Designing for People and Their Belongings in Museum Collections: the Amagugu Ethu / Our Treasures Project

Hannah Turner
DFP Classroom: FSC 2300

People examining the South African Collection in a museum
Exploring the South African Museum Collections at the Iziko Museum, Cape Town. Pictured, from Left to Right: Lailah Hisham, Skhumbuzo Miya, Thuli Mtshali, Boyzie Myeni, Nini Xulu.

In April 2019, a group of nineteen Zulu community experts, anthropologists, scholars, entrepreneurs and museum professionals convened at the Iziko Museums of South Africa—the oldest museum in Sub-Saharan Africa—to conduct a three-day encounter with Zulu belongings. As well as fostering connections between originating community members and their belongings, the various workshop encounters disrupted colonial-style narratives about the collection by challenging museum naming, classifying, cataloguing, conserving and storing practices. This talk will explore the history, context, and issues when digitizing cultural heritage in colonial museum contexts, with particular emphasis on the development and design of a “Museum in a Box”— a resource that pairs 3D prints and images of belongings with sound recordings collected during the encounters. It will investigate the nature of collaboration, the challenges of working together across continents, and the future of the project as a learning resource in KwaZulu-Natal museums and schools.