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Publication Detail
Collecting practices in the Ottoman Empire
  • Publication Type:
    Conference presentation
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Patrizio Gunning L
  • Date:
  • Name of Conference:
    ICOM 25th General Conference KYOTO 2019 - Museums as Hubs of Contemporary Collecting: The Future of Collecting and its Traditions
  • Conference place:
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
  • Keywords:
    Collecting history, British Museum, Archives, Diplomacy, Consuls, Ottoman Empire, Digital Humanities, Antiquities
Collecting Practices in the Ottoman Empire 1800-1912 ​​ ​​In order to engage with an ever emerging amount of restitution requests and understand their future in an increasingly globalised world, it is important for museums to understand the precise history of their collections.The British Museum is keen to understand the policies that guided its collecting activity in the 19th and early 20th century, to understand that history and to actively engage in conversation regarding the public value of the collections. These histories are complex, there is no one fits all approach, but often methodologies of collecting changed according to the different historical moments. A pilot in collaboration with the British Museum Archives seeks to understand the precise use of diplomacy in the procurement of antiquities in the territory of the former Ottoman Empire across those different historical moments. It seeks to assess how the methodology of collecting pieces evolved and modified according to the different political circumstances, international trends and the multiple personalities in charge at the Museum. ​​This research has the potential to enable the Museum to address increasing demands of restitution and activism from indigenous communities, pairing with academics and other European institutions to discuss and find the most durable and effective way to open up its history and set the standard for institutional transparency in relation to the provenance of its collections.​​ The paper will present the result of the pilot and the history of a selection of pieces across 4 different historical times to explain concretely how generalisation is impossible and provenance history is critical when trying to understand the past to reassess the future.
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