Exhibitions & Interpretations Archive
Looting, Hoarding, Collecting
From the spoils of war, to the issues of contemporary repatriation, Looting, Hoarding, Collecting explores the history of cultural property conflicts, the roles played in them by museums, and their lasting implications for the museum community and its constituencies. Societal acceptance of looting and hoarding, and the collecting of looted objects by museums has changed dramatically over the past decades, often leading museums to consider repatriation of such artifacts.
Historically, looting was an accepted byproduct of warfare. As Napoleon conquered Europe, he systemized its practice, thus establishing the core collection of the Louvre. During WWII, the Nazis further fine-tuned looting into an organized bureaucracy. Recently, Egypt, Iraq, and Myanmar are among several countries that have had to deal with political turmoil and having cultural property looted.
Domestically, many repatriation cases involve Native American materials acquired through questionable means. The 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre resulted, a century later, in one of the most prominent domestic repatriation cases to date, when the Smithsonian Institution returned nineteen looted objects to the Cheyenne River Sioux.
With national and international cultural property law evolving and reforms in museum ethics and practices generating updated policies, museums are forced to look at their collections with more scrutiny. Prominent players in museum policy development today include the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Many famous museums, including the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, have objects in their collections with questionable provenance.
Who is the rightful owner of these items? Is it the museum that claims to keep the objects safe from harm and available for the cultural education of the masses? Or is it the original owner or country of origin of the item that demands their cultural property be returned?
MAPPING: Across Place and Period; Information, Navigation, and Geography
“Mapping: Measuring Across Place and Period; Information, Navigation and Geography” explores the evolution of mapping as a tool for understanding our world. Maps reveal what we know and do not know about our world and how we perceive it.
Although some of the earliest maps contain factual inaccuracies, they remain valuable as artifacts of prevailing ideologies at the time of their conception. Additionally, these maps provide us with a visual language for navigating our physical world and the technologies for charting other unexplored territories, even the cosmos.
Similarly, contemporary artists are finding maps to be useful metaphors for humanistic and personal discovery. These numerous and evolving uses show how maps’ utilitarian value continues to be reinterpreted across time and place and how they show us more than simply where we are in the world.
The Golden Age of Wordless Novels
This exhibit explores how for a few decades, taking adventure of the revival of relief printmaking, artists in Europe and North America created powerful works that reached broad and international audiences by disseminating their work through established book publishing companies.
Artists who crafted wordless novels in the early to mid 20th century were fully engaged in social, political, and spiritual concerns of their time. Their works provoked dialogue; raising questions abut their contemporary world.
The expressive qualities of woodcut and wood engraving techniques allow ample opportunities for artists to tell incredible narratives using sequential images. Whether these stories focused on perils and injustices of industrial societies, the horrors of war, romantic tales, visions of God, or journeys in exotic lands, artists used the sharp boldness of their craft to highlight emotions and themes, making their narrative accessible to broad audiences.