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Whose Culture?: The Promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities

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Overview

"The international controversy over who "owns" antiquities has pitted museums against archaeologists and source countries where ancient artifacts are found. In his book Who Owns Antiquity?, James Cuno argued that antiquities are the cultural property of humankind, not of the countries that lay exclusive claim to them. Now in Whose Culture?, Cuno assembles preeminent museum directors, curators, and scholars to explain for themselves what's at stake in this struggle - and why the museums' critics couldn't be more wrong." Defending the principles of art as the legacy of all humankind and museums as instruments of inquiry and tolerance, Whose Culture? brings reasoned argument to an issue that for too long has been distorted by politics and emotionalism.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice
The issues raised will certainly draw controversy and debate, especially in the current environment. Issues of cultural heritage remain targets of ethical, legal, political, and cultural controversies surrounding cultural property. Museum professionals, university scholars, and others deeply interested in cultural heritage will find the work a necessary read.
New York Review of Books
In stressing the multiple meanings—aesthetic, textual, political, ritual—that an object may have, these contributors oppose the claim that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a cosa morta ('dead thing').
— Hugh Eakin
About.com
Far from being an esoteric, jargon-filled look at a debate between archaeologists and collectors of antiquities, these essays, some from conference presentations, some philosophical, and some impassioned, show that the whose-cultural-property debate runs parallel to and intersects other problem areas in the modern world.
— N.S. Gill
The National Post
[Cuno] has emerged as the champion of museums who want to keep their holdings—and not a moment too soon. . . . Cuno speaks the cosmopolitan language of cultural pluralism. The other side, insisting that art remain where it happened to be found, deploys the rhetoric of jealous nationalism in the service of government. Culture matters more than concocted national pride, as curators and museum directors know. At last they're re-asserting their principles, after an embarrassing period of passivity and pusillanimity.
— Robert Fulford
The Art Newspaper
For the general reader seeking to get up to speed on this critically important debate, this volume is destined to become an indispensable guide. Each contributor makes salient points in favour of their museological argument.
— Tom Mullaney
Standpoint Magazine
In this new collection of essays, Cuno has also assembled a group of broadly like-minded colleagues, both museum curators and academics, all of whom affirm, from a variety of perspectives, why great encyclopaedic collections can, and ought, to exist. . . . [The volume] marks an important advance. After an uncertain, not to say timorous, few decades, the leadership of at least some of our major institutions has found its voice. More than that, it has rediscovered something approaching a set of shared values—and, as Whose Culture? makes clear, it is ready to take on all comers in their defence.
— John Adamson
Spiked Magazine
A welcome challenge to repatriation policies underpinned by identity politics. . . . Whose Culture? is a long-needed intervention in the debate about the role of museums. Cultural institutions have been on the defensive for decades, poorly firefighting accusations of didacticism, elitism, colonisation and looting, with ill-thought through mumbling and evasion. . . . Museums need to defend openly their use and purpose and make a strong case for the invaluable role they play in the preservation, presentation and study of artefacts. Cuno does just that.
— Tiffany Jenkins
The National Post
[Cuno] has emerged as the champion of museums who want to keep their holdings—and not a moment too soon. . . . Cuno speaks the cosmopolitan language of cultural pluralism. The other side, insisting that art remain where it happened to be found, deploys the rhetoric of jealous nationalism in the service of government. Culture matters more than concocted national pride, as curators and museum directors know. At last they're re-asserting their principles, after an embarrassing period of passivity and pusillanimity.
— Robert Fulford
The Art Newspaper
For the general reader seeking to get up to speed on this critically important debate, this volume is destined to become an indispensable guide. Each contributor makes salient points in favour of their museological argument.
— Tom Mullaney
Standpoint Magazine - John Adamson
In this new collection of essays, Cuno has also assembled a group of broadly like-minded colleagues, both museum curators and academics, all of whom affirm, from a variety of perspectives, why great encyclopaedic collections can, and ought, to exist. . . . [The volume] marks an important advance. After an uncertain, not to say timorous, few decades, the leadership of at least some of our major institutions has found its voice. More than that, it has rediscovered something approaching a set of shared values—and, as Whose Culture? makes clear, it is ready to take on all comers in their defence.
The National Post - Robert Fulford
[Cuno] has emerged as the champion of museums who want to keep their holdings—and not a moment too soon. . . . Cuno speaks the cosmopolitan language of cultural pluralism. The other side, insisting that art remain where it happened to be found, deploys the rhetoric of jealous nationalism in the service of government. Culture matters more than concocted national pride, as curators and museum directors know. At last they're re-asserting their principles, after an embarrassing period of passivity and pusillanimity.
The Art Newspaper - Tom Mullaney
For the general reader seeking to get up to speed on this critically important debate, this volume is destined to become an indispensable guide. Each contributor makes salient points in favour of their museological argument.
New York Review of Books - Hugh Eakin
In stressing the multiple meanings—aesthetic, textual, political, ritual—that an object may have, these contributors oppose the claim that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a cosa morta ('dead thing').
Spiked Magazine - Tiffany Jenkins
A welcome challenge to repatriation policies underpinned by identity politics. . . . Whose Culture? is a long-needed intervention in the debate about the role of museums. Cultural institutions have been on the defensive for decades, poorly firefighting accusations of didacticism, elitism, colonisation and looting, with ill-thought through mumbling and evasion. . . . Museums need to defend openly their use and purpose and make a strong case for the invaluable role they play in the preservation, presentation and study of artefacts. Cuno does just that.
About.com - N.S. Gill
Far from being an esoteric, jargon-filled look at a debate between archaeologists and collectors of antiquities, these essays, some from conference presentations, some philosophical, and some impassioned, show that the whose-cultural-property debate runs parallel to and intersects other problem areas in the modern world.
Religious Studies Review - William H. Krieger
[T]his book should give both sides of the antiquities debate much to think (and talk) about.
From the Publisher

