141 Articles
  Title Author Publisher Format Buy Remix
Medium 9781442267824

The Role of Museums in the Illegal Antiquities Market

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Michelle D’lppolito

University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740; email: mrdippolito@gmail.com

Abstract The ability of investigative agencies like Interpol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to effectively recover stolen works of art depends in part on how comprehensive and complete their databases of stolen works are. The scope of these databases and their effectiveness in recovering artwork depends on how many reports of theft are submitted by museums to the investigative agencies. This paper considers how a lack of funding leads to discrepancies in and between museum collection records and databases maintained by investigative agencies, resulting in negative publicity and affect a museum’s public image. Ultimately this paper presents some strategies to mitigate these discrepancies and help deter future museum theft by streamlining the investigation process for agencies like Interpol and the FBI.

On October 7, 2010, police in Landskrona, Sweden discovered three stolen paintings during a raid in a credit card fraud case. The paintings were found in plastic bags each with a label identifying it as belonging to the Malmö Museum of Art (Durney 2010). These labels matched the records the museum had for the paintings (Durney 2010). The police contacted the museum and informed them of the find. According to Goren Christenson, the director of the museum, the paintings had been taken down to be put in storage two weeks prior to the raid (Associated Press 2010; CBC 2010; TT 2010). They had been unaware that anything was missing until the police contacted them; their records still had them listed as being in storage (Anonymous 2010; Associated Press 2010). News articles covering the theft and recovery of the paintings dealt primarily with the fact that the museum was unaware of their absence. The day of the recovery, headings such as “Munch stolen in Sweden and nobody notices” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) (2010) and “Museum in Sweden unaware of theft of Munch painting, artwork recovered” by the Star Tribune (2010) cast the museum in a negative light. While eventually reports of arrests prompted the museum to receive funding to help increase their security measures, initial reports characterized the museum as inattentive rather than as a victim. Little to no information was originally given regarding the theft of the artwork or who stole it (Associated Press 2010). Since the recovery of the three paintings, three men have been arrested and convicted of theft and of receiving and handling stolen goods (TT 2010). According to The Local, the thief “found” the paintings by a wharf next to the museum and assumed they were being discarded (2010). Whether or not this is an accurate reflection of the events, it demonstrates that there was a discrepancy between the actual locations of the paintings and where the museum thought them to be located.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267824

From the Editor

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

This issue of the journal entices readers by asking questions. First, Sharon Loving and Richard Stamelman ask us to consider the possibility of curating an exhibition about scent. In discussing their exhibition, Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance held at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, they share with us myriad efforts through conception, planning, organization, and realization from day one, more than seven years ago now, to the exhibition’s launch in 2010. Their article demonstrates the difficulties of describing scents visually, linguistically, and olfactorily, while at the same time, evidences the incredibly rich collaboration among horticulturists, designers, and curator. Their efforts and the resultant exhibition, along with their participatory experience for visitors, offer much food for thought for collections professionals everywhere.

Next, Georgia Barnhill, Founding Director of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society, asks us to heed the benefits of exploiting collections. In particular, she addresses the visual—i.e., prints and photographs that demonstrate the extent to which such materials are not mere illustrations, but rich examples of material culture. In addition, she comments on the AAS’s other collections, including newspapers and serials, children’s literature, almanacs, and other publication types. Treat yourself to visual elegance as you peruse Barnhill’s article, including the reproduction of the litho on the cover of this issue of the journal.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267824

Visual Materials in the Research Library The Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

The Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society

Georgia B. Barnhill

Former Director, Center for Historic American Visual Culture, American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609; email: gbarnhill@mwa.org

Abstract The success of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC) at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is based on a variety of programs that other libraries could imitate in order to exploit collections that for various reasons are not been utilized fully by scholars, teachers, and the general public. In the United States, there are libraries and historical organizations with vast collections of prints and photographs, but few of these visual materials reach the hands of scholars or teachers. CHAViC is a concerted effort by the governing board and senior administration of AAS to find new audiences for visual materials through an improved access to collections; workshops, seminars, and conferences; publications; and a dedicated fellowship program. The overarching goal of CHAViC is to encourage the use of visual materials by historians as evidence, not merely as illustration.1 For our purposes, visual materials should be seen through the lens of history. This essay describes activities that we hope will lead to this outcome.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267824

Longwood Gardens The Making of “Making Scents”

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

The Making of “Making Scents”

Sharon Loving

Horticulture Department Head, Longwood Gardens; P.O. Box 501, Kennett Square, PA 1 9348, e-mail: sloving@longwoodgardens.org

