Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Gordon H. Brown Lecture 13: Nicholas Thomas, 'A Critique of the Natural Artifact: Anthropology, Art & Museology'


Published 2015 by Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
47 pages
210mm x 170mm, softcover, colour illustrations
Edited by Geoffrey Batchen
ISSN: 977-1176-58800-5

A Critique of the Natural Artefact, by Nicholas Thomas, addresses a key vehicle for the practice of art history: the museum. Thomas argues that a museum is a far more complex entity than a mere collectivity of objects. Looking in particular at museums devoted to artefacts gathered from the Pacific, he proposes that we need to appreciate them as ‘systems’, as living assemblies of relationships rather than as static depositories. And we need to move beyond an unhelpful field of understandings that includes what he calls a ‘naturalism of the collection’. His essay offers some vivid examples of other ways of thinking about collections and the way they might be engaged in a museum setting.

A renowned scholar of Pacific art, Dr Nicholas Thomas is Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.