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1. A Companion to Museum Studies
2. Museums and Memory (Cultural Sitings)
3. Museum Security and Protection:
4. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory
5. Contesting Human Remains in Museum
6. Thriving in the Knowledge Age:
7. Archaeological Site Museums in
8. Museum Memories: History, Technology,
9. Museums Of Tomorrow (Issues in
10. Chinese Cultural Art Treasures:
11. Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why
12. Florida's Museums and Cultural
13. Mikmaq & Maliseet Cultural
14. Mao's Graphic Voice: Pictorial
15. Grand Scale: Monumental Prints
16. New Museum Theory and Practice:
17. International Law, Museums and
18. Museums 2000: Politics, People,
19. Museums and Communities
20. Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's

1. A Companion to Museum Studies (Companions in Cultural Studies)
Paperback: 592 Pages (2010-08-17)
list price: US$49.95 -- used & new: US$44.50
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Asin: 1444334050
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A Companion to Museum Studies captures the multidisciplinary approaches to the study of the development, roles, and significance of museums in contemporary society. It is an indispensable reference for art historians, museum curators, and art and culture lovers.

  • Collects first-rate original essays by leading figures from a range of disciplines and theoretical stances, including anthropology, art history, history, literature, sociology, cultural studies, and museum studies
  • Examines the complexity of the museum from cultural, political, curatorial, historical and representational perspectives
  • Covers traditional subjects, such as space, display, buildings, objects and collecting, and more contemporary challenges such as visiting, commerce, community and experimental exhibition forms
... Read more

2. Museums and Memory (Cultural Sitings)
Paperback: 272 Pages (2000-07-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$22.94
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Asin: 0804735654
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Museums today are more than familiar cultural institutions and showplaces of accumulated objects; they are the sites of interaction between personal and collective identities, between memory and history. The essays in this volume consider museums from personal experience and historical study, and from the memories of museum visitors, curators, and scholars.

Representing a variety of fields—history, anthropology, art history, and museum scholarship—the contributors discuss museums across disciplinary boundaries that have separated art museums from natural history museums or local history museums from national galleries. The essays range widely over time (from the Renaissance to the second half of the twentieth century), and place (China, Japan, the United States, and Germany), in exhibitions explored (photography, Native American history, and “Jurassic technology”), and institution (the Chinese Imperial Collection, Renaissance curiosity cabinets, and modern art museums).

Memory operates thematically among the essays in diverse and provocative ways. The papers are organized according to three suggestive themes: experimental ways of theorizing and designing contemporary museums with an explicit interest in history and memory; discussions of personal encounters with historical exhibits; and the professional risks at stake for collectors and curators who shape the institutional presentation of history and memory.

The contributors are Susan A. Crane, Wolfgang Ernst, Michael Fehr, Paula Findlen, Tamara Hamlish, Alexis Joachimides, Suzanne Marchand, Julia A. Thomas, and Diana Drake Wilson.

... Read more

3. Museum Security and Protection: A Handbook for Cultural Heritage Institutions (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)
Paperback: 336 Pages (1993-11-15)
list price: US$69.95 -- used & new: US$53.48
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Asin: 0415075092
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Acknowledged as the international standard text for basic security procedures in museums, now fully revised, enlarged and updated. ... Read more

4. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory (Issues in Cultural and Media Studies)
by Henning
Paperback: 200 Pages (2005-12-01)
list price: US$60.00 -- used & new: US$31.79
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Asin: 0335214193
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Museums can work to reproduce ideologies and confirm the existing order of things, or as instruments of social reform. Yet objects in museums can exceed their designated roles as documents or specimens. In this wideranging and original book, Michelle Henning explores how historical and contemporary museums and exhibitions restage the relationship between people and material things. In doing so, they become important sites for the development of new forms of experience, memory and knowledge.

Henning reveals how museums can be theorised as a form of media. She discusses both historical and contemporary examples, from cabinets of curiosity, through the avant-garde exhibition design of Lissitzy and Bayer; the experimental museums of Paul Otlet and Otto Neurath; to science centres; immersive and virtual museums; and major developments such as Guggenheim Bilbao, Tate Modern in London and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

Museums, Media and Cultural Theory is unique in its treatment of the museum as a media-form, and in its detailed and critical discussion of a wide range of display techniques. It is an indispensable introduction to some of the key ideas, texts and histories relevant to the museum in the 21st century. ... Read more

5. Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority (Routledge Research in Museum Studies)
by Tiffany Jenkins
Hardcover: 184 Pages (2010-10-22)
list price: US$95.00 -- used & new: US$84.27
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Asin: 0415879604
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Since the late 1970s human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonization. These requests have been strongly contested by scientists who research the material and consider it unique evidence.

