Looking at Culture: Visualizing Anthropology at a University Museum
From 1992 until 2006, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, maintained a photographic gallery, Looking at Culture. During its existence, it was the only exhibition space in an American museum dedicated to visual anthropology. This chapter recounts its story, from the perspective of its initiating curator. While seeking to draw out theoretical and disciplinary conclusions, this account is very much a report from the trenches, the summary reflections of a working curator. Indeed, because issues of museum practice itself have so often been ignored in the literature, on both museums and photography, it is the pragmatic concerns of day-to-day curating that have been emphasized here. As such it brings to the surface the mundane practices of the museum in which photographs are entangled. These are worth considering because they point to the multitude of decisions, opportunities and compromises that shape the work of photographs in institutions. With the contained time frame of the Looking at Culture gallery at the Hearst Museum [hereafter the Hearst] it is possible to track these curatorial practices and their affects. This dedicated photographic gallery in a university museum of anthropology resulted from the intersection of several separate and distinctive parameters: institution (university museum), discipline (anthropology), medium (photography), and exhibitionary mode (temporary).