Public art museums have become necessary fixtures of every city or country with any claim to importance. Yet we have still to understand what happens in them. Civilizing Rituals treats art museums from a new perspective--as ritual settings in their own right and as cultural artifacts that are much more than neutral shelters for art.
Drawing from both anthropological and philosophical literature, Carol Duncan begins by exploring the idea of the art museum-as-ritual. She examines specific musuem rituals in the US, Britain and France including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musuem of Modern Art, the National Gallery in London, the Louvre and several donor memorials including the Frick Collection and the Morgan Library, not only in relation to their political and social contexts but also paying close attention to the details of the museum settings themselves.
Duncan illuminates the ways in which musuems engage their visitors in the performance of ritual scenarios and, through them, commmunicate and affirm ideas, values and social identities. Art museums emerge as significant objects of historical and art-historical inquiry, sites on which political power and social interests and the history of cultural forms visibly intersect.