Collecting the Past

Course Description: Early European explorers, modern travelers, collectors, curators, and archaeologists have contributed to the development of ancient Latin American collections in museums across the globe. This course traces the history of these collecting practices and uses recent case studies to demonstrate how museums negotiate—successfully and unsuccessfully—the competing interests of scholars, donors, local communities, and international law. Students learn how archaeologists study a variety of artifact types within museum collections and have the opportunity to conduct independent research projects using pre-Columbian pottery and textile collections from the Mead Museum at Amherst College & the Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum.

Texts (the selected readings vary each semester): Art of the Andes: From Chavín to Inca (Stone, 2012); Textiles from the Andes (Dransart & Wolf 2011); Faking the Ancient Andes (Bruhns & Kelker 2010) and Faking Ancient Mesoamerica (Kelker & Bruhns 2010, review here by Donna Yates, 2015); Pre-Columbian Art and the Post-Columbian World: Ancient American Sources of Modern Art (Braun 2000); Relics of the Past: The Collecting and Studying of Pre-Columbian Antiquities in Peru and Chile, 1837 – 1911 (Gänger 2014); and a wide variety of journal articles, book chapters, auction house catalogs, etc. 

Websites referenced (sample):