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Italian antiquities in America: contextualizing repatriation

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From inception, the earliest museums in Europe were a haven for artifacts, many of which represented world cultures within its walls. The tradition of encyclopedic collecting characterized European museums and

From inception, the earliest museums in Europe were a haven for artifacts, many of which represented world cultures within its walls. The tradition of encyclopedic collecting characterized European museums and U.S. institutions modeled themselves after this example. In the 20th century, defining cultural property, in the form of excavated objects, became a priority for many nations and resulted in the scrutiny of ancient artifacts, in particular. This led to the establishment of international protocols which sought to protect items during times of both peace and war. Despite international legislation, the trade of illicit antiquities continued. A major advocate for repatriation, the nation of Italy aggressively sought return of many objects from antiquity and recently approached the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding several items whose provenance was suspect. Ultimately the conflict was resolved through The Metropolitan Museum of Art-Republic of Italy Agreement of February 21, 2006, which transferred the title of six antiquities to Italy in return for long term loans of equivalent objects to the museum. The landmark agreement represents a mutually profitable resolution to a situation potentially plaguing thousands of institutions worldwide. The implications of replication of the agreement can potentially change how museums, nations and the public understand concepts of ownership and may reduce the role of permanent collections in favor of sharing, rather than possessing, world heritage.

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  • 2011

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Quliaqtuavut tuugaatigun (Our stories in ivory): reconnecting Arctic narratives with engraved drill bows

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This dissertation explores complex representations of spiritual, social and cultural ways of knowing embedded within engraved ivory drill bows from the Bering Strait. During the nineteenth century, multi-faceted ivory drill

This dissertation explores complex representations of spiritual, social and cultural ways of knowing embedded within engraved ivory drill bows from the Bering Strait. During the nineteenth century, multi-faceted ivory drill bows formed an ideal surface on which to recount life events and indigenous epistemologies reflective of distinct environmental and socio-cultural relationships. Carvers added motifs over time and the presence of multiple hands suggests a passing down of these objects as a form of familial history and cultural patrimony. Explorers, traders and field collectors to the Bering Strait eagerly acquired engraved drill bows as aesthetic manifestations of Arctic mores but recorded few details about the carvings resulting in a disconnect between the objects and their multi-layered stories. However, continued practices of ivory carving and storytelling within Bering Strait communities holds potential for engraved drill bows to animate oral histories and foster discourse between researchers and communities. Thus, this collaborative project integrates stylistic analyses and ethno-historical accounts on drill bows with knowledge shared by Alaska Native community members and is based on the understanding that oral narratives can bring life and meaning to objects within museum collections.

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  • 2013