Shifting the Narrative at Harvard Museums: Good, but Not Enough
Art Business

Shifting the Narrative at Harvard Museums: Good, but Not Enough

“ Harvard Art Museum ,” Bill Comstock The United States has begun to slowly and painfully peel back the layers of racism upon which this nation has been built. From the opening of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 to the New York Times ’ “1619 Project” observing the 400 th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, it’s no longer possible for white people to cover their ears, eyes, or mouths and claim to have played no role in it. Now, the public sphere echoes with claims of innocence or outrage at the accusation, overpowering the voices of those working to correct these historical wrongs in some way. The art world and the world of universities are no different. They, too, sense they must respond. But the tactics taken show some very different paths to address the past. For example, art museums grace the grounds of many major public and private universities. Generous donors give both dollars and artworks to these institutions. Not surprisingly, Harvard and its art museums are filled with memorials to the leaders of commerce, science, and industry—which includes the seldom-spoken-of slave trade. Harvard’s earliest presidents had slaves living and […]

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