The Ethics of Collecting in the 21st Century

December 2, 2021 (Thursday)December 3, 2021 (Friday)

Virtual Event

The Ethics of Collecting in the 21st Century

2021 Jay I. Kislak Symposium

Presented by The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

In light of current debates about historic record (Who decides? What qualifies? Whose story does it tell?) this symposium will reach out to colleagues working in archives and special collections to reflect on the urgent ethical challenges confronting their repositories around collection building past and present, including description; provenance; repatriation; monetization; the right to be forgotten; and post-custodial/post-colonial archives and print collections.

The keynote speaker is Erin Thompson, Associate Professor of Fraud, Forensics, Art Law & Crime, Department of Art and Music, John Jay College, City University of New York. She is the author of Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors (Yale 2016) and is currently completing Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments (Norton 2021). 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

5:30pm | Keynote

Erin L. Thompson (John Jay College, City University of New York)
The Destructions of Scholarship: Thoughts on the Ethics of Preservation

Friday, December 3, 2021

9:00am | Welcome

9:15-10:45am | ACQUISITIONS

This panel will look at issues surrounding the acquisition of individual works and collections by libraries and museums.

  • Anne Brancati (Penn Museum)
  • Arthur Fournier (Arthur Fournier Fine & Rare)

10:45-11:00am | Break

11:00am-12:30pm | REPATRIATION

This panel will consider questions around the repatriation of materials, whether looted, stolen, or otherwise inappropriately acquired.

  • Lisa Leff (American University)
  • Nancy Moses (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)
  • Christine Weller (Penn Libraries)

12:30-1:45pm | Lunch break

1:45-3:15pm | DESCRIPTION

This panel will delve into the problematic nature of language used to describe works and collections relating to marginalized people and examine the work being done to remedy this situation.

  • Dorothy Berry (Harvard University)
  • Kim Lawson (University of British Columbia)
  • Violet Fox (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
  • Kenvi Phillips (Brown University)

3:15-3:30 | Break


This panel will explore the  burgeoning world of post-custodial practices.

  • Nancy Godoy (Arizona State University)
  • Brie Gettleson (Penn Libraries)
  • Carlos Juárez (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo)
  • Samip Mallick (South Asian American Digital Archive)
  • Justin Williams (University of Chicago/South Side Home Movie Project)