Encyclopedic Museums in the Post-Colonial Present


Tuesday 13 March 2012
17.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

James CunoSpeaker(s): Dr James Cuno (J. Paul Getty Trust)
Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission
Organised by: Professor Deborah Swallow (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

The concept of the encyclopedic museum was born of the Enlightenment, a manifestation of the belief that the spread of knowledge, promotion of intellectual inquiry, and trust in individual agency were crucial to human development and the future of a rational society. In recent years, encyclopedic museums have come under attack as relics and agents of imperialism. This lecture will explore the bases and promise of encyclopedic museums: that they promote understanding and tolerance of difference in the world, and bear evidence of the intertwined histories and overlapping territories of the imperialisers and imperialised, arguing against essentialised notions of different cultural identities in the post-colonial world in which we live.


James Cuno is the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust and author, most recently, of the book,
Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum (University of Chicago Press). His previous books have examined the effect of nationalist cultural property protocols on the study and preservation of the world's antiquities. From 2004 to 2011, he was President and Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, and from 2003 to 2004 he was Director and Professor of The Courtauld Institute of Art


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