Collection as (Re)assemblage: refreshing museum archaeology

22 Jan 2018

A number of recent publications, including a recent special issue of World Archaeology, have engaged with museum collections as assemblages that can be studied in their own right. This paper attempts to refigure ‘collection’ and ‘assemblage’ as action nouns, in order to explore the role these processes can have in generating understandings of the past, especially within museum settings. While nineteenth-century projects involving collecting and assemblage contributed fundamental disciplinary frameworks to archaeology, museums have increasingly been regarded as institutions exclusively focused on the archival storage of excavated material, and the display of archaeological knowledge generated through fieldwork. This paper makes the case that a creative and reflective reengagement with collection, as a process of assemblage and reassemblage, including in forms made possible by electronic media, has the potential to refresh museum archaeology for the twentyfirst century, realigning it with other archaeological practices.