School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Dr Conal McCarthy

Programme Director
School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Phone: 04 463 7470
Mobile: 027 563 7470
Location: Room 303, Old Kirk Building, Gate 3 Kelburn Pde, Kelburn Campus

Dr Conal McCarthy

Currently Teaching

MHST 511 - Introducing Museums and Heritage
Course Coordinator

MHST 515 - Museums and Maori
Course Coordinator


PhD (Victoria), MA (Canterbury), Dip Tchg (Canterbury)


Career Summary

Conal has degrees in English, Art History, Museum Studies and te reo Māori. He has strong links with museums, art galleries and heritage organisations around New Zealand, and has worked in a variety of professional roles including education and public programmes, interpretation, governance, collections and curatorial work. His academic research interests include museum history, theory and practice, visitor research, exhibition history, Māori visual culture and contemporary heritage issues. He is an assessor for the Australian Research Council, and is currently working on an ARC funded research project on museums, anthropology and governmentality with an international team based at the University of Western Sydney headed by Prof Tony Bennett. The New Zealand component of this research focuses on museum collecting, fieldwork ethnography and indigenous agency. His next research project in collaboration with several overseas and local scholars will examine the relationships between museums and indigenous people in postsettler nations.

Conal has published widely on the historical and contemporary Māori engagement with museums, including the books Exhibiting Māori: A history of colonial cultures of display (2007) and Museums and Maori: Heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice (2011). Currently he is editing a volume on museum practice, which includes chapters on many aspects of current professional work from audience, leadership and policy to collections, exhibitions and conservation. This collection will appear in a new series International handbooks of museum studies for Wiley-Blackwell in 2014 with general editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. His next book co-authored with Bronwyn Labrum of Massey University will explore history of/in museums. Conal is interested in supervising graduate research in any of the above areas either focused on New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific or comparative work.

Selected Publications



Museum Practice: The contemporary museum at work. Volume 3 in the series International Handbook of Museum Studies. General editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, forthcoming 2015. ISBN no.  9781405198509.


Museums and Maori: Heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice. Wellington: Te Papa Press. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press, 2011.

Exhibiting Māori: A history of colonial cultures of display. Berg: Oxford & New York. Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2007.

Forrester and Lemon of Oamaru, architects. Oamaru: Historic Places Trust, 2002.

Book Chapters:


‘The ties that bind: Museums, anthropology, and indigenous networks across the Pacific,’ TransPacific Americas: Encounters and engagements between the Americas and the South Pacific, edited by Eveline Duerr and Philipp Schorch. London and New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2015.

‘Two branches of the brown Polynesians’: Ethnographic fieldwork, colonial governmentality and the ‘dance of agency.’ In New Zealand’s Empire, edited by Katie Pickles and Catharine Coleborne. London and New York: Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2014.

“The travelling Other: A Māori narrative from a visit to Australia in 1874.” In Histories of Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Studies in Nineteenth Century Writing and Culture, edited by Kate Hill. Basingstoke Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2014.

‘The practice of repatriation: A case study from New Zealand,’ in Museums and restitution: New practices, new approaches, edited by Kostos Arvanitis and Louise Tythacott. Aldershot: Ashgate, forthcoming 2014.


‘‘To foster and encourage the study and practice of Maori arts and crafts’: Indigenous material culture, colonial culture and museums in New Zealand’, in Craft & Community: The material culture of place & politics, 19th-20th Century, edited by Janice Helland, Beverly Lemire and Alena Buis. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2014, pp59-82.

‘Carving out a place in the Better Britain of the South Pacific: Māori in New Zealand museums and exhibitions,’ in Curating empire: Museums and the British imperial experience, edited by John McAleer and Sarah Longair. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012, pp56-81.

‘Revd J.F. Mayo’s tapa,’ in Te Hao nui: The great catch: Object stories from Te Manawa, edited by Fiona McKergow and Kerry Taylor.  Auckland: Random House, 2011, pp82-7.

‘Postcolonial pasts and postindigenous futures: A critical genealogy of “Māori art”,’ in Proceedings of Crossing Cultures: Conflict, migration, convergence, edited by Jayne Anderson. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2009, pp829-34.

‘Displaying natural history: The Colonial Museum’ in The amazing world of James Hector, edited by Simon Nathan. Wellington: Te Awa Press, 2008, pp49-61.

