250 Articles
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Medium 9781442265790

Survivor(s)! Historical Peregrinations of New Orleans’s French Superior Council and Spanish Judicial Records

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Howard Margot

Curator, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130; howardm@hnoc.org

Abstract The city of New Orleans is home to extensive notarial and judicial manuscript records that document, often in minute detail, economic and legal activity in the Lower Mississippi Valley during the French (1699–1768) and Spanish (1769–1803) colonial periods. The legal custodianship of New Orleans’s largest colonial period archive has changed hands quite often over the last three centuries. This article recounts the peregrinations of these documents and their insertion into the collections of the Notarial Archives Division of the Orleans Parish Clerk of Civil Court’s office (NONA) and Old U.S. Mint of the Louisiana State Museum (LSM).

In addition to the considerable parochial archives of its Catholic Archdiocese (baptisms, marriages, deaths) and a modest but very important archive held in its main Public Library (the records of the Spanish Cabildo), the city of New Orleans is home to extensive notarial and judicial1 manuscript records that document, often in minute detail, economic and legal activity in the Lower Mississippi Valley during the French (1699–17682) and Spanish (1769–1803) colonial periods. Taken together, these three sets of records bear the names and witness to the lives of virtually every colonist who was propertied, and of many or most who were not, and of virtually every enslaved person who was ever publicly bought or sold or freed in New Orleans and environs during that span of time. But whereas the ecclesiastical and Cabildo (city hall) records have been continuously curated by the respective institutions that generated them in the eighteenth century, the legal custodianship of New Orleans’s largest colonial period archive—its notarial acts and judicial records—has changed hands quite often over the last three centuries, the most recent occurrence having been in 2007. Most often, the changes in custodianship have entailed changes in physical location, with the records’ having been transported a distance of anything from a few city blocks to a hundred miles. These peregrinations have for over two centuries compromised both the coherence of this priceless archive and the public’s ability to access it, and on too many occasions they have threatened its very existence.

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Medium 9781442265790

Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Edward M Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 294 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8108-8712-1

Reviewed by Kristin Condotta, Adjunct Instructor in History, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO; condotta@wustl.edu

Digital preservation is a leadership issue. This is the key and convincing argument of Edward M. Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison’s Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives, & Museums. Their book—which explores “preserving curating and preserving digital content for long-term access” in the arts and sciences—offers a reflective look at the digitization process from two scholars well experienced with web technologies (xix). Its stance is more “I wish I thought of/planned for that before starting” than “how-to,” and purposefully so. This big-picture approach allows their suggestions to be applicable across systems and institutions.

Corrado and Moulaison particularly promote a proactive approach to artifact and research digitization. They emphasize that such projects are long-term and need to be defined as clear yet flexible organizational, technological and financial commitments early in their inception. More centrally, the authors expand on the concerns of subject forerunner Michael Lesk as expressed in the book’s forward, that too much attention has gone to the IT aspects of digital preservation. They instead argue for a “triad of interrelated [and interdependent] activities,” or those relating to management, technology and content (17). They identify management, or the ability of project leaders to make transparent decisions about their digital collection’s access, composition and authenticity during its life-cycle, as the most valuable of these three commitments. As a result, Digital Preservation is geared towards a specific audience of librarians, archivists and curators—as opposed to collections specialists, cataloguers and systems technicians—who typically are charged with shaping the long-term trajectory of digital projects. It points out the ways that digital media share many issues with physical collections (i.e., fitting organizational missions, copyright and preservation), yet have their own challenges (i.e., rapidly changing formats). Above all, it provides the insight needed for these professionals and their institutes to craft forward-looking Memorandum of Understanding for their own digital preservation projects.