This book charts the influences at play on the contestation over human remains and examines the construction of this problem from a cultural perspective. It shows that claims on dead bodies are not confined to once colonized groups. A group of British Pagans, Honouring the Ancient Dead, formed to make claims on skeletons from the British Isles. And ancient human remains, bog bodies and Egyptian mummies, which have not been requested by any group, have become the focus of campaigns initiated by members of the profession, at times removed from display in the name of respect.

By drawing on empirical research including extensive interviews with the claims-making groups, ethnographic work, document, media, and policy analysis, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections demonstrates that strong internal influences do in fact exist. The only book to examine the construction of contestation over human remains from a sociological perspective, it advances an emerging area of academic research, setting the terms of debate, synthesizing disparate ideas, and making sense of a broader cultural focus on dead bodies in the contemporary period.

... Read more

6. Thriving in the Knowledge Age: New Business Models for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions
by John H. Falk
Hardcover: 280 Pages (2006-04-06)
list price: US$85.00 -- used & new: US$84.00
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Asin: 0759107572
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Thriving in the Knowledge age provides an entirely new way of envisioning the business model for your cultural institution. ... Read more

7. Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America (Cultural Heritage Studies)
Hardcover: 328 Pages (2006-10-25)
list price: US$65.00 -- used & new: US$58.27
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Asin: 0813030013
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Some of the greatest archaeological sites in the world are found in Latin America, and archaeological tourism is widely touted as a solution to the poverty that plagues much of this region. Site museums are playing an important role in the presentation of these finds to the public. Whether created by national agencies, by the archaeologists working at these sites, or in response to local people’s awareness of the potential development and economic benefits of tourism, site museums are major educational venues, promoting a sense of ownership of the past among resident or nearby populations, as well as greater local interest in cultural heritage and its preservation. At the same time, they constitute a major heritage management strategy; they can mitigate looting and site destruction, thereby serving as a first line of defense in site preservation.        
            Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America is the first edited volume to deal with archaeological site museums. Complicated on many levels, the creation of a site museum is addressed in thirteen case studies by the contributors to this “how to,” “what to expect,” and “what not to” primer. Nine of the authors have actually built or rehabilitated site museums and/or created a development project at one. Their undertakings have involved significant interaction with the local community in a highly equitable rather than top-down endeavor.
            This handbook for archaeologists and heritage managers can readily be incorporated into museum, heritage, and ethics courses, and actual field strategies.
... Read more

8. Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art (Cultural Memory in the Present)
by Didier Maleuvre
Paperback: 344 Pages (1999-04-01)
list price: US$26.95 -- used & new: US$22.02
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Asin: 0804736049
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From its inception in the early nineteenth century, the museum has been more than a mere historical object; it has manufactured an image of history. The museum believes in history, yet it behaves as though history could be summarized and completed. This twofold process explains the paradoxical character of museums. They have been accused of being both too heavy with historical dust and too historically spotless, excessively historicizing artworks while cutting them off from the historical life in which artworks are born. Thus the museum seems contradictory because it lectures about the historical nature of its objects while denying the same objects the living historical connection about which it purports to educate. The contradictory character of museums leads the author to a philosophical reflection on history, one that reconsiders the concept of culture and the historical value of art in light of the philosophers, artists, and writers who are captivated by the museum. Together, their voices prompt a reevaluation of the concepts of historical consciousness, artistic identity, and the culture of objects in the modern period. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Congratulations
To be honest: several times I felt envy reading this book. Maleuvre analysis the beginning of a museum-culture in the 18th and 19thcentury and does this with an extraordinary knowledge of philosophy, art and literature, especially French literature. His question of departure is: In what social context surges the museum and what impact has its birth to the relation between subject and object, the artwork. That is what a museum does: Create a distance between the individual and the sculpture. From the first to the last page the book is written on a high philosophical level, combining literature (Balzac, Proust) with philosophy (Hegel, Heidegger, Walter Benjamin and others). I was reading it line by line, a pleasure that I did not have in the last months. Congratulations to the author for this brilliant opening to a very interesting field of (hopefully) other studies in the future.