‘Before Te Maori: A revolution deconstructed,’ in Museum revolutions: How museums change and are changed, edited by  Simon Knell, Suzanne McCleod and Sheila Watson. Routledge: London & New York, 2007, pp117-33.

Journal articles


With Fiona Cameron. ‘Competing anthropological assemblages: Indigenous agency and the governmental regulation of Māori populations.’ Museum & Society 12(1) forthcoming November 2014.


"Empirical anthropologists advocating cultural adjustments”: The anthropological governance of Āpirana Ngata and the Native Affairs Department.’ History and Anthropology March 2014 25(2): 280-95. available online at:

‘The rules of (Maori) art: Bourdieu’s cultural sociology and Māori visitor in New Zealand museums’, The Journal of Sociology 49: 2-3 June 2013. available online at:

‘Our works of ancient times’: History, colonisation and agency at the 1906-7 New Zealand International Exhibition,’ Museum History Journal 2:2 2009, pp119-42.

With Joanna Cobley, ‘Museums and Museum Studies in New Zealand: A survey of historical developments,’ History Compass Vol 7, January 2009, available online at:

With David M. Mason, ‘Museums and the culture of new media: An empirical model of museum websites,’ Museum Management and Curatorship 23:1 2008, pp63-80.

‘Review article: Museum factions—the transformation of museum studies’, Museum and society 5:3 November 2007, available online at:

‘Hailing the subject: Māori visitors, museum display and the sociology of cultural reception’, New Zealand Sociology 21:1 2006, pp108-130.

With David M. Mason, ' “The feeling of exclusion”: Young people's perceptions of art galleries,’ Museum Management and Curatorship 21:1 2006, pp20-31.

With Bronwyn Labrum, ‘Museum studies and museums: Bringing together theory and practice,’ Te Ara: Journal of Museums Aotearoa 30:2 December 2005, pp4-11.

‘Objects of empire? Displaying Māori at International exhibitions 1873-1924.’ Journal of New Zealand Literature 23:1 2005, pp52-70.

Reference works


“Museums,” Entry in the Culture and Society Theme, Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Ministry for Culture & Heritage, forthcoming 2014.

“Te Papa,” Entry in the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Springer, forthcoming 2014.


‘New Zealand Exhibition, Dunedin 1865,’ pp34-36; ‘New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-90’, pp108-10; ‘New Zealand International Exhibition, Christchurch, 1906-7’, pp87-90; ‘New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, Wellington, 1940,’ pp309-13; in John Findling and Kimberly Pelle (eds) Encyclopedia of Worlds Fairs and Expositions. McFarland Press, Jefferson North Carolina and London, 2008. These four entries each include 1500 words of text, plus images, statistics and an annotated bibliography.

Conference papers:

‘Taonga and Māori, museums and collecting 1900-1940,’ Museums, Collections, Agency: A Symposium Australian Museum Sydney, April 1, 2014.

‘With Fiona Cameron, ‘Museum fieldwork, governmentality and indigenous agency: The anthropological assemblages of HD Skinner and the Board of Māori Ethnological Research,’ Collecting and Governing Cultures, Council for Museum Anthropology Invited session, American Anthropological Association Conference, Chicago October 14, 2013.

Keynote address: “Some thoughts about things: Theorising colonialism’s culture as performance, agency and practice,” Colonial objects: Inaugural conference of the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, University of Otago, Dunedin 11 February 2013.

‘Biculturalism and its discontents: Making Māori art in the museum,’ paper presented at the College Art Association Conference, New York, February 11, 2013.

‘Māori and New Zealand’s Pacific empire: Ethnographic fieldwork, colonial governmentality and the ‘dance of agency,’ Pacific History Association Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, December 7, 2012.

‘Scholars and savages? The Dominion Museum ethnographic expeditions,’ paper presented as part of the panel Museum, Field, Colony, Metropolis 2: Assembling Cultures, Governing Others, presented at Crossroads in Cultural Studies, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 2-6 July 2012

‘Representing self and other? Māori exhibitions at the national museum 1865-2001,’ S’exposer au musée: Représentations muséographiques de Soi, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, November 29, 2011.

Invited keynote: ‘The rules of (Māori) art: Museums, visitors and indigenous culture in the field of New Zealand art,’ Keynote address to the conference Antipodean fields: Bourdieu and southern cultures, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, Australia, June 8-9, 2011.