A Cultural Treasure Hunt
Two Classes Use Text And Ingenuity To Locate Pagodas
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 23:10
The art class is using Google docs to organize their information, and the history class is using a site called Media Kron to organize theirs. A cross between Blogger and Dropbox, Media Kron allows students to post documents, links, photos, and their personal observations to a single site. They can then comment on each other’s posts to help connect the dots between pieces of information.
Both classes now know that the Field Museum in Chicago currently houses three of the 84 carvings.
The discovery led Clarke’s history class to a series of helpful sources.
“In Chicago there’s a person to talk to, and they’re at a museum so they have records,” Daly said. “Things sped up from there.”
Clarke’s class also knows the city in which the other 81 are located. They have yet to find the exact location, however, because a key person involved with the pagodas refuses to reveal it. The dead end, however, has given the class more time to consider Clarke’s second question: to whom does art belong?
The Tushanwan museum considers the pagodas cultural treasures and would like to have them back in its possession. Clarke agrees and hopes that the students’ project will result in the carvings’ repatriation.
“The students are coming to terms with who owns the stuff,” Clarke said. “The Shanghai museum was offered the ability to buy them, but they said they wouldn’t buy them.” From the Mona Lisa to a number of stolen Cambodian Buddhist sculptures currently at The Met in New York, he said, the question of ownership and heritage remains relevant.
“These are cultural treasures,” Bregman said. “Some may think they’re just artwork, but they’re really part of the cultural heritage of this area … and should be repatriated.”
Damien Zhang, a student in Clarke’s course who translated important Chinese articles and A&S ’15, said he felt somewhat surprised that his classmates had taken such an interest in this part of the project.
“The surprising part is seeing everyone trying to find these pagodas and get them back to China,” Zhang said. “They’re not doing this only because it’s an assignment, but because they want to do this.”