Monday, March 31, 2008

"Bringing the mountain to Muhammad"

Very interesting story in the Times today - Neuberger Museum Gets Spot in Manhattan. In essence, the Neuberger Museum at Purchase College (a SUNY campus) will be getting between 3,500 and 5,000 sq. feet of exhibition space in a building on 42nd St. I love this idea, for many reasons:
  1. A 1912 building will be renovated and showcased for this project. It's not vacant or anything like that (it currently houses the SUNY State School of Optometry), but I always love to see historic buildings receive positive attention & care.
  2. The museum, which apparently is the 10th largest university museum in the country, will get the chance to showcase many of its pieces that are currently in storage. Having spent the last couple of months working in a collections department, I know how great it feels to be able to really show off your full collection.
  3. The space in Midtown will also give the museum's staff a chance to display the work of the college's graduate students, which are not permitted to show at the original museum (for some reason).
So here's to some creative thinking and collaboration in the museum/academic world! Lord knows that's not always what you get.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Further Follow Up

I must have missed this somehow, but back on February 21st, the Times posted some follow up on the "looted antiquities" trial I wrote about in this post. You can read the story here.

I also found an article from September that sets the background for the whole situation. An agreement was settled between the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Italian Culture Ministry to return a number of artifacts that were allegedly acquired illegally. Interestingly, "the agreement, some details of which were not made public, includes long-term loans to the Getty’s antiquities villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., as well as collaboration on joint exhibitions, research, conservation and restoration projects."

The trial of two curators from the Getty began in 2005, but had slowed in the past few years. The defense for one of the curators seems to think that his client was used as a scapegoat to grease the wheels of this resolution.

According to the February 21st article, the next hearing was supposed to have been in mid-March. I'll do some poking around and see if I can find any updated information on the trial.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wharf Walkers

The other day, I was at my internship site reading an archaeological report from an excavation completed in the 1990's. The dig was done in conjunction with the building of the museum's new visitor's center and was intended to survey the cultural resources which might be beneath the proposed construction site. When the remains of a wharf structure were found (no great surprise, as the area being excavated used to be a tidal inlet used for trade and commerce), the construction was halted in order to explore the site in more depth.

I didn't get to read the entire report, but I hope to do so this coming week. Something amusing caught my eye, though. In an attempt at comparative analysis, the report provided a background history of other wharf structures along the Eastern Seaboard. It looked at either extant or former wharves in Philadelphia, Boston, and Salem, MA. Apparently, Central Wharf in Salem was initially covered with a clay surface. The archaeologists who have examined that wharf in the past have found a large number of single shoes embedded in the wharf's surface.

It took a minute for that to sink in, but how great is that? One of my favorite things about history is the unexpected giggles you find. If you disliked the way you were taught history in school, you might not ever get to the fun stuff like that. However, sometimes us historians stumble across gems like this one.