Conal McCarthy

Prof Conal McCarthy profile picture

Programme Director Stout Research Centre


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

Career summary

Conal McCarthy arrived at Victoria University of Wellington in 2005, after a varied career as a teacher and museum professional. In his current role as Director of the Museum and Heritage Studies programme he leads academic management, postgraduate teaching and supervision, and research in collaboration with colleagues in national heritage organisations and the cultural sector more broadly. With degrees in English, Art History, Māori language and Museum Studies, Conal is an interdisciplinary scholar who works at the intersection of history, theory and practice in public culture. His academic research interests include museum history, theory and practice, museum anthropology, cultural sociology, Māori visual and material culture and contemporary heritage issues. He is an assessor for the Australian Research Council, and worked on an ARC-funded research project led by Professor Tony Bennett at the University of Western Sydney 2010-14. Currently he is working on a Marsden funded project led by Professor Anne Salmond from Auckland University 2016-8. Other current research projects include indigenous museologies in postsettler nations, the history of museum visitation and the historical Māori engagement with museums and anthropology.

His books and other publications are listed below. In 2018 Conal published a history of Te Papa and in 2019 a co-edited collection (with Philipp Schorch) Curatopia: Museums and the future of curatorship with Manchester University Press. Over the next three years he will be working on three books: a multi-authored volume on the Dominion Museum ethnological expeditions 1919-23, a short book Indigenous Museology: Insights from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand in the Museums in Focus series for Routledge, and an academic monograph on museum anthropology in early 20th century New Zealand for Nebraska University Press. Conal is interested in supervising graduate research in any of the above areas focused on New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

Conal writes about his recent research and writing in his Museum History, Theory and Practice.

Selected publications



The past in the present: How Māori reinvented museums and anthropology in New Zealand, 1890-1940, Lincoln NB and London: University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming 2021.

Indigenous Museology: Insights from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, Museums in Focus series, London and New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2020.


With P. Schorch, eds. Curatopia: Museums and the future of curatorship. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019.

Te Papa: Reinventing New Zealand’s national museum, 1998-2018. Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2018.

With M. Stocker, eds. Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance: Essays in Memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Art Historian. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2017.

With Tony Bennett, Fiona Cameron, Nelia Dias, Ben Dibley, and Ira Jacknis. Collecting, ordering, governing: Anthropology, museums and liberal government. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

Museum Practice Volume 2 in the series International Handbook of Museum Studies. General editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley 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


‘Indigenisation,’ in Simon J. Knell (ed.), The Museum in the Global Contemporary: Reshaping the Museum of Now, London and New York: Routledge, 2019, pp. 37-54.

With Philip Schorch and Eveline Dűrr, ‘Introduction: Conceptualising Curatopia,’ in Curatopia: Museums and the future of curatorship. London and New York: Manchester University Press, 2019, pp. 1-16.

With Philipp Schorch, and Arapata Hakiwai, ‘The figure of the kaitiaki: Learning from Māori curatorship past and present,’ in Philipp Schorch and Conal McCarthy (eds.), Curatopia: Museums and the future of curatorship. London and New York: Manchester University Press, 2019, pp. 221-26.

‘The future of natural history museums: Commentary’, in Eric Dorfman (ed.), The future of natural history museums, Londona and new York: Routledge, 2017, pp217-28.

‘Introduction: Jonathan Mane-Wheoki - A life in art,’ in Conal McCarthy and Mark Stocker (eds), Colonial Gothic to Maori Renaissance: Essays in Memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Art Historian. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2017.

‘Interview – Conal McCarthy,’ Engaging Heritage: Engaging Communities, edited by Bryony Onciul, Michelle Stefano and Stephanie Hawke. Martlesham and NY: Boydell and Brewer, 2017, pp.228-30.

‘Theorising museum practice through practice theory: Museum studies as intercultural practice’, Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research, edited by Pam Burnard, Liz McKinlay, and Kimberly Powell. London and New York: Routledge, 2016, pp.24-34.

