Whose Heritage? Objects, Politics and Collections Care

Have you read about or had protesters demanding that parts of cultural collections are offensive or need to be removed? Have you thought about what you would do in response to such demands? Cultural heritage objects, monuments and artworks have long had the capacity to incite protest. Calls from communities for the removal of monuments and art works are coming with greater frequency in the wake of rising social activism. When such an object falls under your professional care it can be hard not to feel under attack. Taken at face value, preservation can seem to be at odds with the removal of objects on display. Difficult conversations about the place of monuments and other cultural heritage objects in our midst have been playing out in many communities.

This webinar will review some approaches that organizations have used in handling problematic collection objects with an eye towards balancing collection care and public critique. While the topics can be difficult and highly emotional, we will look at ways to provide a constructive and empathetic listening environment where both audiences and collections can come together to create productive learning arenas. Case studies include the removal of confederate monuments, WPA murals in a university setting that include insensitive racial stereotypes, and historic figures glorified in the past for behavior that is now considered predatory.

† The image above shows the 1970s vandalism of Kenneth M. Adam’s 1939 mural, Union of the Three Peoples. Collection of the Zimmerman Library of The University of New Mexico.

Presenter

heather_galloway_portrait Heather Galloway is the conservator and owner of Galloway Art Conservation. She has over 25 years of experience in conservation and is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation. She completed her graduate studies in conservation at New York University’s Institute for Fine Arts, holds an MA in Art History from Williams College and a BA in fine arts from Middlebury College. She has worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Cleveland Museum of Art. She opened her private practice in 2015 after working at the ICA Art Conservation of Cleveland for 16 years. She has taught conservation related courses at Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Oslo in Norway. Her teaching focuses on treatment, ethics, the integration of science in conservation, and the materials and techniques of cultural heritage production.

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