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Preserving the Trust: Art and the Art Museum amidst Financial Crisis

March 16, 2009

Watch the YouTube footage: 

Link: Wiki about the Symposium from the Cultural Production program at Brandeis University

An interdisciplinary symposium. Panelists include literary scholar Stephen Greenblatt, poet Robert Pinsky, and author Claire Messud. Moderator: Mark Auslander (Anthropology, Cultural Production, Brandeis University).

This symposium is prompted by the global controversy over the recently proposed closing of Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum and the selling of some or all of its permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, in order to meet general university financial needs. At a time of financial crisis, what is the utility of art and of museums, in universities and in other contexts? Is art the most dispensable and disposable of assets when times are tough? Conversely, might art and museums be understood as especially valuable at moments of economic and social distress, helping to remind a society of its core values, exposing citizens to cultural difference, and providing vital spaces for community-building and democratic debate?

Panelists will give particular attention to the dynamics of "trust" and cultural heritage in the academy and the wider world. To what extent do institutions of higher education hold art and scientific collections as a "sacred trust" for the public? In what respects can and should public museums help build trust and community across the often fractious lines of the body politic? What new models of the museum and its position within universities and the wider social field should be explored in the 21st century?