Appalled at the lack of accessible information and resources related to their intangible cultural heritage, young people in Xam gathered and created a forum through which to begin an active program of research, documentation and exhibitions.

While they focus on all aspects of their Indigenous cultural heritage, they have a particular emphasis on stories, objects and collections related to a significant festival whose origins pre-date the arrival of settlers. Through trust and relationship building, they were able to win the support of the local community, who consider the festival to be sacred. The festival is pivotal in all aspects of life in the town throughout the year.

Donations of family photographs, objects and stories were readily made to be included in a purpose-made museum. As their research efforts deepened, the youth discovered that there were collections of photographs related to the festival in country X and country Y, which are on two different continents. The materials in those institutions were used by anthropologists, archaeologists and scholars who did not originate from the place of practice. Many of the photographs were of recognisable elders from the town.

In the case of country X, the youth were told that they could access the photographs, but would need to make a prohibitively high payment after the use of five free photographs. In country Y, the youth were told that copyright and ownership of the photographs rested with the foreign entity and that they could not use it beyond the one exhibition.

Over to you

  • What are some of the ethical issues which emerge from this brief case study? And for whom?
  • How would you suggest/recommend these issues be resolved, taking into consideration some of the principles and ethics raised in the previous section?

Please share in the comments section below.

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Creating Meaningful and Inclusive Museum Practices

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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