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Ethnographies of Access, Ownership, and Collaboration in the Virtual Museum

Ethnographies of Access, Ownership, and Collaboration in the Virtual Museum

Kate Hennessy, Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Tuesday, June 14, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
RSVP required for those attending in person to Amar Ashar (
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.

Museums and academic institutions are rapidly digitizing their ethnographic collections to make them accessible to the public and to communities from which they originated. These practices both amplify the public nature of institutional collections, and create opportunities for re-thinking how collections should be shared online. In (post) colonial contexts, the virtual museum is a productive location of Aboriginal self-representation, where global heritage policies and institutional practices interface with Aboriginal paradigms of knowledge circulation, ethics, and control. Based on collaboratively designed virtual museum projects with Dane-zaa and Inuvialuit communities in Canada, I show that access to digital collections can both facilitate the reclaiming of intellectual property rights and copyright of cultural heritage––including the right to restrict circulation of cultural property––and support the design of archives and virtual exhibits on Aboriginal terms. These projects highlight Aboriginal remediation of digital collections as alternative modes of thinking about the design and activation of networked technologies in diverse cultural and institutional contexts.

About Kate

Kate Hennessy is an Assistant Professor specializing in Media at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT). She has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia and an MA in the Anthropology of Media from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. As the director of the Making Culture Lab at SIAT, her research explores the role of digital technology in the documentation and safeguarding of cultural heritage, and in the mediation of culture, history, objects, and subjects in new forms. She is a founding member of Ethnographic Terminalia, an international collective exploring the borders of anthropological, curatorial, and artistic practice ( She was a Trudeau Foundation Scholar from 2006-2010, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Graduate Scholar from 2005-2009, a Canadian Polar Commission Scholar in 2006-2007, and a Commonwealth Scholar in 2001-2002.


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Past Event
Jun 14, 2011
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM