Sunday 25 August 2019

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum Called Out

What is the collecting history of a Ganesh statue acquired in 1996 (from whom?) and now in  Mount Holyoke College Art Museum [ South Hadley, MA 0107? It was purchased with the Belle and Hy Baier Art Acquisition Fund, before going ahead what checks were applied on behalf of the funding family to ensure that this was not a stolen piece levered off a standing monument and smuggled out of India, but had instead left the country in some legal manner? 

The problem is, reportedly, there are photographs....

I was struck by an 'educational' handout the Museum produces ' Reconstructing Antiquity: A Guide to Teaching with Objects and how it insists teachers ask their students:
"After each response, always ask, “How do you know?”, “What do you see that makes you say that?” or “How can you tell?” "
interestingly, in the explanatory descriptions that accompany the lessons (like the one with the two 'Palmyra' tomb slabs) there is zero detail on the collecting history of any of the antiquities (or the Roman glass that the museum online database shows was also bought with money from the Baier family). How can we tell Holyoak? If you are not transparent about what you actually know about the origins of all this stuff.... we cannot.

What this is doing is perpetuating the modus operandi of the mere guessing, based on form ('looks like') that Marlowe criticises in her book Shaky Ground. Without grounding, without a factual context, then the stories made up based on what something looks like are no kind of learning (except how to use the imagination - which is not scholarship). The teachers and kids using this museum collection as an 'educational' resource are being shortchanged, the donors that fund it also.

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