Cataloguing Culture: Documentation, Colonialism, and Repair

Cataloguing Culture: Documentation, Colonialism, and Repair

Dr. Hannah Turner

Zoom registration link:


This virtual talk will detail the long history of collecting, recording, and documenting ethnographic material culture data at the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology in the National Museum of Natural History. Based upon her recent book, Cataloguing Culture: Legacies of Colonialism in Museum Documentation (UBC Press, 2020), Turner traces the development of the standards of description at the institution, from the establishment of field collecting guides in the 19th century; the use of ledger recording books; the development of organised information classifications; the development of the card catalogue; and eventually the computerized index and database. She argue that these media forms – present in many bureaucracies around the world – have both durable and performative qualities that render the objectivities of colonialism both ever present and invisible within recordkeeping practices in museums. Hannah Turner is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of British Columbia, where she researches the connection between documentation, material culture and technology.


This event is the first in the Decolonizing This Museum series at the Pick Museum of Anthropology. This series critically examines historic and contemporary museum practices in order to imagine alternative approaches. Attendees are invited to join museum staff for a follow-up in-person conversation on Thursday, September 30, 4:30–6pm at Byers Brewing Company in downtown DeKalb.


DOOR PRIZE! One lucky student attendee will be randomly selected to receive a copy of Dr. Turner’s book, Cataloguing Culture.

Monday, September 27, 2021 at 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Virtual Event
Event Type

Lectures, Presentations and Workshops


Arts and Culture, Research

Target Audience

Students, Faculty and Staff, Alumni, General Public




Pick Museum of Anthropology
Contact Name

Christy DeLair

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