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James Cuno, On Heritage

Posted by Geoff Edgers  June 23, 2006 04:15 PM
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An Italian government official's remark caught the attention of Jim Cuno, the former Harvard Art Museums director who now heads the Art Institute of Chicago. Cuno writes us: "I was surprised by Mr. Proietti's remark that 'The United States doesn't have an ancient heritage.' It is true that the United States, like the Republic of Italy, is a modern political entity that by definition can not have an ancient heritage. But if the Republic of Italy can claim the artifacts of ancient Rome and Etruria as its ancient heritage, the US can claim as its ancient heritage the artifacts of the peoples who lived throughout the Mississippi River region, the Southwest, and so many other places on the land that now lies within our national borders. Surely Mr. Proietti knows the recent research that shows that long before Europeans arrived on this continent, the land had been considerably changed by large populations of people who lived in settled areas with cultural and utilitarian objects and dwellings of distinction. It is even argued that there were cities in the "new world" larger than any in Europe before 1492. Our obligation, as custodians of the ancient artifacts of the peoples who once lived on land within our modern borders - like Italy's with regard to the antiquities of Rome, Etruria, not to mention Greece - is to scientifically excavate, preserve, and share them with the world whose heritage it ultimately is."

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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