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Medium 9781442271340

Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub
by Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, and Mark Nesbitt, editors. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens. 2014. 250 pp. ISBN 978-1-84246-498-4 Reviewed by Rose Kubiatowicz, Museum Consultant & Owner of Have Gloves Will Travel, LLC; rosekubi@earthlink.net In the past I worked with seed collections, ethnographic collections and ethnobio-logical products at the Science Museum of Minnesota where I developed Oh No! Ethnobotany, a program for the safe handling and storage of potentially hazardous ethnobotanical materials. Today, I work with a number of small history museums and private collections that contain ethnographic, ethnobiological products and ethnozoological collections. Thus, with great interest, I read Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook. Based upon my experiences, I have concluded that this book would be a valuable addition to any professional’s shelf of resource books. This volume illuminates a world of work, tradition, insight and foresight. It is a “go-to” book for both young professionals, who can turn to Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook for lucid, practical advice on the essentials of effective biocultural curation, and for experienced colleagues who will find it a rich compendium to enhance and refresh their knowledge, and rethink their assumptions. See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267756

Theory and Practice in Applied History: A Collections-Based Curriculum at Eastern Illinois University

AltaMira Press ePub

Terry A. Barnhart, Debra A. Reid, and Linda Norbut Suits

Terry A. Barnhart, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920 email: tabarnhart@eiu.edu; Debra A. Reid, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920 email: dareid@eiu.edu; and Linda Norbut Suits, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Springfield, IL 62701 email: linda.norbut.suits@illinois.gov

Abstract The nexus between theory and practice in the training of applied or public historians is hardly a new concern. It informs the curricula at many universities that train graduate students for careers in history museums and historical organizations. Integrating knowledge and skills in the design of a graduate curriculum in public history, however, presents many daunting challenges. Too much theory does not provide students with the hard technical skills needed to meet the practical requirements of the museum and archival professions, while too little theory makes them technicians but not historians. There is no single model or paradigm for mitigating these distinct yet interrelated concerns, but the philosophical and practical considerations that inform the collections-based courses within the Master of Arts in Historical Administration program at Eastern Illinois University provide a viable case study.

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Medium 9781442267589

Guest Editor’s Foreword

AltaMira Press ePub

Over the past half century the conservation field has focused on research and analysis that have resulted in an impressive and increasingly complex knowledge base. Yet degrees of uncertainty remain, despite the scientific and scholarly work. Unfortunately, in the effort to present research and uncertainty to an audience beyond ourselves, conservators have sometimes glossed over both, and implied that the preservation of cultural property relies on a zero-tolerance approach to meeting a set of specific criteria. The all too obvious corollary is that if the criteria are patently impossible or untenable, there really is no reason to attempt to meet them. In creating what might be called a “conservation mythology” we have often stymied compromise and unwittingly stifled new ideas that could help conservators and other museum professionals work toward sound collection care.

A museum can make no better case for wasting resources than any other institution. The belief that museums cannot protect collections unless they operate energy-inefficient systems is a myth that has driven many heritage properties to near bankruptcy. The utility bills for governmental institutions are passed along to taxpayers, however; the majority of collecting institutions in the United States are private, not-for-profits. Privately funded museums are constantly confronted with energy costs that are unlikely to be covered by grants or donations, and consume an increasingly large portion of gate receipts or other income. It takes effort to adopt new ideas and to adapt those ideas to old problems. Roberta Faul-Zeitler has long championed the concept of sustainable design in preservation. Her article, “Green Museum Design: Is it Good for Collections?,” effectively argues the benefits of “green” concepts for museum buildings. Some museums have accepted the challenge of adopting and adapting sustainable design for new construction or renovation of old systems and structures. Among these is the Field Museum, which is striving for LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for its new Collections Resource Center. Sustainable design projects also are underway in historic structures around the country. This is a movement that can bring lasting benefits to the environment, to the custodians of cultural property, and to our collected heritage.

