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Based on two international conferences held at Cornell University and the Freie Universität of Berlin in 2010 and 2015, this volume is the first ever to explicitly address the destruction of plaster cast collections of ancient Mediterranean and Western sculpture. Focusing on Europe, the Americas, and Japan, art historians, archaeologists and a literary scholar discuss how different museum and academic traditions – national as well as disciplinary –, notions of value and authenticity, or colonialism impacted the fate of collections. The texts offer detailed documentation of degrees of destruction by spectacular acts of defacement, demolition, discarding, or neglect. They also shed light on the accompanying discourses regarding aesthetic ideals, political ideologies, educational and scholarly practices, or race. With destruction being understood as a critical part of reception, the histories of cast collections defy the traditional, homogenous narrative of rise and decline. Their diverse histories provide critical evidence for rethinking the use and display of plaster cast collections in the contemporary moment.
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