Richard Stamelman

Professor of Romance Languages, Emeritus, Williams College; Executive Director, Emeritus, The Montgomery Endowment, Dartmouth College; 21 Sussex Court, Williamsburg, VA 23188, e-mail: rstamelman@wm.edu

Abstract Smell, often called the inarticulate sense, challenges the efforts made to describe or represent it, forcing one to fall back on metaphor and simile; so often we find ourselves saying that such and such an odor smells like tea or chocolate. Of the senses smell is the least fully understood or appreciated. The goal, at once pedagogical and sensual, of the exhibition Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance, was to introduce the public to the science, technology, art, and history of floral and perfume fragrance and to teach visitors, through different kinds of panels, displays, floral arrangements, films, advertisements, objects, and computerized programs, about the complexity of perfume composition and scent creation while affording them the sensual experience of smelling flowers and perfumes in close proximity. This article describes how Making Scents was conceived, planned, organized, and realized over five years of discussion and how problems of presentation and representation involving the volatility and dissipation of scents and the difficulty of describing scents visually, linguistically, and olfactorily were faced and solved by the horticulturists, the designers, and the curator who worked on the exhibition.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267824

Historical Evidence or Just Acts of Vandalism Should We Keep Those Past Interventions?

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Should We Keep Those Past Interventions?

Aristotelis Georgios Sakellariou

Head of the Conservation Centre of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 6 Karaoli-Dimitriou str., Lofos Fourezi, Glyka Nera Attikis Greece a.g.sakellariou@gmail.com

Abstract Every object is physical proof of history. The object serves as a manifestation of raw material, human thoughts, and events. Once the heritage expert accepts this, he takes responsibility for interacting with its history by preserving it, adding to it, or removing it. This article defines three aspects of intended interaction with an object’s history: restoration, de-restoration and re-restoration. When preparing an object for exhibition or study, ethical considerations, formed through the years amongst museums and organisations, should be considered in order to achieve the best decision regarding an object’s treatment. There is no single solution to issues that derive from past restorations as noted in the case studies presented here from the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267817

Re-establishing Context for Orphaned Collections A Case Study from the Market Street Chinatown, San Jose, California

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Barbara L. Voss

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, 450 Serra Mall, Bldg. 50, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305-2034, phone: (650)723-3421 (dept. office); email: bvoss@stanford.edu; https://www.stanford.edu/dept/anthropology/cgi-bin/web/?q=node/75; http://marketstreet.stanford.edu

Megan S. Kane

Social Science Research Assistant, Department of Anthropology, 450 Serra Mall, Bldg. 50, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305-2034, phone: (650) 723-3421 (dept. office); email: mskane@stanford.edu; http://marketstreet.stanford.edu

Abstract While the primary rationale for curating orphaned archaeological collections is to restore the collections’ research potential, in practice such research programs are rarely actualized because of the challenges in reconstructing archaeological context. This article presents the results of a concerted effort undertaken to re-establish the context of the Market Street Chinatown archaeological collection. We outline the history of the excavation of the Market Street Chinatown, the subsequent “orphaning” of the collection, and the early efforts that uncovered the untapped research potential of the collection. Next, we describe the methods and results of the four-stage process we used during 2010–2011 to develop historical and archaeological context for research on the collection: archive analysis, methods analysis, feature context, and research potential assessment. While some of these procedures were tailored to the specific circumstances of the Market Street Chinatown collection, the overall process provides a model for re-establishing context for research purposes on other orphaned and endangered collections.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267800

The Pedagogical Value of Special Collections The Modern-Day Wunderkammer

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

John Daniel Tilford

Curator of Special Collections, University Archives and Special Collections, The University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, Tennessee, 37383; phone (931)598-1787; email: jtilford@sewanee.edu

Abstract This essay examines the pedagogical value of academic collections of fine art, artifacts, and archival papers often collectively referred to as Special Collections. It is imperative that original source materials play a stronger role in the university curriculum by moving beyond digital surrogates and teaching from the work itself. Specific acquisitions are then examined in order to illustrate how the University of the South sought to fill voids in their collections to better serve the curricular needs of faculty and students. In addition, the care of the collections themselves is shown to provide benefit to the student in terms of processional development. Finally, an interdisciplinary research project focusing on a particular work of art from special collections illustrates the multiple benefits to be derived from utilizing such objects in the classroom.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267817

The Deaccessioning and Disposal Practices of Small Museums in Kentucky and Indiana