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Medium 9781442267619

Opinion

AltaMira Press ePub

Kiersten F. Latham

Emporia State University, formerly of Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center

Have you seen the movie, “National Treasure”? If you can get past the silly plot and the terrible mishandling of the document, there is an enticing question lurking underneath the surface. Why does Nicholas Cage risk his life for a piece of paper (or, more correctly, parchment)? Well, we all know the answer—it’s THE Declaration of Independence! But, there are copies of it everywhere, are there not? We know what it says, so what more do we need it for? What is it about that document that makes it so special? Can other documents, even not-so-famous types, inspire such awe?

As a museum professional, and an object-oriented person, I often wonder if others share some of my thoughts about archives and manuscript collections. I have repeatedly been charged with caring for collections that contain both three-dimensional and two-dimensional materials, although my training and experience is mainly in object curation. To me, some (most) archives are more than just information. In a world that is moving away from “real” things to one filled with digital files, I am concerned about the loss of the physicality of these collections. I am especially concerned about the loss of respect and understanding surrounding places that hold the “real” things. Objects that are obvious retainers of meaning, such as the Declaration of Independence, require little argument to convince anyone of their importance. But what about collections that are not so obviously valuable? Do they inspire meaningful reflection? How do we know what material could hold such connections and does it need to be of national importance to ascribe it such symbolic value? This essay is an exploration about the meaning of archives, and specifically experience associated with, and unique to, archival material.

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Medium 9781442267596

Editor‘s Foreword

AltaMira Press ePub

Welcome—to the second special issue of Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals. The guest editor for this number on legal issues is Dr. Pamela Trimpe from the University of Iowa. Even though our midwestern homes are less than a five-hour car ride apart down Interstate 80, Pam and I had not known each other before she agreed to serve on the editorial board of this journal. I believe that you will agree with me that we were very fortunate to have Dr. Trimpe agree to serve. She is one of those very few individuals who are working museum professionals who hold a J.D., thus she is imminently qualified to organize this issue on legal issues.

Dr. Trimpe received her B.A. from Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, followed by her J.D. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Dr. Trimpe completed her education at the University of Kansas where she received a M.A., M.Phil., and finally her Ph.D. in 1991 studying the History of Art. Her first professional museum positions began as Associate Curator and then Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 1992, Dr. Trimpe became Curator of Painting and Sculpture in the University of Iowa Museum of Art, which is a position that she held until 2005. During this period she also held the positions of Assistant Director for two years and Curator of Collections for three years and has had adjunct academic appointments in the Department of Art and Art History, School of Law, and the program in Museum Studies. Beginning in January 2005, she held a series of administrative positions with the University of lowa Museum of Natural History and Old Capitol Museum and finally was officially appointed Director of these museums in March 2006.

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Medium 9781442267596

Long after the War is Over, the Controversy Remains: Looting of Cultural Properties by the Nazis during Word War II

AltaMira Press ePub

Patricia VanRollins

Recent Graduate, University of Iowa School of Law, 241 Lexington Avenue, Iowa City, IA 52246 (pvanrollins@msn.com).

AbstractThis article reviews Nazi confiscations during World War II, focusing on three major points: 1) the theory and rational behind the confiscations; 2) the laws enabling the seizure of property; and 3) the organizations and people responsible for the looting. The story of Maria Altmann illustrates the complexity of international laws involved in recovering looted art works. Altmann v. Austria is a landmark case because it was the first of its kind to reach the U. S. Supreme Court. In January 2006, Mrs. Altmann agreed to binding arbitration in Austria; the three judges unanimously awarded her 5 of the 6 paintings by Gustav Klimt to which she is heir. In late March 2006, the paintings arrived in Los Angeles where the most famous of the paintings, Adele Bloch-Bauer I was placed on display in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Medium 9781442267527

Opinions

AltaMira Press ePub

John E. Heyning

President of the Natural Science Collection Alliance and Deputy Director of Research and Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Country, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90007 (jeh@nhm.org). Opinions in this article represent those of the author and may or may not reflect that of the individual NSC A members.

