Recontextualizing the George Brown Collection through Creative Ceramics

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    The George Brown Collection has a complex and contested history, reflecting a range of personal and wider socio-political trajectories. Brown largely accumulated the collection between 1860 and 1907, whilst serving as a Methodist missionary in Oceania. The collection has had a number of homes over the years, exercising the endeavours of a variety of people. In 1986, the majority of it was controversially sold by Newcastle University to the National Museum of Ethnology (NME), Osaka, Japan. Between January and April 2013, I was the recipient of an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) international placement which took place at the NME. Although my doctoral project, of which the placement formed part, focuses on Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ (SMWG) collection of mainly nineteenth century Sunderland pottery (see McHugh 2013), researching the George Brown Collection enabled me to further test my approach to collection and community, albeit in a substantially different setting.This paper will reflect upon my attempt to investigate, through creative ceramic practice, what status and role the George Brown Collection has within the community at its current home in Japan. I will also explore parts of the collection which, for various reasons, remain in UK museums. It is hoped that these insights will contribute to discussions of how collections can be rejuvenated and reinterpreted in alternative ways, particularly through arts practice, leading to increased access and collaboration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-106
    JournalJournal of Museum Ethnography
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Mar 2015


    • george brown
    • collection
    • ethnography
    • museum
    • engagement
    • ceramics


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