4-0 out of 5 stars a text aboutmuseums in the 19th c.
this book is centred on the 19th century. it explains the logic behind museums during this century drawing comparisons with the domestic interior and the work of Balzac. So its contents refers in its majority to the culture, at large, of the 19th century and how this transformed the institution of the museum during this time. Therefore it is not a text exclusively on museums but in the cultural dynamics that shaped it during that period of time. ... Read more

9. Museums Of Tomorrow (Issues in Cultural Theory)
by Maxwell Anderson, George Baker, Alexander Alberro, Donna De Salvo
Paperback: 234 Pages (2005-05-15)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$9.99
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Asin: 1890761079
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What is the future of the art museum? Should artists and critics have greater say in museum programming? What role can new museum technologies play in the future of the art museum? How should art museums address and correct past histories of predjudice and exclusion? Are art museums doomed to extinction? These pertinent questions and others are asked, discussed, and sometimes even answered in Museums of Tomorrow--documentation of a two-week online conference on the role and future of art museums. Thirty scholars, artists, museum directors, and curators participated in the discussion which was moderated by curator and essayist Maurice Berger for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum's Research Center Website.Includes contributions by Dan Cameron, Donna De Salvo, Alexander Alberro, Maurice Berger, Olu Oguibe, Maxwell Anderson, George Baker, Stefano Basilico, Barbara Buhler-Lynes, Jonathan P. Binstock among others.

Edited by Maurice Berger.

Introduction by Barbara Buhler-Lynes.

Conversations with Alexander Alberro, Maxwell Anderson, George Baker, Stefano Basilico, Jonathan Binstock, Dan Cameron, Donna de Salvo and Olu Oguibe.Paperback, 6 x 9 in./234 pgs ... Read more

10. Chinese Cultural Art Treasures: National Palace Museum Illustrated Handbook
by National Palace Museum
 Paperback: Pages (1977-01-01)

Asin: B002JH89UA
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11. Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why Museums Were Looted, Libraries Burned and Academics Murdered
Paperback: 272 Pages (2010-01-15)
list price: US$34.95 -- used & new: US$23.00
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Asin: 0745328121
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Why did the invasion of Iraq result in cultural destruction and killings of intellectuals? Convention sees accidents of war and poor planning in a campaign to liberate Iraqis.  The authors argue instead that the invasion aimed to dismantle the Iraqi state to remake it as a client regime.  Post-invasion chaos created conditions under which the cultural foundations of the state could be undermined. The authors painstakingly document the consequences of the occupiers' willful inaction and worse, which led to the ravaging of one of the world's oldest recorded cultures. Targeted assassination of over 400 academics, kidnapping and the forced flight of thousands of doctors, lawyers, artists and other intellectuals add up to cultural cleansing. This important work lays to rest claims that the invasion aimed to free an educated population to develop its own culture of democracy.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately tainted with the authors red ideology
Sometimes, you feel there is a topic that is vastly under reported that deserves more attention and study, and the fate of Iraq's cultural and historic inheritance under the US occupation is certainly a issue that deserves a exhaustive account. However, there is a small line between a informed work of scholarship and a raving polemic. Unfortunately, large parts of this book displays the characteristics of thelatter. It is all to clear that this has been written by authors belonging to the extreme left-wing, as all the cliches are here( US&Israel involved in a dastardly and nefarious plot to exploit/destroy hapless third world countries). Its almost as if the majority of the authors took a field trip to the bazaar in Sadr City, tape recorded every perceivable conspiracy theory around, assembled it into a book and published it as fact.

Space and time dont allow me to address every point, but if i had to choose 3 of the major faults it would be:

1. The obsessive Israel fixation in the book. What was particular revealing was Glenn E Perry's chapter about "Cultural cleansing in Comparative perspective", where he gives the usual lecture about Israeli cleansings a whooping 5 pages(in a 12 page chapter), while the cleansings in Bosnia barely gets a measly page, almost a token inclusion and figleaf to make it not look as onesided. We also see this tendency in the dealings of foreign meddlers inside Iraq. Nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have each played a major part in inciting and orchestrating the calamity in Iraq is barely mentioned and possible Iranian involvement is casually brushed aside, instead the authors focus on flimsy and limited Kurdish-Israeli cooperation. I know the authors need to pay lip service to the anti-Zionist readership, but give me a break. Guess there is a reason why some of the readers who have bought this have also bought Henry Fords "The International Jew"

