Ethnographic artifacts and value transformations

Rosita Henry, Ton Otto, Michael Wood


Transactions of ethnographic artifacts between Indigenous producers, European collectors, museums, and the state create and transform multiple notions of value. In this paper we discuss how an artifact’s value is generated and transformed through various transactions linked to the documentation and property claims made by scientific collectors, such as Eric Mjöberg, Herman Klaatsch, and Ursula McConnel. Such artifacts have now entered a new dynamic given Aboriginal claims for repatriation and other forms of reappropriation. We argue that the entanglement of artifacts in the property claims of the collectors, the pro-ducers (or their descendants), the granting bodies, and the public institutions, exposes artifacts to complex processes of value accretion and transformation.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau3.2.004