Collecting the East

Instructor: Elisabeth Fraser

This art history seminar looks at the close relationship between collecting and the histories of travel and colonialism, with a focus on the long nineteenth century, the era in which the modern museum was created.  While recognizing the impetus (and opportunities) modern European empires gave to collecting, the class nonetheless challenges the idea that collecting implies a one-way looking eastward from an all-powerful Euroamerican center toward a disempowered periphery.  Agency, resistance, and cultural exchange are also to be found in collecting histories.

Taking a case studies approach, our class will focus on three types of collection in three distinct geographies:
    1.  Empire and the Making of the Museum: Egypt, Turkey, and India
    2.  The Costume Book as Collection and Cross-Cultural Artifact: Ottoman Empire
    3.  Travelers as Cross-Cultural Collectors: Japan