2. Portraying the killings of Iraqi academics as similar to US assasination programs in Vietnam and the Americas is also flawed. The Leftist professors were actively symphatizers and supporters of communist movements, thus it made sense eliminating them as an ideological force. No such corrolation exist today in Iraq between the academics and professors and to the ideology that is the most serious threat to Iraqi democracy, namely Islamism. As is quite obvious, the higher the education degree of a individual, the more secular is he likely to be. And yet, the authors try to convince us that the US would deliberately remove such a secular bulwark, people that should by all circumstances been potential allies! Neither does linking the professors to Baathism make sense, as those with higher party roles were largely canned in the Bremer purge of 2003-2004. How does this square the fact that the targetting of academics really started to sky rocket in 2005 and beyond?

3. They fail to offer a convincing arguement as to the motives of US supposed wanton and deliberate destruction of Iraqi society. Why would the Bush administration dole out billions for reconstruction in that case? How would the declared policy of letting Iraq become a "democratic domino piece in the Middle East", a project that was supposed to be a shining example of democracy, square off with the claim that the US seeked total fragmentation of the state? Why does the authors believe that the US sinisterly and cunningly from the start calculated this plot, while they were apparently too stupid to realize it would serve Iranian interests? And even so, why should attempts to democratize a political culture that was for all purposes built on authoriatarianism, corruption, militarism, xenophobia and rank Anti-Semitism and has plagued Iraq's people for 40 years be considered a bad thing? All these logical pitfalls and inconsistencies severly denigrate the books overall message.

The reason i do not give this a one star is the fact that a few of the criticisms are valid(such as US military building bases in archeological sites and the clumsy handling of the rioting immediatedly following the invasion). Chapters 4, 5 8 and 10 are chapters that are both informative and useful. However, the majority of the book delves into conspiracy theories and unwarranted assumptions.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sober appraisal of a taboo subject
There is ample evidence that the US deliberately dismantled the Iraqi state to return it to a pre-national, primordial condition where Iraqis would be forced to fall back upon their sectarian identities to ride out the American occupation.

In this respect, the Iraq war has been an enormous success for the Americans. The only Arab state which was bold enough to think that it was master of its own house lies broken, its multi-ethnic fabric torn, and nationhood, national identity and sovereignty elusive, very distant dreams.

This book lays out the processes employed to dismantle not only the state but its culture, in effect wiping out the shared identity of Arab, Christian, Kurd, Shia and Sunni Iraqis. All notably, until a few years before the invasion, fought as one against the Iranians.

The larger significance of this book, I think, is in what is implied. Iraq is hardly unique in being a multi-ethnic, multi-faith nation. After reading it, I was left thinking about how fragile the pluralistic nation state is, how fungible national identity is and how easily both are subverted from within or without.

The US, culturally still a predominantly Christian and Protestant nation, had serious issues with John F. Kennedy running on the Democratic ticket for president in 1960.

His Catholic faith was held against him; a Catholic would take orders from the Vatican, it was said, and his fealty would be to the Pope not the wonderful document that is the American constitution.

JFK addressed this issue head on in his speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant pastors. The speech can be found here

At that time, what would have happened to E Pluribus Unum if the US were occupied by a foreign power, 200 years after its inception, and Catholics were disenfranchised en masse as the Sunnis were in Iraq?

Would it have taken very long for blood to flow on the streets? That is the haunting question this book has left me with, and it as apposite today as it was then.

Siddhartha Banerjee
USA ... Read more

12. Florida's Museums and Cultural Attractions Second Edition
by Murray Laurie, Doris Bardon
Paperback: 208 Pages (2008-03-31)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$5.75
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Asin: 1561644080
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This newly updated guide has a destination to suit every interest. See Florida through the eyes of the natives, pioneers, artists, statesmen, writers, and flamboyant figures who have called this state home throughout the centuries. Visit unimposing country stores, one-room schoolhouses, old-fashioned kitchens, coquina forts, and quaint churches, as well as grand mansions and theaters, gleaming art galleries, and lush gardens. You will find over 350 museums and cultural attractions to choose from in this comprehensive book. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Book For Florida Travel
This book takes a very good stab at listing some of the hundreds of museums and cultural attractions in Florida.It is a good guide to keep in the glove compartment of your car as you travel across the state.

