Posts about Library of Congress
Lizzo playing James Madison flute owned by Library of Congress - let's talk about the practical use of historical objects
So the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, invited Lizzo via Twitter to play some of the flutes in the LOC's collection. Last night, Lizzo played James Madison's flute. The idea of a powerful Black woman playing an instrument owned by the man who came up with the 3/5ths Compromise is delightful and I love it - but of course it's got me thinking about the practical use of historical objects.
Just a couple of months ago, ICOM's Costume Committee tore into Ripley's for letting Kim Kardashian wear Marilyn Monroe's dress to the Met Gala. They made the point that the dress is fragile and irreplaceable, though Ripley's claims it was not damaged.
Now, the flute is less fragile than the dress - Lizzo didn't drop it, it's back home, everything is fine. But ICOM Costume also stated "the [dress's cultural] heritage must be understood as belonging to humanity, regardless of which institution has custody of the property." So I am wondering if ICOM Cimcim (the music and instruments committee) might have something similar to say - that it could have been damaged, and as Presidential property etc etc, it should not have been put at risk. Alternately, they might say "this was a different scenario, it's completely legitimate to use instruments in this way, it happens all the time."
So the question I would like to discuss is: Can we balance the practical use of historical objects - maintaining their original purpose, not just putting them on display - with the need to preserve irreplaceable cultural heritage? Musical instruments seem to come up in this regard often, as with this article about the Strads at the Met getting played occasionally. But are there other objects that can be maintained for their original use, rather than shuttered away in vaults or high-security cases? What do we think, r/MuseumPros?