Protecting the Past: 2013-2014 Art History Speaker Series

This year the Art History Department will host four lectures by visiting speakers on issues concerning the preservation and protection of works of art and cultural patrimony such as archaeological sites.  The speakers will address critical issues such as how do we track and prevent the looting or theft of art, how do museums deal with problems of provenance and origin, how do we implement policies to protect art and cultural patrimony in war, and how do museums preserve and protect  identity?  This will also be the theme of the fourth annual Graduate Student Symposium, at which graduate art history students from around the country will present papers on these and other issues.  As we shall see, the ethics of art history is both challenging and relevant in our time.

The series begins on Friday, October 11 with Jason Felch, reporter for the Los Angeles Times and co-author of Chasing Aphrodite, which detailed the acquisition of illegally excavated and imported antiquities at several museums around the world.  This book has also required reading in the department's methodology classes, highlighting the importance of preserving art and protecting archaeological sites.

All events are free and open to the public and handicap accessible. For accessibility requests contact: (651) 962-6315

Building location and parking: stthomas.edu/campusmaps


Our next talk is on Friday, April 11 at 6pm in OEC Auditorium:

"Preserving Art, History, and Memory: The AfroBrazil Museum"

Dr. Kimberly Cleveland

Assistant Professor, African and African-American Art History, Welch School of Art & Design, Georgia State University. 

6pm, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.

How do you use art to change national attitudes toward race and cultural heritage?  How do you challenge official versions of history and memory through the display of art?  Dr. Kimberly Cleveland explores these and other questions in her lecture on preserving art, history, and memory at the AfroBrazil Museum in São Paulo.  Although Brazil has the highest number of peoples of African descent outside the African continent, this social reality is not reflected in the country’s cultural institutions.  Dr. Cleveland highlights the AfroBrazil museum’s innovative approach to showcasing this less-familiar cultural patrimony, as well as some of the successes and failures the institution has experienced since it opened in 2004.


Previous Talks:

Friday, October 11, 2013

WikiLoot: An Experiment in Crowdsourcing the Study of the Illicit Antiquities Trade.

Jason Felch

Award-winning investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times and co-author of Chasing Aphrodite.

6pm.  James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center


Friday, December 6, 2013

The Past Lives of Works of Art: Researching Provenance in an Art Museum.

Dr. Victoria Reed

Sadler Curator for Provenance, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Nazi-looted art and masterpieces brought back as the spoils of war
frequently make headlines, even featuring in popular culture-from Indiana
Jones and his quest for the Lost Ark to episodes of The Simpsons. But how
does an art museum actually research its collection for lost, stolen, or
smuggled masterpieces? Victoria Reed, Curator for Provenance at the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will discuss her experiences as an "art
detective," tracing the provenance, or ownership history, of the MFA's
collection and looking for potential seizures, thefts, and losses during
the Nazi era (1933-1945) and beyond. This will be a behind-the-scenes
look at provenance research, and a consideration of art museum policy and
practice today.

6pm.  O'Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.

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Friday, February 21

"The Worst of Times: Protecting Heritage in Armed Conflicts and Natural Disasters"

Cori Wegener

Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, Office of the Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution.

6pm, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium

When manmade or natural disasters strike, governments, international organizations and nonprofits provide the victims with vital rescue and humanitarian relief services.  But after the initial response, who arrives to help preserve the cultural heritage of that community?  Which government, international and nonprofit organizations are responsible for heritage disaster planning, response, and recovery? How good are they at preventing looting and damage to our shared cultural heritage?  Wegener will share insights from her experiences as an “Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer” in the U.S. military in Iraq, as head of the nonprofit U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, and in her new role coordinating the Smithsonian’s emergency response for heritage programs in the U.S. and around the world. 

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Speaker Series