Curators laid off, collections mothballed or transferred to other institutions, university museums shut down entirely—natural science collections and associated programs of specimen-based research are in crisis. The situation is typically characterized as a financial crisis, the result of an economic downswing that affects virtually every sector of society. However, resources for research and collections programs are often slashed disproportionately. Thus, the crisis is not a straightforward financial crisis per se, as the disproportional loss of monetary support is a symptom of the deeper crises swirling around these collections. Unless the underlying causes of these crises are more widely understood and rectified, collections-based institutions will continually suffer excessively during economic hard times.

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Medium 9781442267763

Do Museums Still Need Objects?

AltaMira Press ePub

by Steven Conn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 262 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8122-4190-7

Reviewed by Kimberly Rhodes, Associate Professor of Art History and Director, New York Semester on Contemporary Art, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, 07940 phone: 973-327-2292; email: krhodes@drew.edu

Steven Conn’s response to the titular question of his provocative text, a collection of six loosely related essays, is a melancholy yes: “Museums — some of them anyway — may not need objects anymore, but without objects we all miss the delights and surprises that come with looking.” (57) The author’s commitment to objects stems from at least two of his primary motives for discussing, albeit diffusely, the current state of museum practice and studies in the United States. First, to provide an inclusive discussion of museums that encompasses institutions devoted to art, natural history, history, and science and thereby demonstrates their overlapping functions and concerns. Second, to promote a renewed humanistic vision of museums as public spaces that perpetuate civic duty through shared experiences of “objects,” what Conn calls “object-based epistemology.” In his introduction, Conn positions the latter imperative as a direct challenge to what he believes to be the recent textual and cynical turn in museum studies perpetuated by scholars employing poststructuralist theory to interrogate the histories and ideologies of museums. While it is useful for Conn to initiate a dialogue about the utility of various approaches to the study of museums in the United States, some readers may be irked by the author’s derisive attitude toward theory and disappointed that he does not fully examine the changing status of the “object,” especially in the visual arts. By extension, the author does not consider the role of technology and our twenty-first century immersion in the virtual world in diminishing the significance of the material world for institutions and audiences.

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Medium 9781442267701

What if The Only Legacy of New Media Is a Static Image? The Curatorial Struggle in Preserving New Media’s Aesthetics and Art Practices

AltaMira Press ePub

Lanfranco Aceti

Associate Professor in Contemporary Art and Digital Culture, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sabanci University, Room 2082 Orhanli/Tuzla 34956 Istanbul, Turkey phone: +90 (216) 483 9292; aceti@sabanciuniv.edu

Abstract    The preservation and exhibition of computer and new media artworks is affected by the necessity to present a traditional and objectified image to the viewers. New media practices and computer arts are characterized by evolutionary processes and technological supports that contribute to shaping and defining the aesthetic. If ‘migration’ and ‘emulation’ represent a curatorial strategy or methods for collections’ management, preservation and display to deal with the obsolescence of computer and media-based artworks, the strategy of ‘extrapolation and objectification’ may represent another opportunity to address some of the difficulties presented by the immateriality of these art forms.

Perhaps the methodologies of display should be changed and the possibilities of new media technologies exploited for new curatorial approaches even when they challenge the authority of both the author and the curator by focusing on the representation of the environmental interaction and the importance of multiple media formats of circulation of contemporary digital cultural expressions.

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Medium 9781442267763

Crossroads of Culture, Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Science & Nature

AltaMira Press ePub

by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Stephen E. Nash, and Stephen R. Holen. Boulder, CO: The University Press of Colorado, 2010. 174 pp. ISBN 978-1-60732-024-1

Reviewed by Deborah Rose Van Horn, Registrar, Kentucky Historical Society, 100 W. Broadway, Frankfort, KY 40601; email: deborah.vanhorn@ky.gov

The book, Crossroads of Culture, Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Science & Nature, is an overview of the museum’s Anthropology collections. The authors provide their audience with a brief history of the institution, the history of the Anthropology collections and a look at where the Denver Museum of Science & Nature intends to take its Anthropology collections in the future. This synopsis is enhanced by beautiful color photographs and first-person narratives by collections stakeholders.

