Australian Museums, Aboriginal Skeletal Remains, and the Imagining of Human Evolutionary History, c. 1860-1914

Paul Turnbull

Abstract


Much has been written about how progress to nationhood in British colonial settler societies was imagined to depend on safeguarding the biological integrity of an evolutionarily advanced citizenry. There is also a growing body of scholarship on how the collecting and exhibition of indigenous ethnological material and bodily remains by colonial museums underscored the evolutionary distance between indigenes and settlers. This article explores in contextual detail several Australian museums between 1860 and 1914, in particular the Australian Museum in Sydney, the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, and the Victorian Museum in Melbourne, in which the collecting, interpretation and exhibition of the Aboriginal Australian bodily dead by staff and associated scientists served to imagine human evolutionary history.

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Copyright (c) 2016 Paul Turnbull

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360