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CCH Seminar Series 2023 – Wed 12th July , 11am – Tiffany Shellam

11am, 12th July 2023
Burwood: C2.05.01
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
Zoom link here.

Persistent Knowledges: fieldwork in the museum and on Menang Country

This paper reflects on recent teamwork in both the UK and on Menang Country on the dispersed collection of animals, artefacts, and archives that Robert Neill made with the assistance of Menang Noongar people in Albany, WA in 1841. This fieldwork, which brought together Menang Elders and knowledge holders with fish scientists and curators, enabled new understandings of the collection through workshopping language words, understanding fish habitats and through touch. In the museum, our work is beginning to challenge the dominance of western science taxonomies in databases and displays, while historical research reveals that Menang taxonomies were more persistent all along than previously understood. Our workshopping of the collection occurs within larger conversations around Menang people’s symbiotic relationships with animals and the collapsing and division of “nature-culture” that were present in the museum in the 19th and 20th centuries. These new understandings and debates are changing the scope of our project as we bring these ideas back to Menang Country via a series of non-traditional research outputs.

Associate Professor Tiffany Shellam works collaboratively with the Nyungar community of Western Australian, historians, museum curators, and archivists to unearth hidden and alternative histories of 19th century encounters. She is interested in the ways in which collaborative work can unsettle the surety of archives, and the ways in which ethnographic and biocultural collections offer different narratives of past events. Tiffany has worked at Deakin since 2009. 


Featured: Tabeduck by Robert Neill, Drawing no. 58, National Museums Scotland

In text: L to R Dr Glenn Moore (curator of fishes), Larry Blight (Menang knowledge holder), Shona Coyne (Menang woman and Senior Indigenous curator, National Museum of Australia), Lester Coyne (Menang Elder, CEO of Albany Heritage Reference Group Aboriginal Corp). Photo taken at National Museums Scotland, fish collection stores