"In this new collection of essays, Cuno has also assembled a group of broadly like-minded colleagues, both museum curators and academics, all of whom affirm, from a variety of perspectives, why great encyclopaedic collections can, and ought, to exist. . . . [The volume] marks an important advance. After an uncertain, not to say timorous, few decades, the leadership of at least some of our major institutions has found its voice. More than that, it has rediscovered something approaching a set of shared values--and, as Whose Culture? makes clear, it is ready to take on all comers in their defence."--John Adamson, Standpoint Magazine

"[Cuno] has emerged as the champion of museums who want to keep their holdings--and not a moment too soon. . . . Cuno speaks the cosmopolitan language of cultural pluralism. The other side, insisting that art remain where it happened to be found, deploys the rhetoric of jealous nationalism in the service of government. Culture matters more than concocted national pride, as curators and museum directors know. At last they're re-asserting their principles, after an embarrassing period of passivity and pusillanimity."--Robert Fulford, The National Post

"For the general reader seeking to get up to speed on this critically important debate, this volume is destined to become an indispensable guide. Each contributor makes salient points in favour of their museological argument."--Tom Mullaney, The Art Newspaper

"The issues raised will certainly draw controversy and debate, especially in the current environment. Issues of cultural heritage remain targets of ethical, legal, political, and cultural controversies surrounding cultural property. Museum professionals, university scholars, and others deeply interested in cultural heritage will find the work a necessary read."--Choice

"In stressing the multiple meanings--aesthetic, textual, political, ritual--that an object may have, these contributors oppose the claim that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a cosa morta ('dead thing')."--Hugh Eakin, New York Review of Books

"A welcome challenge to repatriation policies underpinned by identity politics. . . . Whose Culture? is a long-needed intervention in the debate about the role of museums. Cultural institutions have been on the defensive for decades, poorly firefighting accusations of didacticism, elitism, colonisation and looting, with ill-thought through mumbling and evasion. . . . Museums need to defend openly their use and purpose and make a strong case for the invaluable role they play in the preservation, presentation and study of artefacts. Cuno does just that."--Tiffany Jenkins, Spiked Magazine

"Far from being an esoteric, jargon-filled look at a debate between archaeologists and collectors of antiquities, these essays, some from conference presentations, some philosophical, and some impassioned, show that the whose-cultural-property debate runs parallel to and intersects other problem areas in the modern world."--N.S. Gill, About.com

"[T]his book should give both sides of the antiquities debate much to think (and talk) about."--William H. Krieger, Religious Studies Review

New York Review of Books
In stressing the multiple meanings—aesthetic, textual, political, ritual—that an object may have, these contributors oppose the claim that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a cosa morta ('dead thing').
— Hugh Eakin
Standpoint Magazine
In this new collection of essays, Cuno has also assembled a group of broadly like-minded colleagues, both museum curators and academics, all of whom affirm, from a variety of perspectives, why great encyclopaedic collections can, and ought, to exist. . . . [The volume] marks an important advance. After an uncertain, not to say timorous, few decades, the leadership of at least some of our major institutions has found its voice. More than that, it has rediscovered something approaching a set of shared values—and, as Whose Culture? makes clear, it is ready to take on all comers in their defence.
— John Adamson
Choice
The issues raised will certainly draw controversy and debate, especially in the current environment. Issues of cultural heritage remain targets of ethical, legal, political, and cultural controversies surrounding cultural property. Museum professionals, university scholars, and others deeply interested in cultural heritage will find the work a necessary read.
Spiked Magazine
A welcome challenge to repatriation policies underpinned by identity politics. . . . Whose Culture? is a long-needed intervention in the debate about the role of museums. Cultural institutions have been on the defensive for decades, poorly firefighting accusations of didacticism, elitism, colonisation and looting, with ill-thought through mumbling and evasion. . . . Museums need to defend openly their use and purpose and make a strong case for the invaluable role they play in the preservation, presentation and study of artefacts. Cuno does just that.
— Tiffany Jenkins
About.com
Far from being an esoteric, jargon-filled look at a debate between archaeologists and collectors of antiquities, these essays, some from conference presentations, some philosophical, and some impassioned, show that the whose-cultural-property debate runs parallel to and intersects other problem areas in the modern world.
— N.S. Gill
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691133331
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/2/2009
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


James Cuno is president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust and former director of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include "Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage" (Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Introduction James Cuno Cuno, James 1

Pt. 1 The Value of Museums 37

To Shape the Citizens of "That Great City, the World" Neil MacGregor MacGregor, Neil 39

"And What Do You Propose Should Be Done with Those Objects?" Philippe de Montebello de Montebello, Philippe 55

Whose Culture Is It? Kwame Anthony Appiah Appiah, Kwame Anthony 71

Pt. 2 The Value of Antiquities 87

Antiquities and the Importance - and Limitations - of Archaeological Contexts James C. Y. Watt Watt, James C. Y. 89

Archaeologists, Collectors, and Museums John Boardman Boardman, John 107

Censoring Knowledge: The Case for the Publication of Unprovenanced Cuneiform Tablets David I. Owen Owen, David I. 125

Pt. 3 Museums, Antiquities, and Cultural Property 143

Exhibiting Indigenous Heritage in the Age of Cultural Property Michael F. Brown Brown, Michael F. 145

Heritage and National Treasures Derek Gillman Gillman, Derek 165

The Nation and the Object John Henry Merryman Merryman, John Henry 183

Select Bibliography 205

Contributors 209

Index 213

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