What is a Living Culture?

It’s easy to forget when working for or visiting a museum that the objects on display were made by living cultures from around the world. We tend to think that museum objects are thousands of years old and made by people like the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

The Living Cultures collection, once called the Anthropology collection, is full of objects that were made by cultures and people who exist today. These living cultures, such as Native Americans and  Maori, work with museums to ensure that visitors are aware that indigenous traditions are alive and well.

At the turn of the 19th century Western powers were convinced that the plight of indigenous cultures was inevitable. Museums began to collect objects from indigenous people as quickly as they could fearing that they would soon disappear forever. This anxiety was misplaced and despite almost 500 years of prejudice and discrimination indigenous cultures have survived. The Survival International film illustrates this point so well below. 

The Manchester Museum works with visitors, researchers and indigenous people in order to facilitate a better understanding of living cultures and the challenges they face.

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures

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