Conjuring Authenticity: The Coven, Buckland Museum, and the Representation of Magic Behind Glass
Name: Ellen Nikirk
Majors: History and Anthropology
Advisors: Dr. Katie Holt and Dr. Pamela Frese
Paganism and other nature-based religions are some of the fastest growing spiritual movements in the US today. This paper uses the Coven and Buckland Museum as a lens in which to view the public perception and representation of magic, paganism, and witchcraft. Practitioner scholars are a vital part of this paper due to their research amongst pagans, witches, or practitioners of magic as an active and involved participant. The non-practitioner scholars come in to diversify the scholarship within the study of magic. Museum scholars examine the power and authority that museums and thus their curators and creators have over the information, culture(s) that they are discussing, and how the public learns. Using a combination of three methods (participant observation, formal interviews, and thematic analysis), this paper analyses three themes that occurred alongside the literature. “Authority”, “authenticity”, and “education” are elements of museums that both my contributors and the scholars of museums discussed. Through the interactions of the Buckland Museum and members of the Coven, we can see the need for better representation for paganism, magic, and witchcraft.
My favorite part of this project was the leg work: being involved with the Coven, visiting the Museum, and digging through texts and papers for my scholars. The next step that I would take if I was expanding this project would be to include more witchcraft-focused museums and groups of pagans/witches in order to draw more general conclusions about how magic, witchcraft, and paganism are represented to the general public.
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