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Pitt Rivers Museum visit Denmark with ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant

Dan Hicks, Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum travelled to Denmark in October 2018 with an ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant.  This is the report from Dan’s visit.

The original purpose of the visit was to develop new connections between Danish museums and galleries and the Pitt Rivers, informing me about current exhibitions practice around the refugee crisis in Copenhagen and around historic ethnographic and archaeological collections in Aarhus.

Decolonizing Appearance exhibition (c)CAMP

Decolonizing Appearance exhibition (c)CAMP

I had originally intended to visit the Decolonizing Appearance exhibition, which ran from September 21 to December 2018 at Trampoline House refugee justice community centre in Copenhagen and to talk with co-curators about the approach taken, to inform my own forthcoming curated show at the Pitt Rivers on refugee material culture. However, it was impossible to visit at a time when this activist-led exhibit was open. Nevertheless, the visit to Aarhus went as planned.

Lande exhibition (c)Pitt Rivers Museum

Lande exhibition (c)Pitt Rivers Museum

I was able to speak with the curator Nick Mirzoeff and his colleagues in Copenhagen despite not being able to visit in person, and these exchanges have directly informed my exhibition about the Calais “Jungle” (Lande) exhibition which opened at the Pitt Rivers Museum in April 2019. Without them, the ‘Jungle’ exhibit would not have been able to achieve its incorporation of activism with heritage and museum exhibition to the same degree of sophistication.

The conversations with the Moesgaard Museum also directly informed grant applications to the DFG and AHRC submitted in early 2019. The meetings with Professor Morten Nielsen (National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen) and Prof Laura McAtackney, Prof Nick Shepherd, and Prof David Harvey at the Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus all went ahead as planned on 25-28 October 2018.

We had the opportunity, over breakfast and lunch meetings, and time spent in the galleries at Moesgaard, to discuss contemporary synergies between the collections of Moesgaard Museum and the National Museum of Denmark with UK archaeological and ethnographic collections, and to plan new major funding applications for international collaboration.

Decolonizing Appearance exhibition (c)CAMP

Decolonizing Appearance exhibition (c)CAMP

The major challenge was trying to meet with an activist-led exhibit on a very tighter timescale than would be ideal. A limitation of this scheme is the very short window between funding being confirmed and travel – something that I hope will be considered in the future.

The positive impact of this visit has been to build new connections between the museum sector in Denmark and the Pitt Rivers Museum, and directly to inform the approach to activist collaboration engaged in in the current Lande exhibit.

Dan Hicks said, “We are immensely grateful for this crucial support from ICOM to continue to build connections between the UK and Danish museum sectors.”

Lande exhibition (c)Pitt Rivers Museum

Lande exhibition (c)Pitt Rivers Museum

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