Spencer's Double: The Decolonial Afterlife of a Postcolonial Museum Prop
In the mid-1990s, staff at Museums Victoria planned the new Melbourne Museum. At the heart of the permanent Indigenous exhibition was a life-size model of Baldwin Spencer, coauthor of the classic anthropological monograph The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) and collector of thousands of Indigenous objects. In a deliberate inversion of the colonial gaze, visitors were invited to examine the collector in his glass case. When the exhibition was later redesigned, the model was informally retained by museum staff but remained unrecorded in any database. With no official existence but considerable gravity, he ended up housed in the secret/sacred room, surrounded by sacred objects that Spencer the man had collected. This chapter traces Spencer's journey from a postcolonial pedagogical tool to a ghostly object in an emerging era of decolonial museology.