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Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Thursday, April 4 – Saturday, April 6, 2019

Addressing Today's Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship

"Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship," the 13th biennial Flair Symposium, takes place April 4-6, 2019, at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin.

This Flair Symposium focuses on ethical challenges in the administration and management of our cultural institutions. As recent national conversations remind us, ethical norms are socially constructed in time and place, and our understanding of our responsibilities as stewards of the past continues to evolve. This year’s Flair Symposium has been organized around a series of issues including the global movement of, and trade in, cultural property; changing attitudes toward historical figures represented in our institution’s collections; and our responsibilities to legacy collections that may no longer align with institutional priorities. The symposium will ask how our libraries and museums can responsibly collect, curate, conserve, and provide access to records of oppression, hate, and violence, and we will discuss ways to remedy exclusionary practices in the past.

Archivists, attorneys, conservators, curators, educators, librarians, scholars and others will discuss:

  • Where does a collection belong? Who decides?
  • What happens when ethical issues in the present call for researchers and institutions to re-examine existing collections?
  • How should ethics inform decisions about deaccessioning, repatriation, change in mission and collection development?
  • How should institutions and communities responsibly collect, curate, conserve and provide access to records of oppression, hate and violence?
  • How should institutions and communities confront and rectify exclusionary practices?

Panels will put individuals from varied fields and institutions in conversation with one another. The event ends with a discussion of how organizations and individuals can build more ethical organizations.

Since 1994, the Ransom Center's Flair Symposium has continued the work of editor, writer and artist Fleur Cowles and her landmark Flair magazine by convening interdisciplinary conversations unlikely to happen elsewhere.

Past Flair Symposia include: "Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy" (2015), "Cultural Life During Wartime, 1861-1865" (2014), "Visions of the Future" (2012), "Shaping the History of Photography" (2010), "Creating A Usable Past: Writers, Archives, & Institutions" (2008), "The Sense of Our Time: Norman Mailer and America in Conflict" (2006), "The State and Fate of Modernism" (2004), "Writers' Rights" (2002), "The Infinite Library" (2000), "Writing the Lives of Women" (1998), "Shouting in the Evening: British Theater, 1956-1996" (1996), "The State and Fate of Publishing" (1994).

The Flair Symposium is generously supported by the Fleur Cowles Endowment Fund and is named for Cowles's innovative Flair magazine.