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Gwen Corder

Independent Scholar; email: gfcord013@gmail.com

Abstract A survey conducted in 2008 for a graduate degree examined the methods that small museums use to deaccession and dispose of permanent collection items and compared findings against AAM and ICOM standards. An instrument was mailed to 200 large, medium, and small museums. Fifty-seven museums agreed to participate, 33 of which were small museums. Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with six small museums. Some findings indicate that: small museums use untrained volunteers; small museum administrators do not have in-depth professional museum-training or education themselves; and small museums use money from the sale of collection items to finance operating and facilities’ costs. From these findings and fourteen years of personal experiences, it appears that small museums staff, board members, and volunteers need in-depth education and training in museum and collections management so that they can make better decisions about their collections.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267817

Notes from the Field

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Heather A. Wade

CAE, Executive Director, The Conococheague Institute for the Study of Cultural Heritage, 12995 Bain Road, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania 17236, (717)328-3467, email: heatherwade@innernet.net

Note: At the time that I wrote this article, I served on the faculty of Emporia State University as University Archivist.

Late in the fall 2009 semester, Dean Joyce Davis announced at a meeting of the University Libraries and Archives Administrative Team at Emporia State University that a new undergraduate summer research program had been proposed and it was anticipated that funding would be available to begin the program in the summer of 2010. She had committed funding from our unit to show support for the program, which, regardless of its specific participants’ areas of study, was bound to involve academic resources in the Libraries and Archives.

Dr. Tim Burnett, associate professor of biological sciences, had spearheaded the development of the summer research program in conjunction with the university’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Committee. Based on a National Institute of Health-funded,1 state-wide program called the Kansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (KINBRE), which emphasized support for undergraduates to gain hands-on research experience in the sciences to encourage them to go on to graduate studies and to develop into career-professionals.2 Using the Kansas Idea Network as a template, faculty at Emporia State University developed a curriculum-wide undergraduate summer research model that would function as follows:

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267800

A Journey of 13,033 Stones The Westlake Collection and Papers

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Rebe Taylor

Australian Research Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia; email: rttaylor@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract The Westlake Collection in the Pitt Rivers Museum includes 13,033 Tasmanian Aboriginal stone artefacts; it is the largest collection of its kind. Formed by amateur English scientist Ernest Westlake from 1908–1910, this paper tells the story of Westlake’s life; why, and how, he chose to travel to Tasmania to collect stone artefacts; and what happened to that collection after his death in 1922. It also explores Westlake’s collection as an enactment of nineteenth and early twentieth-century scientific ideas about Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and examines his accompanying paper archive, in particular his interviews with Aboriginal people. Possibly the richest source of Tasmanian Aboriginal language and culture dating from early twentieth century, these long-overlooked notes demonstrate the enduring traditions of a people once presumed extinct. An epilogue explains how these papers are being published in an innovative online archive guide and history.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267817

Jorge von Hauenschild From Amateur Collector to Professional Archaeologist in a Remote Corner of Argentina

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Henrik B. Lindskoug

CONICET, Museo de Antropología, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Av. Hipólito Yrigoyen 174, CP 5000, Córdoba Capital, Córdoba, Argentina, phone: + 54351 4331058 ext 311; email: henrikblindskoug@gmail.com

Abstract The von Hauenschild collection was one of the founding collections of the Museo de Antropología, a university museum at the Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, located in Córdoba Capital, central Argentina. The collection is one of the largest at the museum with over 4000 objects from the nearby province of Santiago del Estero, a place almost unexamined by Argentinean archaeologists since the early works initiated by the Wagner brothers in the 1920s. Santiago has been seen as a marginal place in the national Argentinean history and perceived as an impoverished and remote place, but during part of the early 20th century, Santiago was thriving, especially at the time of the large railroad constructions in the country. Santiago was also the home of the German-born engineer, Jorge von Hauenschild for 30 years. He formed the “von Hauenschild Collection” by excavating pre-historical tombs in the province in his quest for archaeological treasures. The collection has been almost untouched since the death of von Hauenschild in 1951. Research on the history of the collection shows the trajectory of von Hauenschild from a mere amateur to a professional archaeologist. Beginning as a collector of curious things, he transitioned into a modern archaeologist performing systematic archaeological investigations.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267800

The Curation of Transition From Manual to Electronic Documentation Systems

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Keletso Gaone Setlhabi

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Botswana, Private Bag UB 00703, Gaborone, Botswana; email: setlhabik@mopipi.ub.bw