The authors begin with a brief history of that institution and the goals of this publication. The main focus of the volume is to introduce the Anthropology collections to a wider audience. As part of this process, the authors provide information about and access to the collections through the volume. According to the authors, only one percent of the museum’s holdings are on exhibit at any time and only a fraction of this percentage is the Anthropology collections. This is why they have chosen to publish this volume and provide access to the materials in the collection in this way. They proceed to do a departmental breakdown of the Anthropology collections including the history of the departments, the scopes of the anthropology collections, and future goals for that department.

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Medium 9781442267671

Articles

AltaMira Press ePub

Rose Kubiatowicz

Museum Associate, Science Museum of Minnesota and Registrar, Minnesota Historical Society, 2593 Sumac Ridge, White Bear Lake, MN 55110. Email: rosekubi@earthlink.net

Abstract     Pharmacologically active natu ral prod ucts including toxins can survivein ethnobotanical objects stored long-term and can remain stable in quantities great enough to represent a potential hazard to museum personnel. In April 2006, twenty-one samples from suspected hazardous ethnobotanical objects identified by the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Oh No! Ethnobotany program (Kubiatowicz and Benson 2003), ranging in age from twenty-five to one-hundred-fourteen-years old, underwent organ ic residue analysis using gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Samples were taken from the following objects: cu rare-tipped darts, poison-tipped arrows, barbasco vine, ayahuasca branches, yoco vine, opium pipe, kava roots, tobacco cigar, tobacco plug, clavo huasca vine, quinine branch, Precatory pea seed, Ceylon drug bundles and a Tibetan altar bottle. Pharmacologically active natural products were identified in twelve of twenty samples tested (60%). The toxin tubocurarine was identified in four of six curare samples in quantities great enough to represent a potential hazard to museum personnel.

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Medium 9781442267664

Into the New Millennium and Out of the Ordinary: The Development of Millennium Park

AltaMira Press ePub

Rachel Brewer

Director of Galleries and Curator of Collections, Georgetown College, 400 East College St, Georgetown, KY 40324. Email: rachel_brewer@georgetowncollege.edu

Abstract     Millennium Park is Chicago’s newest park and cultural arena. An entirely privately funded public space, the park is an i ntricate combination of art, architecture, landscape design, and performing art spaces. It is fitting that one objective of the park was to celebrate the arrival of the new m illennium, for, in creating Millennium Park, the city of Chicago has truly surpassed the examples that came before. This article examines the collection of art, architecture, and green space that makes up the revolutionary public space, Millennium Park. The history, present, and future of Millennium Park are described in conjunction with an examination of each individual element of the collection. These elements include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, BP Bridge, Lurie Garden, Cloud Gate, Boeing Galleries, Crown Fountain, McCormick Tribune Plaza, Wrigley Square, Millennium Monument, Exelon Pavilions, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and McDonald’s Cycle Center.

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Medium 9781442267671

A Letter from the Publisher

AltaMira Press ePub

As the Publisher of Collections, AltaMira Press would like to welcome Dr. Juilee Decker as the journal’s new editor. Juilee earned a Ph.D. in art history at Case Western Reserve University in 2003, and she is now associate professor of art history at Georgetown College, in Kentucky. Her interests include art history and methodologies, women and art, psychology and art, printmaking and design, and curatorial methods and practices. She has served as curator for a variety of exhibitions and as guest editor of the Spring and Summer 2008 issues of Collections (volumes 4:2 and 4:3), which focused on public art.

Outgoing editor Pamela White has made a valuable contribution to Collections over the past two years, and we thank her for her service. Pam will now devote all her time to her academic duties at the University of Iowa and her responsibilities as interim director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, which sustained severe damage during this summer’s floods. We would also like to thank assistant editor Elisa Ewing, who managed to keep Collectionsmoving while disaster struck in Iowa.

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