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April 12, 2012

James Cuno defends the “universal museum” concept

Posted at 12:52 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Getty Curator James Cuno has long been one of the biggest proponents of the Universal Museum concept, despite many arguments against this ideology. Fro this current lecture, it appears that Cuno has done little to revise his viewpoint since publishing his book on the subject in 2008.

Zocalo Public Square

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Getty Chief James Cuno Defends the Encyclopedic Museum

For Getty Trust president and CEO James Cuno, the starting point for understanding the importance of the museum is “the promise it holds to promoting tolerance and understanding difference in the world.” In his talk to a packed house at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Cuno took on the critics of museums, particularly critics of encyclopedic museums, who hold that museums are relics of imperialism or institutions that uphold hegemony. On the contrary, said Cuno, the encyclopedic museum is “an argument against essentialized national differences.” This is also the case Cuno makes in his latest book, Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum.

Cuno pointed to the first encyclopedic museum, the British Museum, which was founded in 1753, as an example not of patriotism or nationalism but of an interest in cultures and art from around the globe. Neil MacGregor, the museum’s current director, likes to say that what surprises people most about the British Museum is that there are so few British things in it.
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