Affiliation: Colgate University
Elizabeth Marlowe is the Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies and Associate Professor of Ancient and Medieval Art in the Department of Art at Colgate University; she holds her degrees from Smith College, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University (PhD). Her fields of specialization are ancient art, late antiquity, the city of Rome, Roman imperial monuments, modern uses of the classical past, museum studies, critical museum theory, the art market, cultural property, and antiquities looting and repatriation. Her publications include Shaky Ground: Context, Coonoisseurship and the History of Roman Art (2013), and “Archaeology and Iconography” in the Oxford Handbook of Roman Imagery and Iconography (Cline and Elkins, eds., forthcoming).
What can those of us in the field of classical art and archaeology learn from recent “decolonizing” practices in the field of Native American museology? Since its enactment in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) has prompted a radical transformation in how museums conceive of their holdings of Native American objects. Huge quantities of material have been returned to descendant communities. For the Native American works still in their collections, many museums have developed new strategies for sharing curatorial authority with members of those communities. Can this “decolonizing” paradigm help us rethink how we talk about the objects in classical museum collections? Might an embrace of some of these new methodologies help us out of the impasse that currently pits museums against archaeologists? This talk will focus less on repatriation and more on the choices museums make about which stories to tell about their classical holdings, and how they choose to tell them.