Colonial Objects in Northern Ireland

  • Briony Widdis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 2015 I inherited a collection of objects with an archive from the latter days of colonial Hong Kong (1931-1961). This project closely examines the artefacts, collectively termed the “Crozier Collection” in this thesis. Given that they derive from the late colonial period, and furthermore from a multicultural urban society, the thesis began with a central question: what makes the artefacts “colonial”?
By devising a new framework, the thesis aims to broaden understanding of what defines the “Colonial Object”. This Framework contests as artificial, dominant museological distinctions between the objects of Western and non-Western countries. The thesis furthermore exposes how Colonial Objects can function in the constitution of identities through a binary opposition: Us-ness, reflecting the identity of the viewer, and Otherness, reflecting a projection onto the viewed. Chapters adopt an exhibition format, with specific objects being examined in depth. The contributions to knowledge of the thesis is that it is an extended autoethnographic study of Colonial Objects of which no previous examples have been found; that it provides a way of integrating the study of private and public collections of such objects (the Colonial Objects Framework); and that it investigates particular collections and objects never before published in the depth that they are here.
The thesis concludes by recommending an extended usage of the term “Colonial Object” through the adoption of the Framework. Secondly, it emphasises the importance of Autoethnography in interpreting Colonial Objects within museum practice. Finally, that Northern Ireland’s ethnographic collections provide important evidence about its past in the British Empire, can be part of projects to build a shared society, and merit fuller research.
The core Methodology for the thesis is Autoethnography. It is interdisciplinary, but Museology is foremost.
Date of AwardApr 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorElizabeth Crooke (Supervisor) & Thomas Maguire (Supervisor)


  • Autoethnography
  • Northern Ireland
  • Collections, Colonial Object
  • Museum Ethnography
  • Us-ness
  • Museology
  • Colonial Objects Framework
  • Otherness
  • Family

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