Showing results 1 - 12 of 116 for the tag: Museums.

September 1, 2014

Can a museum be too big?

Posted at 1:06 pm in British Museum

An interesting perspective her, advocates breaking up the largest museums, to allow visitors to enjoy a better experience there, without such high levels of crowding. Institutions such as the British Museum regularly crow about the number of people who visit (with the implication of the statements being that they all see the Parthenon Marbles), but the reality is that this tells nothing about the quality of the experience.

The idea of splitting museums into more manageable chunks is nothing new – London’s Natural History Museum, the British Library & the now sadly defunct Museum of Mankind, once all fell under the auspices of the British Museum.

Some in the industry talk in horror about any event that might lead to a reduction in the collections of the encyclopaedic museums, but the reality is that if current trends continue, such breaking up of collections might become a necessity. As such, once this happens, surely restitution requests would not be seen in quite the same light as they are now, as breaking apart the integrity of a collection that had been amassed over the centuries.

Crowds at the Metropolitan Museum in New York

Crowds at the Metropolitan Museum in New York

From:
Al Jazeera

Break up the major museums to save them
August institutions should build more outposts rather than cloister themselves in big cities
August 31, 2014 6:00AM ET

The Louvre in Paris recently told The Art Newspaper that it expects its visitor numbers to rise by a third over the next decade, putting the world’s busiest art museum on track to welcome 12 million visitors annually by 2025. It’s a staggering figure that points to a growing reality facing art lovers and museumgoers: How can you expect to see and enjoy art through the chaotic crowds that are increasingly defining major museums?

In the last few years, many of the largest and most popular museums, including the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, have been experiencing significant issues with crowding. The head of visitor services at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg recently admitted to The New York Times, “Such a colossal number of simultaneous viewers isn’t good for the art, and it can be uncomfortable and overwhelming for those who come to see the art.” In the same article, an art historian disparaged the situation at the Uffizi Gallery, home to some of the most famous masterpieces of the Renaissance, saying, “It seems like a tropical greenhouse. You can’t breathe.”
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April 10, 2014

NIU Art Museum exhibition – Looting, Hoarding & Collecting

Posted at 12:57 pm in Events, Similar cases

This story interests me, a it shows the growing level of support for re-thinking ownership of disputed cultural property. Gradually, it is becoming harder & harder for museums to just completely ignore the subject & pretend it doesn’t exist.

Miniconjou chief Spotted Elk lies dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre

Miniconjou chief Spotted Elk lies dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre

From:
Rock River Times

NIU exhibit addresses looting, repatriation as they relate to museum collections
April 2, 2014
Online Staff Report

DEKALB, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Art Museum will present Looting, Hoarding, Collecting …, an exhibition curated by students in the Museum Exhibitions and Interpretation class as a part of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at NIU. This exhibition will be on view in the North and Hall Case Galleries of the NIU Art Museum from April 3 through May 23; a public reception will be from 4:30 to 7 p.m., April 3.

This exhibition explores historic and current issues of looting and repatriation as they relate to museum collections. These issues have just begun to be examined in depth, and continue to challenge museum curators as they attempt to sort through the murky provenance of looted artifacts to determine whether objects should be returned to their original owners.
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April 1, 2014

How can Western Museum (re-)present their colonial past

Posted at 12:54 pm in Similar cases

Many of the European countries have had long & complex colonial pasts. Within their history, there are no doubt many episodes that people today wish could be forgotten. Within the museums of the West, there is also the fact to consider that many of the artefacts in their collections are there as a result of colonisation. During the end of the era of colonialism, there was a physical colonisation, where most countries withdrew their presence within former colonies & gradually granted them independence. There has never been the same impetus however behind a cultural decolonisation – handing back of the cultural artefacts that were acquired in circumstances of dubious legality.

Is the time right now for a re-think of this? To re-assemble our museums as spaces that tell a story fit for the 21st century, giving us a fuller awareness of how the artefacts came to be assembled there & who else claims ownership on them?

The sculpture of the ‘leopard man’ at the Museum of Central Africa

The sculpture of the ‘leopard man’ at the Museum of Central Africa

From:
Irish Times

The plunder years: culture and the colony
Suzanne Lynch
Last Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014, 16:59

Last month, George Clooney was drawn into a cultural debate that has long been a sensitive issue for Britain. Asked during a press conference in London’s National Gallery if the Elgin Marbles should continue to be housed in the British Museum or in Athens, the actor said the sculptures should be returned to the Parthenon from where they were taken by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.

