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September 02, 2006


Ross Day

I fear I must correct myself (the beginning of a trend?): As I discovered by Googling, the Department of Primitive Art Libary first became The Robert Goldwater Library of Primitive Art, and only later truncated to The Robert Goldwater Library. Just don't ask me when, it was years ago. You could look it up!

Ross Day

Ach! I meant "Department of Primitive Art Library".


very cool.

Sylvester Ogbechie

As a scholar, I am sympathetic to anyone invested in the preservation of knowledge. However, I don't think your explanation of why you continue to describe your library's holdings as "primitive art" cuts it. In fact, I think it is at best disingenous, and at workst oturightly racist. The people whose cultural heritage were described as primitive art (resulting from Europe's orgy of genocide against non-Western peoples) are some of the oldest and most complex cultures on the planet. The fact that this kind of usage was acceptable in the past does not justify any effort to sustain it in the present. The world of academia has long moved away from this kind of regressive understanding of cultural practice, and to see a librarian still hold fast to its racist premise is quite shocking. If you are indeed overseeing a collection of antiquated material that purports to provide any form of knowledge on "primitive art" or "primitive peoples", I suggest you gracefully retire, and consign your entire heap of books to the ashes. The only other alternative is to move into the present, and understand that the true responsibility of your position as a librarian is not only the preservation of important texts, but the deassessioning of those texts whose assumptions and positions have become untenable. From your description above, it seems the library you claim to work for has actually moved beyond your own position to a more enlightened one; you refusal to accept their reformulation of the identity of their library thus makes you an anachronism. By this stance, you not only undermine your position, you cast aspersions on their overall program. Congratulations.

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