Medium 9781442277229

Collections Vol 12 N. 3

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"Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals" is a multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the discussion of all aspects of handling, preserving, researching, and organizing collections. Curators, archivists, collections managers, preparators, registrars, educators, students, and others contribute.

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Introduction to Focus Issue: Collections and Belonging

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Jennifer WayUniversity of North TexasElizabeth WeinfieldThe Graduate Center, City University of New York, and The Metropolitan Museum of ArtScholarship concerning belonging, possession, and dispossession historically has been associated with the social sciences. However, we aim to show here that these themes have long been foundational to the missions and practices of archives and museums, whether concerning collections comprised of artifacts or methods of display that feature an institution’s history or identity. Consequently, this issue inquires how archives and museums understand belonging in terms of acquisition, relationships with local communities, and collecting practices, and how these institutions participate in discourses of national identity.Our authors uncover stories about curators, donors, civic stewards, and artists. Situated across a wide swath of time and place, these subjects have a common enterprise: they aim not only to collect or possess information and artifacts but also to study the makers and communities associated with these objects to chart them in time, often as they endure some type of change. To this last point, belonging is treated as a “dynamic process, not a reified fixity,” occurring “in many different ways and to many different objects of attachments” (Yuval-Davis 2006, 199). This includes what Wood and Waite (2011) describe as geographies of belonging, or “the ways in which individuals negotiate multilayered, contested or competing senses of belonging which may occur at a range of different spatial scales” (201).

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Possessing an “Inner History”: Curators, Donors, and Affective Stewardship

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Amy Hildreth Chen

Special Collections Instruction Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries, Amy-Chen@uiowa.edu

Abstract Acquisition histories reveal how relationships between repository curators and collection donors shape an institution’s holdings as well as the direction of future scholarship. However, researchers often overlook the significance of acquisition histories, as cultural heritage organizations do not make this information readily available, for accession information either is considered private or is not presumed to be valuable. Therefore, tracing acquisition histories requires analyzing evidence across critical, artistic, and institutional records to see how curators recruit donors and then support the processing and promotion of their collections. The case study of curator Kevin Young and Lucille Clifton at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library provides an example of the merit of acquisition histories. While Clifton had no previous institutional connection to Emory, she chose Rose Library because she knew Young personally and trusted him, as both belonged to the same community of African American poets. I argue that Young advocated for Clifton’s papers out of respect for her legacy, which included her mentorship of his early career. This “inner history” between writer and curator, mentor and protégé, demonstrates the value of affective stewardship, or when a curator’s emotional connection to a writer generates a level of collection advocacy surpassing standard promotional practices.

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Mutual Belonging as a Collecting Criterion: African American Art at the Muskegon Museum of Art

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Janet Stiles Tyson

Independent Art Historian, stiles.tyson@gmail.com

Abstract This article analyzes the development of a collection of African American art at the Muskegon Museum of Art in terms of a relationship of mutual belonging with the city’s African American public. When the museum opened as the Hackley Art Gallery in 1912, the city’s population was more than 99% European American. Lack of an African American public and lack of cultural discourse that encouraged representation of diversity meant that even the one significant African American artwork owned by the museum was not displayed as relevant to African Americans. Today, Muskegon’s population is approximately 58% European American, or white, and 32% African American. The museum now collects and displays African American art as relevant not only to African Americans but also to all of its public. But this shift in collection management occurred only after an important member of the African American community held the museum accountable to that community.

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A Desire for Action: Civic Participation, or the Right to Decide on Possessions

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Corina MeyerGoethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Kunstgeschichtliches Institut, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, mail@corinameyer.comAbstract Today’s well-known Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, evolved from the will of Johann Friedrich Städel (1728–1816), who was one of the better-known private art collectors in Frankfurt in the 18th century. Städel willed his art collection to serve as a basis for founding the Städelsches Kunstinstitut (Städel’s Art Institute) after his death. This article explores his original collection and its later transfer from private to collective use, which was managed by a board of five men of the Art Institute and closely observed and harshly criticized by the public from 1817. It examines the reasons for early changes of the stock of art, takes into consideration the specifics of civic culture at that time, and finally applies Ralf Dahrendorf’s role theory to the proceedings in Frankfurt in order to understand better what happened when citizens decided on the possessions and dispossessions of the early Städelsches Kunstinstitut. See All Chapters

Paradoxes of Belonging in Peru’s National Museums

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Blenda FemeníasUniversity of Maryland University College, Department of Social Sciences, Adelphi, Maryland, blenda.femenias@umuc.eduAbstract This article examines the establishment of Peru’s national museums in the first half of the 20th century. I address the ways that art, archaeology, and anthropology intertwined in the collection of objects and the creation of buildings in which to house them. In addressing commemorative events, especially the Centennial of Independence, I argue that the performative practices of memory building depended on the creation of an idea of unity that, paradoxically, emphasized differences attributed largely to race and origin. Thus, the state’s efforts to hegemonize the past by appropriating Inca and earlier pre-Columbian cultures as Peruvian were both supported and challenged by elite vanguard artists and intellectuals who shaped the new national museums along with the concept of patrimony. In particular, I focus on the National Museum of Popular Culture, addressing the seminal role of artist José Sabogal and his circle, within the broader contexts of Peruvian and Latin American indigenismo. See All Chapters

The Museum of Conflict: An Alternative Model of Social Engagement

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Anushka RajendranSchool of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, anushka.rjndrn@gmail.comAbstract Conflictorium: The Museum of Conflict was established in Mirzapur, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in 2013, as a small community museum in the western part of India committed to its local context. The area has a history of ongoing communal tensions between the various communities that coexist within it, and the museum directly responds to the demands generated by this particularity. The exhibits at the museum consist of a collection of participative/immersive contexts that accumulate narratives of the experiences and memories of its visitors, thereby working through the trauma embedded in the everyday. By identifying as a museum, the space routes the validation that being part of a museum collection forges to acknowledge the legitimacy of the contemporary history of its community, thereby lending them a sense of belonging. This sensitivity to the audience that the museum addresses is particularly unique in India, where state-funded museums have historically had limited active engagement with their viewing publics. This article contextualizes the Conflictorium’s presence as an alternative museum model in the country’s social and political context as well as the existing network of public, private, and community museums. See All Chapters

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