I have a Florida heritage and cultural travel based website and have found the information in this book to be very useful, and offer a link to Amazon on my website - [...]for travelers interested in purchasing it. ... Read more

13. Mikmaq & Maliseet Cultural And Ancestral Material: National Collections from the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Mercury Series)
by Stephen J. Augustine
Paperback: 258 Pages (2006-02-28)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$44.97
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Asin: 0660191156
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Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Cultural Ancestral Material has been designed to provide images and basic information on Mi’kmaq and Maliseet artifacts held in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Drawing on objects collected, sold, or donated between 1841 and the present day, this publication provides a fascinating look at the richness of Mi’kmaq and Maliseet cultural practice, technological ingenuity, and artistic expression.

Objects such as baskets, canoes, clothing, moccasins, and tools are illustrated with a color photograph and accompanied by a brief text describing the object and its provenance. The result is a comprehensive reference tool for Native peoples, researchers, and educators. ... Read more

14. Mao's Graphic Voice: Pictorial Posters from the Cultural Revolution
by Patricia Powell, Shitao Huo
 Paperback: 14 Pages (1996-12)
list price: US$2.00
Isbn: 0932900410
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15. Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Durer and Titian (Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College)
Hardcover: 176 Pages (2008-09-02)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$31.53
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Asin: 0300138792
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Grand Scale brings to light rare surviving examples of mural-size prints—a Renaissance art form nearly lost from historical record. The most famous 16th-century woodcuts, engravings, and etchings were those done on an intimate scale. Yet artists also worked in another entire category of print production, producing mural-size prints that sometimes reached as high as ten feet. This handsome book, which features nearly fifty examples from Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, explores these multi-block woodcut and multi-plate engraving ensembles as vital contributions to the visual culture of their time. Comprising five essays, Grand Scale documents the relationship of monumental prints to the history of prints in general and also to mapmaking, painting, and book illustration, while addressing image design and modular printing from multiple, repeating blocks.

(20090101) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Bring your magnifying glass!
Very nice book displaying historic large scale Renaissance prints. Titian- oh my! Of course, it is not possible to display these prints as actual size. However, the authors did very little to help the reader to see details. While the print quality of the reproductions is very fine, there are no fold outs and few close up images. The authors needed to include a magnifying glass with this book! Still, a must for the printmaker.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wow those are some big...
Prints.Big ones.The only thing I might want to see more of are more contemporary works relating to those in the book.It's a good collection of works, and can really give perspective on the large scale works of the masters. ... Read more

16. New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction
Paperback: 352 Pages (2005-10-10)
list price: US$47.95 -- used & new: US$37.06
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Asin: 1405105593
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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New Museum Theory and Practice is an original collection of essays with a unique focus: the contested politics and ideologies of museum exhibition.

  • Contains 12 original essays that contribute to the field while creating a collective whole for course use.
  • Discusses theory through vivid examples and historical overviews.
  • Offers guidance on how to put theory into practice.
  • Covers a range of museums around the world: from art to history, anthropology to music, as well as historic houses, cultural centres, virtual sites, and commercial displays that use the conventions of the museum.
  • Authors come from the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia, and from a variety of fields that inform cultural studies.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great and Inciteful Book!
"New Museum Theory and Practice" has been a great resource for the Museum Studies course I'm taking in college. This book is a collection of essays that addresses numerous issues that are crucial to the new outlook for museums in the 21st century. Honest and up to date, the book discusses matters such as collection processing, feminism, multiculturalism, and poses questions about the basic foundations of museums as they exist today. ... Read more

17. International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects
by Ana Filipa Vrdoljak
Paperback: 382 Pages (2008-09-01)
list price: US$47.99 -- used & new: US$22.73
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Asin: 0521732409
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Although it is one which has inspired fierce decade in the recent past, the question of the return of cultural objects is not a new one. This important book explores the removal and the return of cultural objects from occupied communities from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century and explores the concurrent evolution of international cultural heritage law. Examining the responses of governments and of museums to the question of restitution, this book is essential reading for archaeologists, international lawyers and all those involved in cultural resource management. ... Read more

18. Museums 2000: Politics, People, Professionals and Profit (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)
Paperback: 212 Pages (1992-05-21)
list price: US$52.95 -- used & new: US$13.95
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Asin: 0415071291
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The result of a debate organized by the Museums Association in 1989, between some of the world's leading museum professionals, active politicians, economists and marketing specialists, looking at real problems faced now and in the future. ... Read more

