Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Category: Uncategorized (page 4 of 19)

Repatriation of a Lebanese “Bull’s Head”

This post comes from Amanda Wall, a first-year in the Museum Education program

The Metropolitan Museum has handed over a Late Phoenician marble “Bull’s Head” to Manhattan Court Prosecutors after the owners dropped their federal lawsuit fighting the repatriation when presented definite proof of the artifacts origins from the Directorate General of Antiquities. Lynda and William Beierwaltes, Colorado art collectors, purchased the artifact in good faith for $1 million in 1996 from a London based dealer. In 2010 the Beierwaltes sold the marble “Bull’s Head” to Michael H. Steinhardt in 2010 who loaned the marble statue to the Met this past year. Curators at The Met raised concerns of the provenance of the object and contacted Lebanese authorities in July. Upon learning of the provenance dispute of the object, Steinhardt relinquished ownership of the object back to the Beierwaltes. The 2,300 year old statue will be returning to Lebanon for display at the National Museum of Beirut.

This case has become further complicated by the discovery of a second stolen Lebanese artifact found to have been purchased by the Beierwaltes based on a 1998 profile of the couple in Home & Country. The second antiquity “an archaic marble torso of a calf bearer,” was was purchased in 1996 for $4.5 through the same dealer, and similarly was later sold to Steinhardt in 2015. A warrant for its seizure was issued on October 10th and will be repatriated for display at the National Museum of Beirut following the owner’s relinquishment of claim.

Both antiquities were stolen from storage warehouses in Byblos during the Lebanese Civil War, along with 600 more artifacts, all ending up on the black market. The two objects were unearthed in 1967 at the excavations of the Temple of Eshmun, one of the best preserved Phoenician sites in Lebanon. The excavations at the site, representing the end of the Phoenician Period around 450 B.C., were held from 1963 to the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975 and were led by French archaeologist Maurice Dunand. The statues are especially valuable as they are very characteristic of the time period and are made from marble, a resource not found in Lebanon and therefore imported to build the Temple of Eshmun.

The successful repatriation of these artifacts were due to careful recording of the excavations that provided photographic evidence of their provenance. Previously, eight other antiquities from the Temple of Eshmun have been successfully repatriated after being discovered in Switzerland by archaeologist Rolf Stucky. The lawsuit for these two objects highlights the importance of careful documentation of archaeological excavations. The looting of the Temple of Eshmun was the largest documented looting in the Lebanese civil war. However, countless more artifacts were looted during the war from illegal excavations with no documentation to prove provenance.

Articles for more reading:

New York Times, August

New York Times, October

Al-Monitor, November

Should art museums be for everyone? Yes. But can they be for everyone? Not yet.

This Week’s Post Comes from Kelsey Petersen, a First Year MA student in the Art History and Museum Studies program. 

Should art museums be for everyone? Yes. But can they be for everyone? Not yet. Although many museums promote themselves as institutions open to all, not everyone feels welcome upon stepping through their doors. For someone who has never been to a museum, it
can be intimidating to access a space with historical objects that he or she may know nothing about, especially considering how so many art museums themselves are far from accessible. With rising admission fees, limited daytime hours, and an ever-pervasive air of elitism, museums still have progress to make to become more relevant, inclusive, and responsive for all, no matter one’s education, race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Art historian and curator James Cuno has argued, the problem lies in the fact that “while anyone who can enter an art museum is free to be part of the elite experience it offers, the issue is not about access but rather about institutionalization, about who decides what art will comprise the elite experience.”  Certainly, as anyone can infer by examining the makeup of trustee boards and staff, museums continue to perpetuate white (and presumably heterosexual and male) culture. Could this cultural homogeneity from the top account for the reason that most audiences are predominantly white? Since their beginning, museums have been selective in their audiences, carefully choosing a select few to engage with the art and objects within. Originally, only the bourgeois could access these private collections. Even though. The Imperial Collection in Vienna, for example, did not allow individuals in without clean shoes, immediately discriminating against the working class population and those who could not afford a carriage to arrive at the museum.

Museums today, of course, do not have such flagrant policies; however, their operating features continue to prevent approachable access. By only having their galleries open from 10AM-5PM, Monday thru Saturday, they are barring entry to the average individual with a full-time job. With entrance fees that sometimes run as high as $25 for a single ticket, not including special exhibition prices, museums are inherently closing themselves off to a large portion of the population. While many institutions have taken the steps to avoid this exclusion by opening late on certain days or having monthly free days – they still continue to be an intimidating and inaccessible space. To combat these ongoing issues, I argue that more museums should follow the model of the Anacostia Museum in D.C., which sought to “encompass the life of the people of the neighborhood – people who are vitally concerned about who they are, where they came from, what they have accomplished, their values, and their most pressing needs.” 3 As John Kinard, the founding director of the Anacostia has stated, museums “must have relevance to present-day problems that affect the quality of life here and now.” 4 If more museums adhered to this idea, I think they would experience an increase in attendance from individuals who don’t normally visit. The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire recently adopted this model to appeal to the city’s high number of veterans by putting on two exhibitions about the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, and ensuring its veteran voices were included. The Museum has also recently started an art program for individuals with family members abusing opioids, in response to Manchester’s high death toll from the opioid crisis. Ultimately, by creating spaces and programs that directly appeal to and impact a museum’s community and surrounding neighborhoods, museums can cultivate and intrigue more visitors from a broader scope.

