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Heritage in Conflict: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript

A lecture by Heghnar Watenpaugh, University of California, Davis

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095


At the intersection of professional practice, academia, and popular culture, heritage is productive of cultural, economic and political capital. In 2010, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America sued the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, challenging the Getty‚s ownership of the Canon Tables. These are pages detached from the Zeytun Gospels, a manuscript illuminated in 1256 by Toros Roslin, the most important Armenian miniatures painter of the Middle Ages. The rest of the manuscript resides at the Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan, Armenia. During the last 100 years, this manuscript went from
being an element of liturgy and a powerful apotropaic device to a work of art housed in secular museums. It has now become, to many, a symbol of the Armenian heritage lost during the Genocide that must be reclaimed. The lecture does not comment on the legal issues involved, rather, it views this as a historically situated example that raises questions, and reveals how individuals and groups perceive objects of heritage, and how institutions and mechanisms for the use, preservation, display or commodification of heritage function in practice. Conflicting and mutually exclusive ways of conceiving and using art may be present in the worlds of
religion, law, art history, museums, the commercial art world, international development, nationalism, state institutions, etc. The focus on conflict also sheds light on possibilities for consensus and resolution in ways that balance the claims and goals of the parties involved.


Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She is an expert on the architecture and urbanism of the Islamic world, as well as museums, heritage and preservation in the Mediterranean region.  Her book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (2004) received the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. She has also received the Best Article Award from the Syrian Studies Association in 2007 for her essay, „Deviant Dervishes,‰ published in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. She has received fellowships from the J. Paul Getty Trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the office of the President of Rice University, the Social Science Research Council, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the Office of the President of the University of California. She held the Aga Khan Career Development Professorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001-2005. She recently completed her term on the Board of Directors of the Society of Architectural Historians, and now serves on the Board of the Syrian Studies Association.

Cost : Free and Open to the Public

(310) 825-1455

Sponsor(s): , Art History

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