Clooney was in town to promote The Monuments Men , a film that explores the ethical questions around cultural ownership as it tells the story of soldiers tasked with retrieving stolen art from Nazi Germany during the second World War.
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September 19, 2013

The questions that the curators didn’t like to be asked

Posted at 1:20 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Ask A Curator has been running on twitter for a number of years now, based on the simple enough premise, that for one day each year, you can ask curators of the museums who are signed up to it, pretty much anything you want.

Of course, not every question gets answered – for many of the more well known institutions, there will be too many and other questions may be completely inappropriate etc. Also, many of the staff answering tweets also have other work to do during their day as well.

This year, there was a definite trend (at least among the people that I was following), to ask questions about cultural property. However, as the day went on, it became few of these questions were actually getting answered.

Eventually, after being bombarded by questions about the Parthenon Sculptures, the British Museum bluntly stated:

For all questions related to the Parthenon sculptures please see this page stating the Museum’s position ow.ly/oYNy2 #AskACurator

The page that it directed you to though, answered very few of the actual questions that they were being asked. People were asking about all sorts of aspects, such as whether the museum planned to organise educational exhibitional exhibitions relating to the sculptures, to whether they would consider displaying a copy rather than the original (as is the case with the Rosetta Stone. However, everyone received the same response.

Now, I’m not asking for miracles, but it would be nice to understand whether the museums at least partially acknowledged people’s concerns, rather than just directing them to a statement written years ago, that takes no account of public opinion, or the nature of the actual question being asked.

This approach was not just taken by the British Museum. Many others seemed to ignore any queries about disputed artefacts in their collections, even when the question itself should not have been that controversial.

Dr Donna Yates made a far more impressive attempt to quiz the curators of museums around the world, but was met with a similar lack of responses.

You can also see my attempts to get an answer on the Marbles (Storify won;t show half my tweets for some reason today, so you don’t get to see the ones to other museums about other artefacts.

August 16, 2013

New Acropolis Museum is most popular museum in Greece

Posted at 2:53 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum continues to go from strength to strength, topping the lists as the most popular museum in Greece – no mean feat, when you consider the number of other museums of global importance within the country.

From:
Greek Reporter

More than 2M Visit Museums and Archaeological Sites
By Maria Korologou on August 14, 2013

The significant rise in tourism can interpret to an extent the rise in the number of visitors to museums and archaeological sites around Greece. According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), in the period January-April 2013, visitors to museums reached 833,105 in total presenting a rise of 19 percent in comparison with the same period in 2012, while at archaeological sites the number of tourists was over one million this year and reached 1,147,841 presenting a rise of 35,4 percent.
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March 12, 2013

The British museum, Free admission & the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:20 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I have written a number of times here about the issue of museum admission charges. Because of the nature of most of these articles, it can come across as being critical of any museum that does not charge. This is not the case at all though & I agree with much of the content of the article posted below.

So – lets get it straight. Free museums are great.

However, perhaps we need to accept that not all museums have to be free. We have free museums in Britain, because that is the way that we do things & how our government has chosen to spend our taxes (because, without this, very few of them would still be free). This means, that we should not therefore refer in a critical way to museums that charge, as though they are somehow less worthy.

This all gets back to the arguments over the Parthenon Marbles. The British Museum has often stated something along the lines of “the collection was legally acquired from Lord Elgin and is accessible, free of charge, to millions of visitors”.

I think it is critical to look at this statement carefully bit by bit – afterall, the number of times the British Museum has trotted it out, we assume that some thought must have gone into it.

So – we have part 1: “legally acquired from Lord Elgin”. Clearly this is true, because Elgin went through a process of selling them to the British Government (although, perhaps this ought to be described as transferring ownership in exchange for cancellation of debts, as this is closer to what happened). This statement is somewhat economical with the truth – it does not delve further back, into how the Marbles came into Elgin’s ownership & the legality / legitimacy of this procedure. Furthermore, if one accepts that Elgin did not acquire them entirely legitimately, then in effect, Britain was involved in the purchase of stolen goods.

Part 2: “Accessible, free of charge”. This argument is put forward as though it is clearly a positive point, but relatively little discussion has been made on why this should be the case. We must assume that this part of the statement refers to the fact that the Acropolis Museum, in common with most Greek archaeological sites & museums has an admission charge – although, we should also note that the charge for the museum is relatively minimal – few people would be put off visiting it purely by the admission charge. This admission charge helps to fund the building & the care of the collection within it. Bearing in mind the current economic situation in Greece, I don’t think anyone would suggest that they should be spending their public funds on removing their museum admission charges.

