Ransom Center to Hold Symposium on Ethical Art Collecting

by Paula Newton January 21, 2019

Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin. Image via www.lakeflato.com

“Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship” may not sound like the most exciting title for a symposium, but it is the title of the13th biennial Flair Symposium, which takes place April 4-6, 2019, at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Ransom Center houses one of the most eclectic and extensive collections of objects and documents. It describes itself on its website:

The Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Its extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of writers and artists, deepening our understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art, and the performing arts. Visitors engage with the Center’s collections through research and study, exhibitions, publications, and a rich variety of program offerings including readings, talks, symposia, and film screenings.

The biennial Flair Symposium is one of those programs. It grew out of the short-lived, but critically acclaimed Flair magazine founded by editor, writer and artist Fleur Cowles in 1950. Time magazine described at its launch as “a fancy bouillabaisse of VogueTown & Country, Holiday, etc.” The symposia may be described similarly. Since 1994, the Ransom Center’s Flair Symposium has continued the work of Cowles and her landmark magazine by convening interdisciplinary conversations unlikely to happen elsewhere.

For “Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship,” they have gathered archivists, attorneys, conservators, curators, educators, librarians, scholars and others. They will discuss:

•Where does a collection belong? Who decides?
•What happens when ethical issues in the present call for researchers and institutions to re-examine existing collections?
•How should ethics inform decisions about deaccessioning, repatriation, change in mission and collection development?
•How should institutions and communities responsibly collect, curate, conserve and provide access to records of oppression, hate and violence?
•How should institutions and communities confront and rectify exclusionary practices?

Panels will put individuals from varied fields and institutions in conversation with one another. In the symposium’s keynote, New York Times bestselling writer Joyce Maynard will reflect on her correspondence, at age 18, with J.D. Salinger, its consequences, what happened to those letters twenty-five years later, and what we can learn from the story in the age of the Me Too movement.

The event ends with a discussion of how organizations and individuals can build more ethical organizations. For more information and to register, go here. The symposium will be webcast.









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