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Experts Discuss the Meaning of Ownership and Stewardship of Cultural Property at Drexel’s Annual Museum Leadership Conference

December 04, 2014

The second annual museum leadership conference at Drexel is entitled "Cultural Properties: Ownership, Stewardship and Responsibility."
The second annual museum leadership conference at Drexel is entitled "Cultural Properties: Ownership, Stewardship and Responsibility."

What does ownership truly mean with regard to art or other cultural property? And how does ownership differ from stewardship? This December, Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, in association with its new graduate program in museum leadership, will host a two-day conference to discuss these questions and others that loom large in the museum world.

Experts from around the world, including jurists, philosophers, anthropologists, archeologists, museum professionals and private collectors, will come together at Drexel from Friday, Dec. 12 to Saturday, Dec. 13 for the second annual museum leadership conference, entitled "Cultural Properties: Ownership, Stewardship and Responsibility."

Through four panels, the experts will examine from a variety of perspectives the meanings and current usage of three key terms with regard to cultural properties: ownership, stewardship and responsibility. The goal of the conference is to explore the boundaries of these concepts across cultures in the 21st century.

“The question of whether and how an object is truly owned by a particular party is central to many disputes over cultural properties. Similar questions also arise about the nature of cultural stewardship and responsibility. But definitions and understanding of these terms differ across the field,” said Derek Gillman, distinguished visiting professor in the Westphal College and former executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation, who organized the conference.

“The key purposes in organizing this conference are to clarify this terminology for those working in the museum field, identify common ground around these terms and to better understand the nature of the differences. We also want to find ways of talking about these things that make sense more broadly – not just within Western cultures, but across the globe.”

Students from Drexel’s museum leadership graduate program also will be in attendance at the conference.

“A keen understanding and appreciation of the many responsibilities and challenges of stew­arding collections that are held in the public trust is at the core of good museum leadership,” said Danielle Rice, PhD, director of the museum leadership graduate program and former executive director for the Delaware Art Museum. “For this reason, the museum leadership program is proud to be hosting this conference again this year and we’re thrilled that our students will have the opportunity to learn from so many leading scholars in the field.”

The conference will be held in the URBN Center Annex (3401 Filbert Street). It is free to Drexel and Penn faculty, staff and students (with valid ID). It is also open to the public. Tickets for Friday, Dec. 12, are $40; for Saturday, Dec. 13, $80; and for both Friday and Saturday are $100. Non-Drexel and Penn student tickets are $25 for both days with a valid student ID. To register, click here. For more information, click here.  

Among the twenty panelists are Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Marc-André Renold, director of the Art-Law Centre, Geneva;  Hugh Eakin, senior editor of the New York Review of Books; Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at NYU; Jay Bernstein, distinguished professor of philosophy at the New School; Larry Rosen, professor of anthropology at Princeton; Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman, Al West and Fred Simeone, collectors; Manny Wheeler, director of the Navaho Nation Museum; and Tang Keyang, assistant professor at Renmin University, Beijing.

The conference is co‑sponsored by the Art-Law Centre at the University of Geneva.

Full schedule below.

Friday, Dec. 12

Introduction at 4 p.m.
Derek Gillman
, distinguished visiting professor of art history and museum leadership at Drexel University, and Danielle Rice, professor and program director of museum leadership at Drexel University

The Shape of Law at 4:15 p.m.

  • Moderator: Derek Gillman, distinguished visiting professor of art history and museum leadership at Drexel University)
  • Timothy O’Hagan, emeritus professor of philosophy, University of East Anglia
    The idea of cultural patrimony revisited
  • Jay Bernstein, university distinguished professor of philosophy, New School
    Religious artifacts and heritage artifacts: do we have a duty of preservation?
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law, NYU
    Cosmopolitan versus nationalist approaches to cultural properties
  • Marc-André Renold, professor of law and director of Art Law Centre, University of Geneva
    Solving ownership issues in civil and common law: can co-ownership be a solution?
  • Stephen Urice, professor of law, University of Miami
    Stewardship, responsibility and the common law trust

Welcome Reception at 6:30 p.m.
All registrants are welcome to attend.
URBN Center Main Lobby (3501 Market Street)

Saturday, Dec. 13

Forms of Cultural Property at 8:30 a.m.

  • Moderator: Amy Landers, professor of law, Drexel University
  • Lawrence Rosen, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology, Princeton
    Valuing Native intellectual productions: is a unique regime appropriate?
  • Manuelito “Manny” Wheeler, director of Navaho Nation Museum, Arizona
    Ownership and stewardship of, and responsibility for Native American art
  • Shelby Tisdale, vice-president of curatorial and exhibitions, Autry National Center of the American West, LA
    Museological issues with ownership, stewardship and responsibility
  • Jane Anderson, assistant professor of anthropology and museum studies, NYU
    Are there collective rights to art?
  • Jon Coddington, professor of architecture, Drexel University
    Architecture and cultural properties: the case for renovations

Coffee Break at 10:30 am
URBN Annex Lobby (3401 Filbert Street)

Collecting Institutions at 11 a.m.

  • Moderator: Martha Lucy, assistant professor of art history, Drexel University
  • Timothy Rub, director, Philadelphia Museum of Art
    American museums: ownership or stewardship?
  • Dan Rahimi, executive director of galleries, University of Pennsylvania Museum
    Owning or stewarding another culture?
  • Nancy Odegaard, head of the preservation division at the Arizona State Museum, professor of anthropology, University of Arizona
    Conservation approaches to Native American art
  • Dennis Wint, teaching professor of museum leadership, Drexel University
    Science museums and their responsibilities
  • Danielle Rice, professor and program director of museum leadership, Drexel University
    Deaccessioning in the context of stewardship and responsibility

Lunch at 1 p.m.
A list of nearby restaurants will be provided.

Public v. Private Panel at 2:15 p.m.

  • Moderator: Stephen Urice, professor of law, University of Miami
  • Al West, collector, chairman and CEO, SEI Investments
    Collector’s perspective
  • Fred Simeone, collector, emeritus chair of neurosurgery, Pennsylvania Hospital
    Collector’s perspective
  • Marsha Perelman, collector, emeritus chair, Franklin Institute, and Jeffrey Perelman, collector, chairman and CEO,  JEP Management
    Collectors’ perspective
  • Hugh Eakin, senior editor, NY Review of Books
    Ownership and stewardship from the media perspective

The first annual museum leadership conference took place in March 2014. At the one-day conference, prominent leaders in the field discussed key issues facing directors and trustees in building, maintaining and sustaining museums in the 21st century. Keynote speakers included Camille Akeju, director of the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, DC, who addressed museums of ethnic identity; Ford Bell, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, who spoke about museum governance; and Julian Siggers, PhD, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who discussed museums and financial sustainability.

About Drexel’s Museum Leadership Program
Drexel’s graduate program in museum leadership began in the fall of 2013. The program prepares students for leadership roles in museums across the country and around the world. The Master of Science degree is designed to meet the needs of both mid-level museum professionals who want to advance their careers and students who are aspiring leaders in the field. The 45-credit, hybrid program includes a combination of on-campus, online and practicum coursework. It was developed in partnership with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, which serves as a learning laboratory for students, along with other area museums. The inaugural museum leadership class will graduate in June 2015. For more information, visit


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