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I have divided my life between being a museum curator and administrator and a university teacher and researcher. Both aspect of work have enriched each other. Combining these two roles in one institution was not feasible in Britain, difficult in Portugal but ultimately became possible in Canada. I paired my job at the British Museum with teaching pre-Columbian art one day per week at Univeristy of Loughborough and later at the University of East Anglia. When I moved to Brighton Museum, I devised and taught the first MA in Critical Museology at the University of Sussex. At the Horniman Museum, London, I taught, with Mike Rowlands, on the museum program of University College London. In 2001 I was appointed a professor in the anthropology department of University of Coimbra, Portugal, where I remained until 2004. Not until coming to the University of British Columbia was I able to direct, curate, teach and conduct research within the same institution.


I have devoted much of my time to creating and organizing platforms for scholarly and creative discussions rather than singularly focusing on my own narrower research. While a visiting fellow at the Smithsonian, I co-organized with Dr. William Merrill, a conference on comparative Uto-Aztecan social structures and cosmologies. At the British Museum, I assisted Dr. Brian Durrans in organizing the conference, Making Representations of Ourselves, and at the Horniman Museum, I obtained funding, organized and chaired annual conferences based on overarching themes that cut across their three collecting areas (ethnography, musical instruments and natural history). 


Following my participation in the research group on the development of national imaginaries and the institutionalization of art history in Japan, India and Mexico, led by Professors Orianna Badley, Partha Mitter and Toshio Watanabe, I organized with Dr. Nuno Porto at the University of Coimbra, the conference, Modernities and Travel Literature. My research (unpublished) on the late development of art history and the failure to develop academic discourses or interest on Maya ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula (the view from the provinces instead of the metropolis) was my main focus in both projects.


In the last four years, after a discussion with Dr. Gwyneira Isaac, Dr. Diana Marsh and Dr. Nicola Levell at the 2015 American Anthropological Association Conference, we jointly instituted small bi-annual theme-based colloquies designed to provide a meeting place to promote discussion and awareness of different museological traditions and approaches to common museum-based areas of interest. The first workshop in world museologies, Borders: Museums in the Age of Global Mobility was hosted by the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City (2017) and the second, Interruptions: Challenges and Interventions in Exhibition-Making, took place at the Museum of Ethnology, Osaka in 2020. The third workshop on museums and extinction was being planned to take place in Oaxaca before the outbreak of the world pandemic which although adding relevance to the subject, prevented the event’s physical realization. The workshops invite participants to share different perspectives from across the world and aspire to encourage new networks and collaborations between practitioners from varied intellectual traditions. Museums and Extinction is now planned for 2022.

Between 1977 and 2001 I have authored more than 200 books, catalogues, chapters, articles, forewords, and reviews on museums, collections and the politics and visual cultures of Latin America, Mexico and the Iberian Peninsula. I have delivered 39 conference papers; chaired or been respondent/discussant for 30 conference secessions; given 11 keynote addresses, and presented 122 research papers/talks at universities and museums world-wide.

IMG_1504 - Smithsonian March 2020 - Bill
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