William St Clair

Curatorial Quandaries

Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums … and Why They Should Stay There

By

Oxford University Press 369pp £25 order from our bookshop

Tiffany Jenkins’s new book about museums is partly historical, partly political. ‘I fear for their future’, she writes on the first page. But when she tells us of the hundred new museums opening in China each year and of highly ambitious projects in the Middle East and elsewhere, it becomes evident that it is not museums as such that are the problem, but her worries about what they do. Her main aim is to ‘to restate the role of the museum and to reassess what we should expect of objects’. She wants to ‘get the right balance on the relationship between culture and power’, using the word ‘culture’ here, as she tends to do throughout the book, to mean things in museums curated by ‘members of the cultural profession’.

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