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: Critical debates in the contemporary museum. Volume 3 in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. General editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, (contracted 2010) forthcoming 2014. 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.

Chapters in books

‘‘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. Janice Helland, Beverly Lemire and Alena Buis (eds). Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013.

‘The practice of repatriation: A case study from New Zealand,’ in Arvanitis, Kostos and Louise Tythacott (eds). Museums and restitution: New practices, new approaches. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

Journal articles

‘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.

With Jennifer Walklate. ‘Museums in a Global World: A Conversation on Museums, Heritage, Nation and Diversity in a transnational age,’ Museum Worlds: Advances in Research 1 June 2013.

‘ ‘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

‘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.

“Museums,” Entry in the Culture and Society Theme, Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Ministry for Culture & Heritage, 2013.

“Te Papa,” Entry in the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Springer, 2013.

Conference papers:

‘Travelling through space and time: Māori objects and people in inter-colonial displays,’ paper presented as part of the panel ‘From the global to the local in the Victorian museum: Circulation and mediation of material culture,’ The Global and the Local: Victorian Studies Association Conference, Venice June 3-6, 2013.

“Some thoughts about things: Theorising colonialism’s culture as performance, agency and practice,” Keynote address, 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

‘Integrating heritage theory and heritage practice,’ paper as part of New Zealand panel, Contested heritage in the postcolonial Pacific: Case studies from Aotearoa New Zealand, both presented at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies: Inaugural Conference, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, June 5-8, 2011.

‘Reconciling nation and native: Indigenous art and settler nationalism at New Zealand’s national museum,’ invited paper, Museums and identities: EuNaMus project seminar, Acropolis Museum, Athens, April 25 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.

‘Travelling Māori: Ropata Wahawaha in Australia, 1874,’ Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Narratives, Histories, Collections, University of Lincoln, UK, July 13-15, 2011 (this paper was read in absentia by Prof Elizabeth Rankin, Auckland University).

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.
‘‘To foster and encourage the study and practice of Maori arts and crafts’: The poetics and politics of displaying material culture in New Zealand museums 1900-1940,’ Material Culture, Craft & Community: Negotiating Objects Across Time & Place Material Culture Institute, University of Alberta, Canada, 20-21 May 2011.
Invited paper: ‘From cultural studies to cultural history: Theories, sources and methods in the study of colonial culture in nineteenth century New Zealand,’ Beyond representation: Cultural histories of colonial New Zealand, History Department, University of Otago, 17-18 November 2010.

Keynote address: ‘Why Watch Kiwis? Considering the politics, ethics, and relevance of university research through a case study of professional museum practice.’ The Postgrad conference, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Oct 20-21 2010.

‘Decolonising museums: The poetics, politics and pragmatics of restitution in New Zealand museums,’ Museums and Restitution, Centre for Museology, Manchester University and the Manchester Museum, 8-9 July, 2010.

‘A tale of two museums: The display of nation and native at the CMC and Te Papa’, Canada and New Zealand: Connections, comparisons, and challenges Victoria University of Wellington, Febuary 9, 2010.

Invited paper: ‘More than an “imagined community”: Te Papa, biculturalism and the politics of a postsettler nation,’ invited paper presented in a panel on ‘Museums of restitution’ at the international seminar National museums in a transnational age: A conversation between historians and museum professionals, Monash University Centre, Prato, Italy November 2-5, 2009.

Seminars and other research presentations:

‘Ngata, Te Rangihiroa and the Board of Māori Ethnological Research,’ Reassembling the material: A research seminar on museums, fieldwork anthropology and indigenous agency, Te herenga Waka Marae, Victoria University, Nov 5, 2012.

‘Anthropology and the government of native races in the Pacific’: Ethnographic fieldwork and Māori politicians,’ Colonial Governmentality Workshop, Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, October 31-Nov 1, 2012.

‘Theory and practice or practice theory? Some thoughts on museums and the future of research,’ a seminar in the series Thinking through museums: New research in museum history, theory and practice presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Museum & Heritage Studies programme, Victoria University of Wellington, March 22, 2012.

Invited seminar: ‘Beyond postcolonial studies: Māori participation in the Festival of Empire 1911 and the Wembley exhibition 1924,’ History department, University of Otago, Dunedin, August 24, 2011.

‘How to study museums: New approaches to New Zealand cultural history’ Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, April 27, 2011.

‘What do Māori want? A report from recent research on museums and Māori—collections, policy, staff and ethics. Collecting cultures: Museums Aotearoa annual conference, Whakatū marae, Nelson, April 11-13, 2011.

‘Out on the street: Concerning the 'public' in history, art and heritage.’ Seminar, Public History Research Unit, University of Waikato, October 22, 2010.

‘Museum history, material culture and empire in the “better Britain of the South Pacifc”: Māori exhibits at New Zealand’s national museum and related worlds fairs 1865-1940,’ paper presented to the symposium Museums, material culture and the British Empire British Museum and National Maritime Museum, London, October 29-30, 2009.

‘Ngā kākano e rua: Biculturalism at work in New Zealand museums,’ Public Culture: Museums and collections seminar series, Research School of Humanities in association with the National Museum of Australia, Australian National University, Canberra, September 2, 2009.

‘Exhibition studies after the historical turn: A case study of the Māori village at the 1906-7 New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch,’ Work in progress seminar, the Research School of Humanities, Australian National University, Canberra, July 24, 2009.