Kenji Yoshida

Kenji Yoshida  IMG_8468

Professor, National Museum of Ethnology and the Graduate University for Advanced Studies

Museums at the turning point of civilization: Searching for the shape of the next generation museums


If we say that the history of public museums began with the founding of the British Museum in 1753 (or its opening in 1759), then that history is 260 years old. It could be said that we now stand at the first turning point in the history of museums. Taken more widely, civilization on the earth has for some hundreds of years been approaching a great turning point. The power relationship that has hitherto seen the “centre” dominating the “periphery” is changing and the groups of people traditionally placed in the “centre” or the “periphery” have begun to engage in bidirectional contact that has proved both creative and destructive. Museums are not an exception. Museums can no longer use the backdrop of the authority of science and gather collections, conduct research, and mount exhibitions with a unilateral focus. The demand is increasing for the relationships between the museum and the people of the society that is the focus of the collections and exhibitions of the museum, as well as the museum and the visitors who are the recipients of the information provided by the museum, to be bi- or multi-directional.

In my speech I will showcase the recent increasing activity in museums and paint a picture of the next generation of museums.


Currently a professor at both the National Museum of Ethnology and the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Dr. Kenji Yoshida has a BA from Kyoto University and an MA and a PhD from Osaka University. He obtained his current position in 2000 after working as an assistant professor at Osaka University and an assistant professor and then associate professor at the National Museum of Ethnology. His specialty is museum anthropology and he is involved in on-going field work in Africa on masks and etiquette as well as trends within the Christian Church of the Holy Spirit in addition to research on representations of culture in museums and the development of exhibitions both in Japan and elsewhere around the world based on applications of his research. His Japanese language publications include: Forest of Masks: Masked Society, Spirit Possession and Sorcery among the Chewa (Kodansha, 1992); The “Discovery” of Culture (Iwanami Shoten, 1999, reprinted 2014); “Portraits” of Culture: An Experiment in Network-type Museology (Iwanami Shoten, 2013); Searching for the Origins of Religion: The People of the Southern African Church of the Holy Spirit (Iwanami Shoten, 2014).


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