Appropriate and Appropriated Sites for Elephants: A Case Study of the Making of Museum Objects

In: Society & Animals
Geoffrey N. Swinney Department of Science and Technology, National Museums Scotland Edinburgh UK
Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK

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Through a case study of the museum career of a mounted specimen of African elephant, the nature of “museum objects” and sites in which they engage in the construction of meaning are examined. The paper tracks a series of representations through a museum and explores how this representative of the species was appropriated, rematerialized, represented and re-presented in a variety of media to convey new meanings. It analyzes the processes of translation and remediation involved in constructing and mobilizing different kinds of knowledge. The contingent nature of meanings created around the representation of the elephant in different sites and in different media is discussed in the context of recent discourse on materiality and material culture.

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