19. Museums and Communities
Paperback: 624 Pages (1992-05-17)
list price: US$28.95 -- used & new: US$4.22
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Asin: 156098189X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Contributors to this volume examine and illustrate struggles and collaborations among museums, festivals, tourism, and historic preservation projects and the communities they represent and serve. Essays include the role of museums in civil society, the history of African-American collections, and experiments with museum-community dialogue about the design of a multicultural society. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Gem of a book
Excellent Gem of a book

Written in 92 but very relevant to us now--
the theory is forward thinking--
and moves us from older stodgy ideas to new
ways of working with/in community

5-0 out of 5 stars Good essays
I had to buy this book for a graduate museum studies course but it was well worth it. I still have the book. Although some essays are outdated, it is a good look at issues in museums. ... Read more

20. Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly
by Sally Price
Paperback: 224 Pages (2007-10-15)
list price: US$19.00 -- used & new: US$13.76
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Asin: 0226680703
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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In 1990 Jacques Chirac, the future president of France and a passionate fan of non-European art, met Jacques Kerchache, a maverick art collector with the lifelong ambition of displaying African sculpture in the holy temple of French culture, the Louvre. Together they began laying plans, and ten years later African fetishes were on view under the same roof as the Mona Lisa. Then, in 2006, amidst a maelstrom of controversy and hype, Chirac presided over the opening of a new museum dedicated to primitive art in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower: the Musée du Quai Branly.

Paris Primitive recounts the massive reconfiguration of Paris’s museum world that resulted from Chirac’s dream, set against a backdrop of personal and national politics, intellectual life, and the role of culture in French society. Along with exposing the machinations that led to the MQB’s creation, Sally Price addresses the thorny questions it raises about the legacy of colonialism, the balance between aesthetic judgments and ethnographic context, and the role of institutions of art and culture in an increasingly diverse France. Anyone with a stake in the myriad political, cultural, and anthropological issues raised by the MQB will find Price’s account fascinating.
(20070702) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

1-0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
I was hoping this book would include lots of photographs of this outstanding museum and its incredible collection. I just didn't realize this book wasn't addressing my needs or I wouldn't have bought it.Having said that, it's a goodbook for what it does cover.You just need to understand what you're buying.


I thought I had heard all the desperate arguments and explanations from European and American museum directors for not returning the stolen cultural objects which fill their museums. But on reading the recent excellent book from Sally Price, Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly I noted the incredible explanations she received from the officials of the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, which seem to me to be worthy of examination. Concerning the return of human remains, the author got the following remarkable explanation from Séverine Le Guével, head of the international relations at the museum:
"First, the bodies have never functioned as human remains. Secondly, they were (for the most part) given to the explorers who brought them back, not stolen or taken without permission. Plus, they're not identified. We don't know who they belong to. Thus, they've become art objects; ethnographic objects. That makes a difference. Therefore, they should be preserved like art objects and cannot be destroyed.... And it's also important to consider all objects that contain human remains. If we were to honour the claims for everything that contain human remains, it would mean giving away the entire collection of the Musee du Quai Branly anything that contains a bit of bone, anything that contains a skull...." (1)

Sally Price does not think it is really worthwhile to pursue ideas such as that there are some human remains in all the 350,000 objects in the museum. Nevertheless, I think it is at least worthwhile to ask how persons with such level of knowledge and competence reach such positions as head of international relations in the new French museum on the banks of the Seine. Little piety or respect for the dead seems to be shown by the lady who obviously has no feelings of sympathy for the relatives of those who disappeared or died in unexplained circumstances under colonial rule.
The same lady went on to add, according to the author that:
"We at the Quai Branly, as elsewhere in France, have decided to respect the principle of laicité [separation of church and state, very roughly equivalent to secularism]. Therefore, we do not take into consideration any claim based on religion or ethnicity. That's important.... We're a public institution, a secular institution operating in the public domain. If you allow the legitimacy of one religion, you allow them all, and then they all cancel each other out. That would put every place in the world on the same level!... Giving credit to all the claims would be to cancel out all of them....If you really believe that these things have a profound meaning, well the museum isn't made for that. The museum is not a religious space".