Abstract New technologies have transformed information storage and retrieval procedures in museums. The challenge for curators is not only to have quality collections information for internal collections management, but is also to avail it to their users through public spaces such as exhibition halls and the World Wide Web. This paper discusses the challenges encountered during the transition from a manual to an electronic documentation system in the Ethnology Division of the Botswana National Museum. The advantages of digital systems such as collections availability through the Internet though crucial to the museum users, remain a challenge for museum communities in Botswana where Internet availability is beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. The analysis of the Division’s documentation system revealed that the problem of insufficient collections information in manual records was transferred to the electronic system, which resulted in an ineffective electronic system. The recommendations are that firstly, clear documentation procedures must be formulated, adopted and documented to guide collections staff in their work. Secondly, in their quest to adopt new technologies, museums especially in developing countries, must still seek to be relevant to their communities. In conclusion, new technologies should be implemented after pre-computerization evaluation and needs assessment processes for effective information dissemination and community bridging purposes.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267817

Archiving Everyday Life Archiving as Critique

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Mary O’Connor

Professor, Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8P 3K2 CANADA phone: (905) 525-9140 x23731; email: moconnor@mcmaster.ca

Abstract In an age of reality television, what is radical about turning our attention to the everyday? This paper proposes a framework for collecting and archiving everyday life, based on the insights offered by theorists both of everyday life and of the archive, as well as by artists who have incorporated everyday life and/or the process of archiving into their work. Everyday Life Studies offers tools for understanding everyday life as overlooked and structured by systems of power, while also holding within it spaces for alternative ways of being that go unnoticed. Recent archive theory has problematized the power of the archive to structure ways of thinking and to determine whose stories will be told. This paper benefits from these discussions and proposes attending to everyday life (even in the act of collecting and archiving) as a project of critique that reveals a lack and indicates the possibilities for change.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267794

Critical Approaches to the Curator

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

Abstract Surveys a broad range of approaches to the figure of the curator, including medieval precedents found in illuminated manuscripts (Serrano), new takes on nineteenth-century roles and debates over what “curating” meant in the early twentieth century (McTavish), and critiques of Okwui Enwezor, who arguably embodies the contemporary notion of the global curator (Ogbechie).

Nhora Lucía Serrano

Comparative Literature, California State University—Long Beach

In 1998 Michael Brenson proclaimed that the era of the curator had begun. Brenson defined the “curator” as someone who “work[s] across cultures and [is] able to think imaginatively about the points of compatibility and conflict among them” because the task of the curator is to “be able to communicate not only with artists but also with community leaders … and heads of state.”1 This model of the curator as a socio-political envoy, however, is not new or modern. It can be seen in medieval illuminated manuscripts in which representations of monarchs and royal counselors function similarly to Brenson’s definition of a curator. Alfonso X, el Sabio’s Cantigas de Santa María (1221–1284) and Christine de Pizan’s Epistre Othéa (1400) are two such manuscripts in which their richly-adorned portraits attest that there were political historiographers and cultural guides concerned with how history is read and preserved. But it is more than their mere presence that equates these miniatures as portraits of a curator; it is their gesturing hands so carefully painted and aptly directing the gaze to the visual narrative of the page that establish their exhibitionary aim, to shape and instill portraits of legitimate kings and strong empires.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267794

KEYNOTE The Times of the Curator

Collections; Juilee Decker AltaMira Press ePub

History of Consciousness, University of California—Santa Cruz

“The Times of the Curator”… My title evokes two senses of temporality:

I’ll be speaking of both. My concern is the discrepant temporalities (sometimes I want to say “histories,” or even “futures”) that are integral to the task of the curator today.

“The task of the curator.” I like the conference title chosen by Lucian Gomoll and Lissette Olivares because of its invocation of Walter Benjamin and the problematic of translation, which in his famous essay, “The Task of the Translator,” is fundamentally a temporal and open-ended process. For Benjamin, of course, the discordant times of the past would be activated and “made new” by a critical-materialist form of historicizing that could challenge and open up closed narratives, the inevitable realisms of the victors.

I believe that what’s going on today in museums has the potential to make this kind of critical intervention. For the museum is an inventive, globally, and locally translated form, no longer anchored to its modern origins in Europe. Contemporary curatorial work, in the excessive times of decolonization and globalization, by engaging with discrepant temporalities—not resisting, or homogenizing, their inescapable friction—has the potential to open up common-sense, “given” histories. It does so under serious constraints, a push and pull of material forces and ideological legacies it cannot evade.

See All Chapters

Load more