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NEMA Session Review: Leading From All Levels: What You Can Do for Social Justice

This week’s post comes from Sarah Coulter, a first year student in the Museum Education M.A. program at Tufts. 

During the 99th Annual New England Museum Association Conference, I attended a session that facilitated deep thinking and reflection on how museum professionals can bring the social justice lens into their own work. The session, Leading From All Levels: What You Can Do for Social Justice, was facilitated by Sara Egan and Nicole Claris. Egan is the School Partnership Manager at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and Claris is the Manager of School Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Both women have created internal programs at their institutions that promote reflection, dialogue and action.

The session started with a mindfulness activity led by Nicole that helped center the group in what we were going to be doing. From here, they asked us what are we going to do with this information once we leave the session. The main idea of the session was to help other museum professionals identify their sphere of influence at their own institutions and what can one do within that sphere to promote equity and open-dialogue about that.

Nicole Claris then spoke about her own sphere of influence at the MFA. She identified that as the training program for MFA Gallery Instructors. She has been working for the past six years to make the training more inclusive. To do this she has worked to make the trainings speak to all of the museum’s collections, incorporate classroom teachers into how the instructors are taught, and make students real aspects of the training. Claris works to make equity part of her trainings every day, even in the smallest ways.

Sara Egan had a different sphere of influence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She saw her sphere as the whole museum. Over a year ago she wanted to help staff connect with each other and build emotional support. For her, she wanted a regular opportunity for people who work together to talk to each other, outside of just work based conversations. This idea manifested itself into “Sanctuary for Staff,” a monthly discussion series where staff are invited to meet on the first Friday of each month.

Both facilitators identified that their spheres of influences were vastly different but that they show that leadership can happen at any level. From the examples they gave, the session moved into a workshop about how we as museum professionals can enact our own spheres of influences.

Here are 6 guiding steps to begin this process.  

  1. The Work Begins with You. 

– You must learn and acknowledge your values, assumptions, and biases to begin this process. Seek out resources that widen your perspective and practice empathy.

  1. Picture Success

– Articulate your goals. Determine what indicators will mark progress, be patient and celebrate small victories.

  1. Identify Your Sphere of Influence

– Where is this? Who will be in the room?

  1. Build Institutional Support or Not?

– How do your goals relate to institutional values and priorities? Build a network, this will keep you honest.

    5. Identify Activities That Align with Your Goal

– Learn best practices, methods (VTS, Empathy Toolkit). Set clear expectations and meet people where they are.

  1. Put Your Collection to Work

– Incorporate the materials you already have into your practice.

After this discussion, we broke off and used a worksheet that helped outline what we can do once we get back to our own institutions and how we can identify our own spheres of influence. The practicality of this session was super engaging and really sparked some interesting discussions about the role museums play as agents of change, even within their own staff. I think this session held a lot more meaning for me because it was something that I could hopefully implement at a museum I work at. My main takeaway was no matter your role in a museum there is always the opportunity to spark change and discussion about equity, even in the smallest ways. All the participants left with the knowledge of how to effectively start this process.

Ayesha Bulchandani Graduate Education Internship [The Frick Museum, New York, NY]

Ayesha Bulchandani Graduate Education Internship
The Frick Collection

Position Description:

The Education Department of The Frick Collection is now accepting applications from graduate students for the Ayesha Bulchandani Internship Program for spring 2018. The intern will gain experience in the development and implementation of public programs for the Frick’s many audiences, with responsibilities that will include administrative and logistical coordination, research, and gallery teaching. Projects will be tailored to the intern’s academic and career interests. Additionally, the intern will attend a wide range of staff-led enrichment sessions, including introductions to the resources of the Frick Art Reference Library and talks and conversation with curators and educators. The internship will span one semester in Spring 2018. Activities will be carried out no less than two days a week.
Education at the Frick provides a vital, diverse, and probing dialogue between The Frick Collection and the public through a commitment to excellence in gallery teaching and an array of programs of the highest quality. This internship provides a superb opportunity for participating in all aspects of museum education work in a small, dynamic department.
Qualifications:

The Ayesha Bulchandani Internship is open to current graduate students pursuing degrees in art history, museum education, arts administration, museum studies, or other fields related to The Frick Collection. Preference will be given to applicants with a demonstrated interest in Western art and museum education.

Salary: $2,500/ semester. Activities will be carried out no less than two days a week.

Website: http://www.frick.org

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