Hannah Turner

I am a critical information studies scholar and Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia in the School of Information, where I research the connection between documentation, culture, and technology.

My book, Cataloguing Culture (UBC Press, 2020) is a history of ethnographic documentation practices and the classification and the cataloguing of material culture collections in the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology.

I was a Lecturer in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Making Culture Lab at SFU. I completed my doctorate in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto in 2015.

I am currently accepting students working in the areas of information practices, histories of classification, museum work and reparative community based projects. If you would like to work with me, please email me.

Writing


My book, “Cataloguing Culture” is available from UBC Press, and distributed by University of Chicago Press in the United States.

How does material culture become data? Why does this matter, and for whom? As the cultures of Indigenous peoples in North America were mined for scientific knowledge, years of organizing, classifying, and cataloguing hardened into accepted categories, naming conventions, and tribal affiliations – much of it wrong.

For further publications see CV Publications.

Projects


Wrapped in the Cloud: A Digital Collaboration

Wrapped in the cloud is an ongoing collaboration with Jaad Kuujus (Meghann O’Brien) and Kate Hennessy at the Making Culture Lab at SFU. We are working to digitize (through 3D scanning and photogrammetry and digital loom), Jaad Kuujus’ weaving, Sky Blanket, as a media installation. The first iteration, “Wrapped in the Cloud” was in a touring exhibit called BoarderX, curated by Jaimie Isaac.

Read more about the process, and more about Jaad Kuujus’ work on the Making Culture Lab’s site.

Wrapped in the Cloud was on exhibit at The Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, and toured elsewhere in Canada throughout 2019/2020.


Amagugu Ethu/ Our Treasures

I worked collaboratively with Dr. Laura Gibson (Kings College London) on a Wenner-Gren funded project called Amagugu-Ethu/ Our Treasures; which sought to document stories from KwaZulu-Natal experts about some of the Zulu collections in the Iziko Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. We worked together with a team of Zulu-speaking experts, artists, storytellers, technical wizards, museum workers and academics in Cape Town and developed a Museum in a Box resource that plays the story recorded about an object. Museum in a Box, is a company dedicated to making museum objects and stories more shareable and accessible.

You can read more about the project in the post by George Oates.

This project was generously supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the University of Leicester, and Museum in a Box.


The 2020 Recollection

The pandemic also changed the way classes were taught, with the entire course being facilitated online via Zoom. Students were given the opportunity to develop their own oral history project within the context of 2020. Five groups interviewed, transcribed, and published oral histories of friends, family, and acquaintances around the following topics: Essential Work, At Home in 2020, Youth and Activism, Food as Resistance, and Performing in Lockdown. Read the introduction to the project here, and check out the recorded interviews and transcripts here.


Listening to the Earth: Student Oral History Projects

In the Spring of 2020, I taught the course The Theory and Practice of Oral History, and tasked my students to create an audio based exhibit using a Museum in a Box – a great tool I’ve worked with before. The task was – how would we preserve stories about the earth? What kinds of stories would researchers tell about their favourite organisms? We developed a Museum in a Box to be exhibited on UBC Campus; but due to the COVID crisis, were unable to actually install it. Instead, on May 1st, we launched the website: Listening To the Earth, which served as a virtual exhibit and archive of the interviews the students conducted.


Memory Institutions in a Digital Age: Interviews

In the Spring 2018 students from the Centre for Digital Media class that I taught, “Museums and Art Galleries in a Digital Age” presented their video interviews for the Museums and the Web Conference (April 18-21 here in Vancouver, BC).

As part of the Museums and the Web Exhibition event (MWX), the videos were installed in the conference venue and posted online, and we conducted pop-up interviews for the conference attendees and live-editing these.


Witnessing

Conceived of as a response to the 2016 exhibit “Witness” at New Westminster’s New Media Gallery this project is a series of three processing artworks developed by students at the Critical Media Arts Studio at SFU’s School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT) in the IAT 810 New Media Class. Witnessing was exhibited at the AHVA Gallery at the Audain Art Centre as part of the “Under Super Vision” Symposium.

The web-based projects all address the thematic issues raised in the Witness exhibit, that of human machine communication and mutual surveillance. Each work is presented in an online archive, and they all demonstrate the uneasy marriage of our shared technological fears and desires.

The project website is available here.


Unbelievable Exhibit at Museum of Vancouver

Co-curated (with Gregory Dreicer and Sharon Fortney) and designed in collaboration with HCMA Architecture, this new exhibit that examines our ideas of truth and believability on exhibit now at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV). Every museum object has multiple stories, and in many cases these histories have yet to be told. The exhibit looks at key objects in Vancouver and exposes these stories to ask visitors to examine how and why they believe what they believe.

Unbelievable is on view at the Museum of Vancouver until Spring 2018.

Press and Reviews:

Inside Vancouver //Georgia Straight


I Made This! Children’s Participatory Learning with 3D Printing

In 2015, I was a research partner with the project “I made this: Children’s Participatory Learning with 3D Printing”.  This research advanced a comprehensive scholarly understanding of children’s participatory learning in informal learning environments. We held workshops in a museum setting encourage children to acquire and create knowledge about the individual, cultural and institutional values underpinning both the technological systems used for making and the resultant artifacts. See our publication in Curator (2017) Using 3D Printing to Enhance Understanding and Engagement with Young Audiences: Lessons from Workshops in a Museum. I was a research partner with this SSHRC funded project within the Semaphore Research Cluster at the University of Toronto. Our workshop, “Footwear Futures” was held at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario. For more, see the Bata Shoe Museum.

