Harvard University is currently in ownership of several African art collections which contain objects and artwork from across the continent. Most of the pieces from these collections remain in storage in the Peabody Museum, while a smaller group of African art works are in storage in the Fogg Museum. Today, there is no on going exhibition of African art anywhere on the Harvard Campus.
As plans for a renovated art museum on Quincy Street and new museums are envisioned for the Allston campus, it is important that a permanent African art gallery be included as part of the larger art museum displays, and that these works be accorded the same respect as art traditions from other areas of the world now on view. While some may consider these pieces to be anthropological artifacts, they are equally important as works of art, and deserve recognition as such.
Today, African art exhibits are a major focal point of the Yale University, Princeton University, and Stanford University museums of art as well as many other leading art institutions in the world. In neglecting the importance and significance of Africa in a global history of artistic expression, Harvard University is making a statement which perpetuates the racism and ethnocentrism of the colonial era.
We, the undersigned, as students at Harvard University, believe that African art is valuable and important in our world\'s history, and the collections of Harvard University should be displayed with the same honor and treatment as those of other traditions.
We believe that these collections should not only be incorporated into plans as museum restructuring takes place, but should be provided with a distinct space, and a curator to study and teach the history of the artworks.
We believe that in recognizing these pieces as art and granting them an appropriate space for display, Harvard will make a statement that it no longer tolerates the archaic, racist views that are causing these collections to be ignored.
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