“Go throw it in the river”, a lecture by Dr. Joshua Bell (National Museum of Natural History)

Flyer for Go Throw It In The River Lecture featuring image of a canoe at a distance

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Friday, December 7th, 2018
Arrupe Multi-Purpose Room

Collaboration with communities in a variety of forms has become an important hallmark of anthropological investigations of museum collections.  Opening up collections to communities is a critical way to examine the relations contained therein and the dormant knowledge, histories, and values that collections help materialize. Drawing on Dr. Joshua Bell’s own experiences bringing research partners from the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea to the Smithsonian Institution (2011-14), and long-term fieldwork in the area (since 2000), he reflects on the success and failures of what Tsing has called the “productive confusions” of collaboration. The multiple breakdowns and subsequent repairs with I’ai individuals around collections at the Smithsonian not only highlight the shifting semiotic ideologies occurring in the Delta in the wake of resource extraction but also point to the enduring value that works with collections engenders.

Joshua A. Bell is a cultural anthropologist and Curator of Globalization at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with research in museums and archives, Bell examines the shifting local and global network of relationships between persons, artifacts, and the environment. To date, he has carried out ethnographic research in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea (2000 – present) and Washington, D.C. (2011 – present). In 2010 he helped found the Recovering Voices Initiative which connects communities to Smithsonian collections to assist them with their language and knowledge documentation, maintenance, and revitalization. In 2017 he began curating the 8 million feet of the Human Studies Film Archive