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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.

  • Flair Magazine and the Ransom Center

    In 1950, Fleur Cowles (1908-2009) created a publication that became a landmark in publishing. Flair's provocative design, enlightened feature articles, and sophisticated advertising layouts left an indelible mark on publishing history. Fleur Cowles and Flair were and remain synonymous.

    Cowles prescribed a refreshing juxtaposition of the works of writers, artists, critics, and other notables. Indeed, the heart of Flair was its success in pulling together the new, the controversial, the innovative, and the creative.

    Like Flair, the Ransom Center brings together literature and the arts in an innovative way. The works of a rich cross-section of authors, artists, and designers exist side-by-side in the Center, yielding the same sort of insightful adventures found among the pages of Flair.

    Since 1994, the Ransom Center's Fleur Cowles Flair Symposium has honored the ideals set forth by Fleur Cowles and her landmark Flair magazine.

  • About Fleur Cowles

    Fleur Cowles was an American original. She made her way into the public eye as Associate Editor of Look magazine in the late 1940s, and made her distinct mark in 1950 when she published Flair, still considered one of the most innovative magazines in the history of publishing.

    For over 50 years Cowles was a prolific writer, producing 16 books, including her collections of autobiographical anecdotes Friends and Memories and All Too True. Her paintings, filled with jungle beasts and enormous flowers, first received international recognition at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1965. She exhibited her artwork more than 40 times in galleries and museums around the world.

    Throughout the years, Fleur Cowles received numerous honors: she was Ambassador of the United States to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, received the Queen's medal and has been decorated by four other governments, is a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, and carries an honorary degree of Bachelor of Law. She also served on boards supporting such activities as art, literature, and the preservation of wildlife.

  • Past Symposia

    Ethical Challenges in Cultural Stewardship
    April 4–6, 2019
    Addressing ethical challenges in cultural stewardship.

    Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy
    October 28–30, 2015
    Presented by the Harry Ransom Center and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections on the occasion of the opening of the Gabriel García Márquez archive at the Ransom Center.

    Cultural Life During Wartime, 1861–1865
    September 18-20, 2014
    In conjunction with the exhibition The Making of Gone With The Wind.

    Visions of the Future
    November 1–3, 2012
    Inspired by the exhibition I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America.

    Shaping the History of Photography
    September 30–October 2, 2010
    In conjunction with the exhibition Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.

    Creating a Usable Past: Writers, Archives, & Institutions
    November 13–15, 2008
    In conjunction with the exhibition The Mystique of the Archive.

    The Sense of Our Time: Norman Mailer and America in Conflict
    November 9–11, 2006
    In conjunction with the exhibition Norman Mailer Takes On America.

    The State and Fate of Modernism
    February 19–21, 2004
    In conjunction with the exhibition Make it New: The Rise of Modernism.

    Writers' Rights
    November 1–2, 2002; University of London

    The Infinite Library: Old Worlds and New: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections in the 21st Century
    November 3–4, 2000

    Writing the Lives of Women
    November 6–7, 1998
    In conjunction with the exhibition Imaging Women.

    Shouting in the Evening: British Theater 1956-1996
    November 8–9, 1996
    In conjunction with the exhibition Shouting in the Evening: British Theater 1956-1996.

    The State and Fate of Publishing
    November 11–12, 1994