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Cultural Custodians - Anthropological Curators

             The modern museum has come a long way since its emergence in the nineteenth century as a "cabinet of curiosities." Ivan Karp and Steven Levine's Exhibiting Cultures contains varied accounts on the debate of the politics of modern museums. Instead of merely displaying objects, ideally, museum exhibits today draw on recent and evolved scholarship in art, literature, and social history to offer broad interpretations about the origins, meaning and value of objects, as well as theories about the thoughts and behavior of the people who made them and used them.
             Through works such as James Boon's, "Why Museums Make Me Sad," one can see the obvious need for the evolution of museums from "cabinets" to true and fair representations of culture. The transformation of the museum has forced curators to reassess their roles as essential "cultural custodians." The conflict is one it seems that art museums have tried to accept and adapt to as gracefully as possible. It is a conflict that is difficult to ignore, especially in an anthropological light:.
             "Despite the increasing diversity incorporated in art museums, curators and exhibition designers still are struggling to invent ways to accommodate alternative perspectives. This is especially true where exhibitions go beyond the individual artist and make some claim to present a culture or group."(Lavine & Karp 1991: 4).
             Increasingly, curators must question the right of museums to retain the responsibility of validating and confirming tradition and culture, and whether or not they are fair and successful in this.
             Examining fine lines between purely aesthetic art display to true culturally representative art, helps one to understand ways which museums and exhibitions can display art in order to prompt various interpretations from the viewers, as we were shown first hand in the Cantor Art Gallery through the Jacob's Ladder Exhibit. Much like a novel, the museum is a narrative structure which is fundamentally implicated in interpretation.

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