'Historicising the ‘indigenous international’: Museums, anthropology, and transpacific networks,’ TransPacific Americas: Encounters and engagements between the Americas and the South Pacific, edited by Eveline Dürr and Philipp Schorch. London and New York: Routledge, 2016, pp.3-26.

‘The travelling Other: A Māori narrative from a visit to Australia in 1874.’ In Britain and the narration of travel in the nineteenth century: Texts, images, objects, edited by Kate Hill. Farnham: Ashgate, 2016, pp.153-174.

‘‘Two branches of the brown Polynesians’: Ethnological 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, 2016, pp.51-67.

With Jonathan Mané-Wheoki. ‘Afterword: The whare Mataatua and some thoughts about things.’ In The Lives of colonial objects, edited by Annabelle Cooper, Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015, pp.308-18.

Grounding museum studies: Introducing practice’. In Museum Practice, edited by Conal McCarthy. Volume 2 in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. General editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. Oxford & Malden MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2015, pp.xxxvii-liv.

‘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, 2014, pp.71-83.

‘‘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, pp.56-81.

Journal articles


With Billie Lythberg and Amiria Salmond, ‘Introduction to Te Ao Hou Transforming worlds: Kinship as practical ontology,’ Journal of the Polynesian Society, April 2019 128 (1): 7-16.

With Paul Tapsell, ‘Te Poari Whakapapa: Origins, operation and tribal networks of the Board of Maori Ethnological Research 1923-35’, Te Ao Hou: Kinship as practical ontology: Special issue, Journal of the Polynesian Society, April 2019 128 (1): 87- 106.

With Lee Davidson, ‘‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’: A history of museum visits in Australasia’, Current Trends, December 2019, 28 (1): 36-55.

‘Theorising Lindauer’s Māori portraits: Rethinking images of Māori in museums, exhibitions, ethnography and art’, Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art Special issue: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand paintings, edited by Alexandra Karentzos, Miriam Oesterreich and Britta Schmitz, June 2018.

With Arapata Hakiwai and Philipp Schorch. 'Globalizing Māori Museology: Reconceptualising Engagement, Knowledge and Virtuality through Mana Taonga.’ Museum Anthropology Spring 2016 39(1): 48-69.

With Eric Dorfman, Arapata Hakiwai, and Āwhina Twomey. ‘Mana taonga: Connecting communities in New Zealand museums through ancestral Māori culture,’ Museum International 2015 64(3): 5-15.

Introduction: New research on museums, anthropology and governmentality,’ Museum and Society special issue—Museum, Field, Colony: Collecting, displaying and governing people and things, Guest editors: Fiona Cameron and Conal McCarthy, January 2015 13(1): 1-6.

With Fiona Cameron. ‘Two anthropological assemblages: New Zealand museums, Native policy, and Māori “culture areas” and “adaptation,” ’ Museum & Society January 2015 13(1): 88-106.

' "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.

The rules of (Māori) art: Bourdieu’s cultural sociology and Māori visitor in New Zealand museums’, The Journal of Sociology June 2013, 49(2-3): 173-93.

‘Our works of ancient times’: History, colonisation and agency at the 1906-7 New Zealand International Exhibition,’ Museum History Journal 2009, 2(2): 119-42.

Reference works

“Museums” entry in the section Culture, Popular Culture, Media, and Sport, Encyclopedia of Sociology, Second Edition, general editors George Ritzer & Chris Rojek, Malden MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa,” Entry in the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, edited by Claire Smith, Springer, 2018: 5114-6.

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

‘New Zealand Exhibition, Dunedin 1865,’ pp.34-36; ‘New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-90’, pp.108-10; ‘New Zealand International Exhibition, Christchurch, 1906-7’, pp.87-90; ‘New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, Wellington, 1940,’ pp.309-13; 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.