Dr Chris Wingfield is a CRASSH Early Career Fellow in Michaelmas term, 2015.

A Disciplinary Museum? Locating Knowledge at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology

Many histories of museums assert an increasing separation during the mid-twentieth century between museums and the disciplines that originated within them. The establishment of a Cambridge Tripos in Archaeology & Anthropology in 1915, however, appears to have cemented this link. I intend to explore the connections between the museum as a location, but also technology of knowledge, and its role in the establishment of a global network of scholars dedicated to the study and collection of material culture.

One aspect of this research will involve developing an understanding of changing technologies of knowledge within the museum, such as drawing, photography, map making and the creation of diagrammatic representations. As well as visual forms of representation, I will also consider the impact of various technologies of textual knowledge, such as card catalogues, filing cabinets and ultimately the various bound registers in which objects joining the museum’s collections were, and still are, transcribed. I am keen to understand how the implicit categorisations that are enacted through various forms of inscription channel the development of disciplinary knowledge in particular directions.

My doctoral research involved utilizing a number of archaeological techniques and approaches to reconstruct the processes of assemblage and dis-assemblage involved with the London Missionary Society collection. This involved studying the transfer of items into specialized museums of archaeology and anthropology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the shifts in the way objects were inscribed as they became reconstituted as ‘ethnographic' or 'archaeological' objects. This project will enable me to take forward some aspects of this work, to develop a better understanding of how transformations in inscription practices reflected developing forms of disciplinary knowledge.


He is Senior Curator at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge, with responsibility for World Archaeology. Before he came to Cambridge in late 2012, he worked as an associate lecturer at the Open University, a researcher at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and a curator at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and. He did his BA and MPhil at the University of Oxford and his PhD at the University of Birmingham.

Chris’s research focuses on museum collections, and the research potential they have as material assemblages. Following an AHRC networking project on British Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, he recently published Trophies, Relics and Curios? – a collection of short essays exploring artefacts involved in missionary encounters. His PhD focused on the collection of the London


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