Part 3: “to millions of visitors”. Once again, an argument is put forward without clear reasoning why the point being made is beneficial. Surely if maximising the numbers who could see it were the most important factor, then relocating the marbles to Beijing or Mumbai should be considered? Furthermore, this does not stop to consider the fact that without admission charges, the British Museum no longer has a clear idea of visitor numbers. The give an approximate total count, but because anyone can wander in & out of a building with multiple entrances, we do not really know the nature of these visits. One thing I can guarantee, is that not all these people are there to see the Marbles – there are people using the route through as a shortcut on a rainy day, meeting someone at the cafe in the Great Court, visiting a temporary exhibition, or just looking at another specific part of the museums collection. On the other hand, we could assume that for the majority of visitors to the Acropolis Museum, seeing the sculptures from the Acropolis is the main focus of their visit. From this, we can only conclude that using visitor numbers as an argument is at best misleading, without more detail to back it up.

So – free admission is great, but is it really a justification for hanging onto the Parthenon Marbles? I don’t think so.

From:
Scotsman

Monday 11 March 2013
Tiffany Jenkins
Free museums – a fine example to set the world
Published on Saturday 9 March 2013 00:00

AS MUCH as it pains me to say it, the commitment to free entry to national museums, instigated by the last Labour government, is one policy that I not only support, but think was enlightened.

Back in 1997, Labour argued that in order to broaden the range of people visiting museums and galleries, there should be no charge to visit. Up until then, entrance fees could set you back between £5-10 a person, which adds up, especially if you want to take the whole family, or go more than once, which, given that most of the institutions are large and extensive, is likely.
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March 7, 2013

Should holding onto looted artefacts give museums & countries an upper hand in negotiating?

Posted at 8:47 am in British Museum, Similar cases

I have to say that I completely disagree with the general approach that this article advocates – which could be summarised, as something like: Wealthy Museums of the West (along with the countries in which they are based) can now use their disputed artefacts as bargaining chips, to secure political / cultural changes in the countries of the original owners.

If somebody robs your house, should that then give them the upper hand in securing some form of change in your lifestyle, before agreeing to return the items that they took?

Quite what gives these museums the right to enforce change on countries in this way is unclear, other than being down to the fact that they were fortunate enough to know people dis-reputable enough to have managed to acquire the artefacts in the first place – hardly a great endorsement for their policies, or for taking the moral high ground.

From:
Whistleblower

Looted art – hostage or weapon against terror?
Exclusive: Marisa Martin suggests U.S. start using its diplomacy tool
Published: 12/12/2012 at 8:58 PM

Vikings stormed Britain, while Mongols left Bagdad a culture-free zone. Warlords came, saw and trashed all the books and statues while they were at it. Even now someone is whacking away at the ankles of a limestone Buddha in India or Bangladesh.

Have times changed for the better?

Napoleon revitalized looting trends by demanding art from conquered Italians and churches. Since then, the Captains of Genocide have handled the art of their victims differently, particularly the Nazis. Probably the most prolific war thieves ever, they discarded entire races whiles secreting their art in stashes all over the globe. Art Loss Register, an international database, lists 300,000 missing and stolen artworks with approximately 85 percent occurring before 1945, not coincidentally with the demise of the Nazis.
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February 27, 2013

Not all types of restitution are equal – law enforcement & return of looted artefacts

Posted at 1:43 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

This piece by Kwame Opoku raises the interesting point, that the often gets lost when described in press articles – that there are two very different types of restitution. One type happens regularly, is legally enforced & has no real involvement of museums & galleries. The other type happens rarely (if at all) & is determined by the museums. But, in the media, these two very different types of cases often become one & the same, implying that there is a level of co-operation between countries over disputed artefacts that is not really there. Certainly, there is one layer that exists, but the layers beneath it are applied far more erratically.

From:
Ligali

Wed 13 February 2013
Opinion: What We Understand By “Restitution”
Kwame Opoku questions whether Nigeria’s approach to restitution of cultural artefacts is really working and offers a more progressive approach and honest definition.
Submitted By: Kwame Opoku

“Short of giving details of the anticipated repossession of Nigerian artefacts from France, Usman insisted that diplomacy remained the “best and only option for now and we would change our strategy if it’s not working.”

