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The Ends of the Museum

28 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2013 Last revised: 19 May 2014

Tatiana Flessas

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Date Written: May 29, 2013

Abstract

In recent years, there have been a plethora of cases in which museums have had to release treasured pieces. New legal initiatives and developments increasingly make repatriation claims by source nations and other single or group ‘original owners’ possible, most recently in the area of illicitly-trafficked antiquities. Recent scholarship radically questions the genealogy and functions of the museum, and its relationship with the concepts of space, culture, and identity. In terms of space, there have been analyses that place the museum at the centre of disciplinary projects, ‘civilizing rituals’, architectural expressions of the diremptions in the genealogies and cultural histories of modernity. In terms of culture and identity, there have been similar deconstructions of the links between nation-building and housing art and artefacts. Museums are now searching for strategies to protect their collections from the loss of authority and status that attend repatriation claims in this climate of criticism. Yet, do museums collude in this loss of authority by joining in the ‘propertization’ of their collections? Embedded in the notion of modern museology is the primacy of the object. This, arguably, aids the legal and political initiatives that permit deaccessioning of objects, imposing external requirements on the retention or return of certain types of collections, and regulating the relationship between the collector and the museum.

Suggested Citation

Flessas, Tatiana, The Ends of the Museum (May 29, 2013). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 14/2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2271501 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2271501

Tatiana Flessas (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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