One can well sympathize with Sally Price for not wanting to spend
too many words on the substance of such statements but we must note
that these are the kind of people the Western countries have appointed as their representatives to deal with matters which are of great significance to the former colonized countries of Asia, Africa and America. Dr.Price, who is herself very sympathetic to claims of restitution, notes that in other countries these matters are dealt with
more seriously and sometimes even museums seek the advice of persons from the cultures being displayed exhibits. Further interviews of the author with more senior officials of the Musee du Quai Branly
did not reveal any better understanding of the questions of restitution
and the answers she received did not seem to differ much from those she received from the head of the international relations.
When she questioned the Director of the museum, Germain Viatte
about how the museum intended to deal with claims based on religion or ethnicity, she was informed how pleased non-Europeans were to see their cultural objects displayed in the museum; the director further declared:
"France is both universalist and secular. We need to recognize that [museum collections] belong to the history of our own country, but also to cultures that may have disappeared, or be on the way out, or hoping for cultural revival. We need to take all this into account, but without giving in to a kind of paternalism, confining other people to their particularities and reserving universalism exclusively for ourselves because we're worried about being "politically correct". We cannot give in to claims for restitution like those presented to the English for the Parthenon marbles or the Benin bronzes. But what we can do is set in motion international collaboration designed to find viable compromises between different, often incompatible interests, for example, between restitution and the protection of objects".(2)

This statement from the Director of the Musee du Quai Branly displays the same arrogance, paternalism and assumptions of superiority which we are used to hearing from other European museum directors. They assume they are rendering a great service to the countries of Asia, Africa and America by showing their stolen cultural objects in Europe. Surely, every art lover is pleased to see
an impressive piece of art displayed, whether that object is a stolen object from his or her country or from elsewhere. But does that mean
they approve of the unlawful methods the colonial masters used in acquiring these objects? Sally Price has described some of these criminal modes of acquisition in her book, Primitive Art in Civilized Places (Second Edition, 2001.The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London). Can one accept peremptory statements such as "We cannot give in to claims for restitution like those presented to the English for the Parthenon marbles or the Benin bronzes" without even attempting to refer to their modes of acquisition? The museum director is no doubt aware of the Dakar-Djibouti expedition which through stealing, blackmail and duress, as described by Michel Leiris in L'Afrique Fantôme (1950, Paris, Gallimard), brought to France thousands of cultural objects from the French colonies. Most of these objects were inherited by the Musée du Quai Branly when it was established. The story of the establishment of this museum is well related in Paris Primitive. The French generally, and the Musée du Quai Branly in particular, have obviously decided not to talk too much
about their colonial history which throws a bad light on the museum's
inheritance from the two other museums it replaced: Musée de l'Homme and the Musée National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie.
The explanation of the President of the museum as cited by Sally Price is no more enlightening that the others cited above:
" We are not in the business of buying ourselves a clear conscience vis-a vis the non-Western world or becoming an "apology museum," relaying messages based on the heritages of [cultural/ethnic] communities the way museums in Canada and the United States do for Indians. In France we have a more a more objective vision of culture. It's free of all instrumentality (nationalistic, pedagogic, etc), though it's becoming more and more difficult to defend.... In my view, the argument for returning the contents of museums to their countries of origin is a rejection, pure and simple, of the museum's calling which is to show the "Other" which means, by definition: outside of its original environment.. Art objects are also ambassadors for their culture, and in that capacity they're an element in the dialogue between peoples." (3)

After this sort of statement, one is tempted to agree with Sally Price
that it is not worth pursuing further some of these ideas. However, an exploration of the impact of some of these ideas, if they were really followed through might cause surprises.
To try to use the idea of laicité to defeat claims for return of stolen cultural property seems to me very strange. The theory of separation of State and Church/Religion was invented to prevent the interference of the State in the affairs of the church and vice-versa. It was intended to prevent State officials from dealing with matters which may have a religious element and certainly it has not been used to prevent the police from pursuing thieves who have stolen religious objects from a church or a shop. The lady at the museum did not seem to realise that in restitution claims, we are dealing with questions of ownership and not primarily with the nature of the object. Whatever the nature of the object, an alleged aggrieved the owner has the right to pursue the claim.
If it were acceptable to reject claims for restitution on the ground that they are based on religion or ethnicity, most of the claims for the return of cultural objects would be easily rejected. There are very few cultural objects which do not have religious or cultural element. If you reason like the officials of the Musée du Quai Branly, you could in the last resort point out that the artist is a Catholic or belongs to the English tribe! Hardly any African sculpture could ever be recovered from the French who have thousands of these stolen items. Obviously, such weak arguments are developed for the protection of the French museum.
Apparently similar thinking processes are shared by many of the people associated with the museum. Sally Price cites the art dealer Jean Paul Barbier, a member of the acquisition committee of the museum who also sold to the museum a number of expensive art objects, as declaring in an interview with Radio France:

"Certain anthropologists claim that an African or Oceanian who's deprived of his fetishes is a person who dies spiritually. Well, that's not true! Man is much stronger than that! If you take away a Sicilian woman's crucifix that she inherited from her grandmother, she doesn't give up her Catholic faith! She doesn't mope away in sadness. She goes to the next town, she buys a crucifix, she hangs it where the old one had been, and she returns to her prayers! (4)

It is more than depressing to read or hear such a statement coming from a dealer whose family and himself have made an enormous
fortune from dealing in African cultural objects. He is reported to have
"sold to the French State 276 Nigerian works of art for the sum of 40 million francs". (5)
So much for the respect he shows for those whose sweat and labour have made him a wealthy man. It is incredible to compare a crucifix which can be bought in any town in Italy with the magnificent African works of art which sell for millions and this comparison comes from somebody who deals in African art works! First of all, one cannot simply go to the next town and buy a sculpture or other cultural object. These pieces are often made for specific individuals within specific families in defined societies. They are not available everywhere and are not interchangeable. Their symbolism and significance are not the same. The skill, knowledge and time necessary for many African cultural works cannot be compared to those required for the crucifixes which are available in every Italian town. That a dealer in African art can make such statements shows how distorted the thinking of many Europeans can be. Obviously there are no limits for Europeans to the extent to which they can insult Africans and their culture.

Sally Price has produced a truly remarkable book on art from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. She tells very effectively the story of the Musée du Quai Branly, from the birth of the idea to the encounter between Jacques Chirac, then President of France and Jacques Kerchache (deceased), a French dealer in African art whose character is considered dubious by many, the discussions which preceded the decision to create a new museum, the infightings and intrigues in the Parisian art scene, the construction of the building by Jean Nouvel whose role seems to have gone beyond that of an architect, the criticisms of the structure of building and the interior arrangements which seems to reflect European prejudices of Africa as a continent of darkness, and the presentation of cultural works in the museum.
Paris Primitive is a very informative and readable work by Sally Price who acknowledges her good fortune in coming from a family of writers. The writing and presentation of the book are very attractive. I wish though that she could have avoided the word "primitive" in the title of her book. She explains briefly why she sticks to such a terminology which she herself describes as "awkward and jarring."
I felt very relieved to recognize that despite the really curious arguments we usually get from Westerners when it comes to defending their illegal possession of stolen art objects in their museums, here was at least a Westerner who thought like many of us
and could understand our need for the return of our cultural objects. A Western writer who could put herself in the place of the "Other". In fact, she does this very well when commenting on the half-truths the museum writes in notes relating to the two statutes stolen by the French from the royal palace of Dahomey, the one of Glele and the other of his son, Gbehanzin. The two kings are described in the notes as bloodthirsty, beheading enemy soldiers, sowing terror and menacing the French. Sally Price comments as follows:
"It's worth noting that this story takes place on African soil, not in Europe. Had the roles been reversed - that is, had Africans attempted to conquer Paris, as in Bertène Juminer's novel La revanche de Bozambo-would the French have been portrayed as "menacing" the invading Africans? (6)
The author's overall assessment is that the museum has not fulfilled the expectations its creation had raised and that it is not "the place where cultures dialogue" as the museum likes to characterize itself. The colonial attitudes and prejudices are all too apparent. The speech in this museum is a French monologue on the arts of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania. Voices from cultures displayed there are not heard. The French still claim a monopoly in interpreting those cultures. The author concludes that:
"From an early twenty-first-century perspective, the MBQ has missed precious opportunities for meaningful cultural dialogue that would have led to greater consideration of these issues. After the initial flurry of largely positive reactions in the press (many centered on the architecture), a heavy dose of negative reactions, more often questioning the museum's conceptual underpinnings, began to stream in. As one reviewer commented, new projects like this "almost always get thrashed" in Paris, but reactions to the Quai Branly have "seemed worse than most" (7).

Kwame Opoku, Vienna, 12 November, 2007.

1) Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quay Branly (University of Chicago Press, 2007), 224 p. at p.123.

2) Ibid. 124.

3) Ibid. 125.

4) Ibid. 156.

5) Ibid.p.75.
6) Ibid. 159.
7) Ibid.177.
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