We are all pleased that the French, just like the US Americans are returning Nigerian looted artefacts that have been intercepted by the police or customs whilst in transit or at arrival at port of destination. This is the result of normal collaboration between customs/police institutions of France/USA and those of Nigeria. They are not the result of efforts by cultural institutions seeking the return of looted items, as far as we know. These are the results of investigation of criminal activities pursued by the customs/police institutions.
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Is free admission to museums & galleries in the UK sacrosanct?

Posted at 8:44 am in British Museum

This subject seems to crop up on a regular basis – is the government’s money better spent on other things rather than free admission to large numbers of museums & galleries? While I enjoy the free use that the current subsidies give, one has to wonder if the overall visitor experience might be improved if there was some level of charging, which would help to reduce over-crowding. When referring to the Parthenon Sculptures, the British Museum regularly proclaims that they can be viewed there free of charge – something that seems to be taken as beneficial (& as a criticism of the fact that the Acropolis museum has an entry fee), without any meaningful debate on the subject. This free access relies heavily on government subsidies – something that the museum is less willing to shout about.

From:
Independent

Dominic Lawson
Monday 25 February 2013
Why is free admission to art galleries and museums sacrosanct, when free swimming is not?

Even in a time of straitened national finances, it never pays to underestimate the awesome power of the arts lobby in Britain

What do you imagine would be an easier subsidy to defend at a time of straitened national finances – free swimming in public baths for children and pensioners; or free entry for all into metropolitan museums of fine art? If I didn’t know otherwise, I would have guessed the former. This, however, would be to underestimate the awesome power of the arts lobby in Britain.
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February 18, 2013

National Museum Security Group aims to fight back against art thieves

Posted at 2:30 pm in Similar cases

It is great that museums are working together, to try & tackle the problem of art theft. One can’t help thinking though, that they are much more interested in keeping artefacts in their own collections, that considering the plight of the original owners of many disputed items that ended up within their own collections.

From:
Independent

Look out, art thieves: museums are fighting back
New organisation set up after high-profile thefts will let galleries share information instantly
Sunday 17 February 2013

Should criminals attempt to lift a valuable Chinese artefact from a museum display case, or scrawl over a priceless painting, their photograph now could be with the police and 800 cultural institutions in 20 minutes.

A new national organisation has been set up to allow museums and galleries to share their experiences of criminal behaviour with the police and each other, as they look to beef up security in the wake of ongoing threats to their collections.
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January 28, 2013

The return of cultural treasures – and it wasn’t the Parthenon Marbles that opened the floodgates

Posted at 2:03 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed the increase in returns of disputed artefacts in recent years. American Museums have led the way here, but many others are now being drawn into this new way of operating – to return the artefacts without things progressing as far as legal action, on the basis that doing so will aid other co-operative projects with the countries involved.

For many years, people clamoured that the return of the Parthenon Marbles would open the floodgates for the emptying of museums. Now, it appears that the floodgates have already partially opened & the Parthenon Marbles had nothing to do with it.

So – now that that argument seems no longer valid, surely it is time for the British Museum to reconsider the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens? Unlike many of the countries that have threatened legal action, or to withdraw co-operation, by blocking exhibit loans etc, Greece has always maintained good relations with museums in Britain – but it appears that taking the nice approach counts for nothing in this instance – the carrot is not enough & there needs to be the threat of some type of stick before large institutions are willing to come to the negotiating table.

From:
New York Times

The Great Giveback
By HUGH EAKIN
Published: January 26, 2013

THE news has become astonishingly routine: a major American museum announces it is relinquishing extraordinary antiquities because a foreign government claims they were looted and has threatened legal action or other sanctions if it doesn’t get them back.

In the past two months, the Dallas Museum of Art has transferred ownership of seven ancient artworks, including a pair of Etruscan bronze shields, to Italy and Turkey; the Toledo Museum of Art has handed over to Italy a rare water vessel that had been on display since 1982; and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has announced it will be transferring to Sicily a terra-cotta head believed to depict the Greek god Hades, which it purchased from a New York dealer in 1985 for more than $500,000. Other museums across the country — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Cleveland Museum of Art — have also given up prized antiquities.
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November 12, 2012

Revisiting S2212 – The flaws inherent in the Foreign Cultural Exchange Judicial Immunity Clarification Act

Posted at 7:03 pm in Similar cases

Nikki Georgopulos has written a very extensive piece for the Plundered Art blog about the man issues with Senate Bill S2212 (the Foreign Cultural Exchange Judicial Immunity Clarification Act). While the act gives the impression of helping the current situation, in reality it causes as many problems as it solves.

Her article is in two parts.

Part 1.

Part 2.