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Title: The Computerization Of Material Culture Catalogues: Objects and Infrastructure in the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Anthropology
Authors: Turner, Hannah
First Published: 6-Sep-2016
Publisher: American Anthropological Association for Council for Museum Anthropology
Citation: Museum Anthropology, 2016, 39 (2), pp. 163-177
Abstract: The history of museum collections is also the history of the management of information about these collections. Today, increased access to large amounts of robust collections data requires that information be curated so that is useful for communities and individuals who wish to access it. This has caused scholars and communities to question modes of ordering that do not necessarily map onto their own local and personal understandings of the world. In light of the major pragmatic and intellectual affordances stimulated by information technologies, the inner workings of these systems are often made invisible and act as infrastructures rather than singular or simple tools. By providing a historical account of how information about anthropological museum collections was computerized in the 1970s at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), I consider the museum catalogue as a socio‐technical information infrastructure. From that perspective, I argue that the knowledge produced by modes of inscription such as catalogues is generated by relationships of individuals and technologies. A detailed and critical history of catalogues must take into account these historical socio‐technical infrastructures.
DOI Link: 10.1111/muan.12122
ISSN: 0892-8339
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © 2016, American Anthropological Association for Council for Museum Anthropology. Deposited with reference to the publisher’s open access archiving policy. (
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Museum Studies

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