Journal Article

Collecting Asian art, defining gender roles

Chelsea Schlievert and Jason Steuber

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 20, issue 2, pages 291-303
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online March 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhn001
Collecting Asian art, defining gender roles

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  • Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections
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This paper explores collecting and collections of Asian art during World War II to illustrate how women temporarily assumed leadership roles in American museums. It details abrupt changes experienced by museums following the departure of men in these traditionally male-dominated professions. For example, understood to be the ‘right man at the right place’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Ruth Lindsay Hughes was appointed Acting Curator of the Oriental collection in 1942 after Curator Laurence Sickman was called to active service. The chronicled museum activities, showing how Hughes fashioned the Asian art and acquisitions combined with how she utilized the collection in the home front's wartime efforts, illustrate changes in the ways collections were curated and interpreted. Within this framework, the lens of gender brings into focus the wider context of how American collections of Asian art were incorporated into the complicated international war effort involving politics, dealers and museums.

Journal Article.  7163 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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