Teaching


I regularly teach:

  • INF0 200 Foundations of Informatics
  • LIBR 508 Information Practices in Contemporary
  • INFO 301 Digital Cultural Collections

I have developed and taught courses across disciplines such as information studies, museum studies, and archival studies.

CV


Education

2015PhDInformation StudiesUniversity of Toronto 
2010MMsTMuseum StudiesUniversity of Toronto 
2008BAAnthropology and Religious StudiesUniversity of Victoria 

Academic Positions

2019-Assistant ProfessorUniversity of British Columbia
2018-2019Lecturer University of Leicester, School of Museum Studies
2016-2018Postdoctoral FellowSchool of Interactive Art and Technology, Simon Fraser University

Publications

Books

2020  Cataloging Culture: Legacies of Colonialism in Museum Documentation. UBC Press: Vancouver, Canada.  

Articles

2022  Turner, Hannah and Candace Greene. “New Access to Native North American Collections in Museums and Archives: History, Context and Future Directions.” In Volume 1 of the Handbook of North American Indians (HNAI), edited by Igor Krupnik. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press: Washington: DC. 151- 164.

2021  Turner, Hannah, Laura Gibson and Clara Gimenez-Delgado.“Participatory Design for the Anarchive: The Amagugu Ethu/ Our Treasures Documentation Project.” Designing Interactive Information Systems Conference Proceedings June 2021, pp. 1783-1792.

2018  Turner, Hannah, Kate Hennessy, Meghann O’Brien, and Conrad Sly. “Wrapped in the Cloud: An Interview with Meghann O’Brien and Conrad Sly.” BC Studies, 50th Anniversary Issue, No. 200, Winter: 125-140. Invited.

2017  Turner, Hannah. “Organizing Knowledge in Museums: A Review of Concepts and Concerns.” Knowledge Organization: Knowledge Organization within the Museum Domain, Special Issue. 44 (2017) No.7: 472-84.

2017 Turner, Hannah, Gabby Resch, Adam K. Dubé, Rhonda McEwen, Isaac Record, and Daniel Southwick. “Using 3D Printing to Enhance Understanding and Engagement with Young Audiences: Lessons from Workshops in a Museum.” Curator: The Museums Journal, 60(3): 311-33.

2016  Turner, Hannah. “Introduction to the Special Issue: Critical Histories of Museum Catalogues.” Special Issue: Critical Histories of Museum Catalogues, edited by Hannah Turner. Museum Anthropology 39 (2): 102-10.

2016  Turner, Hannah. “The Computerization of Material Culture Catalogues: Objects and Infrastructure in the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Anthropology.” Special Issue: Critical Histories of Museum Catalogues, edited by Hannah Turner. Museum Anthropology 39 (2): 163-177.

2015  Turner, Hannah. “Decolonizing Ethnographic Documentation: A Critical History of the Early Museum Catalogs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.” Special Issue: Indigenous Approaches to Cataloging, edited by Cheryl A. Metoyer and Ann M. Doyle. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 53 (5–6): 658–76.

Teaching

School of Information, The University of British Columbia

2023Digital Cultural Collections
2019 –Information Practices in Contemporary Society
2019-2022Theory and Practice of Oral History
2021 –Foundations of Informatics

Speaking

2022  The Work of Repair: Documentation and Colonial Legacies Museums. Seminar talk at the Museum of Anthropology, UBC. December 1.

2022  Invited Respondent, “Thinking With Wendy Hui Kuong Chun: Discriminating Data, the New Politics of Recognition”. Research Centre for Material Culture, Netherlands. September 26 2022.

2021  “Legacies of Data: Reparative Documentation in Museums.” Decolonising the Catalogues Conference, Irish Museums Association, November 23. (International).

2021  “Ethical Cataloging.” Invited presentation at the Museums Metadata Summit. Five Colleges, Amherst. October 20th. (International)

2021  “Cataloguing Culture: Documentation, Colonialism, and Repair.” Presentation at the Pick Museum of Anthropology Decolonizing This Museum Series, Northern Illinois University, September 27 (International).

2021  ”Decolonising the Database” Invited Speaker, Roundtable, Centre for Design History, University of Brighton. July 5th. (International)

2021 “Re-connect / Re-collect: Reparative Collections and Connections.” Roundtable at the University of Michigan, June 15th. (International)

2021 “Cataloguing Culture: Documentation, Colonialism, and Repair” Seminar Series at the Canadian Museum of Nature, June 16th. (National)

2021  “Cataloguing Culture: Histories of Documentation for the Future.” Calgary Libraries and Cultural Resources Development Day. April 30th. (National)

2021 “Classifying Culture Data and Material Culture in World Anthropologies: A Conversation for IUAES Congress with Sowparnika Balaswamitnathan.” Invited talk for the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES). April 21st. (International)