Published April 08, 2015

Museum ownership

Reed, curator at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, to lecture on April 14

Victoria Reed, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, will present the next in a series of archaeology lectures at Monmouth College on April 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pattee Auditorium of the Center for Science and Business.
 
Titled “How to Increase Diligence and Build a Museum Collection: Case Studies from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,” Reed’s lecture is sponsored by the Monmouth College classics department, in cooperation with the Western Illinois Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).
 
The Sadler Curator for Provenance in the museum’s department of curatorial planning and project management, Reed will also speak April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Knox College’s Seymour Lounge. The title of that talk is “Lost and Found: Research on Nazi-Era Looting and Restitution at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” Both talks are free and open to the public.
 
“For much of the 20th century, those involved in the art trade did not ask many questions about provenance, or the history of ownership,” said Reed. “As long as the origins of works of art were kept confidential, there was no way for museums, collectors, or dealers themselves to find out whether the masterpieces that they were acquiring had been freshly looted, smuggled, stolen, or forcibly sold; or whether, on the contrary, these works of art were legally on the market.”
 
By turning a blind eye to questions of provenance, both the legitimate market and non-profit institutions such as art museums have found themselves in possession of works of art to which they do not have good title. As a result, in recent years, American art museums have had to deaccession works of art, removing them from their collections for return to their rightful owners, including indigenous groups and source nations. For legal and ethical reasons, no one participating in the art trade today can ignore issues of provenance.
 
Reed’s lecture will discuss provenance research at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), an encyclopedic museum of over 450,000 objects. It will examine case studies of works of art from the MFA that have been subject to restitution, repatriation, and financial settlements.
 
“As the MFA continues to build its collection, we seek to avoid repeating the mistakes of our past,” added Reed.
 
Emphasizing the importance of due diligence as part of the acquisition process, particularly when considering antiquities and archaeological material, her lecture will address the issue of increased responsibility and transparency in museum collecting.
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