What if the objects behind glass cases in museums were not mere things, but living beings and spectral presences that require active physical and cultural care, even veneration? Archival evidence from the Madras Government Museum in India shows how, in the early 20th century, this view of religious images and relics as living things shaped the practices of museum scholars and staff, government officials, and Hindu and Buddhist devotees. Sanchita Balachandran will describe this intriguing period in the Museum’s history, and consider its implications for contemporary museums and their mandate to store and care for things/beings.
Cosponsored by the Department of History of Art and the Mellon/Penn/Philadelphia Museum of Art Object-Based Learning Initiative.
Sanchita Balachandran is Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University where she teaches courses related to the technical study and analysis of ancient objects, and the history, ethics and practice of art conservation. She trained at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University as an objects conservator specializing in preservation of archaeological materials. The research presented here was completed under the auspices of a Fulbright Award from the United States-India Educational Foundation. Her other research interests include the fabrication technologies of ancient Greek vases, and the materials and meanings of color and polychromy in the ancient world.