Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

The Collected Past

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

The Collected Past

Article excerpt

The collected past Review of: Stefanie Gänger, Relics of the Past. The Collecting and Study of Pre-Columbian Antiquities in Peru and Chile, 1837-1911, Oxford University Press. Oxford. 311 pp. + 20 ill. £65. ISBN-10: 0199687692, ISBN-13: 978-0199687695

The history of archaeology in Peru and Chile has been strengthened over the past two decades by ever deeper and sophisticated works employing internalist perspectives, and above all, externalist ones.1

Stefanie Gänger belongs to a new generation of researchers in the history of archaeology of Peru and Chile. Her book is an important contribution to this field, especially because the epoch related to antiquarianism and collectionism has almost always been marginalised for failing to meet the requirements of modern scientific discipline. The practice of collecting, which today has negative connotations, however, used to be quite widespread and was viewed very differently. Indeed, this was recognised and valued by the local elites in Latin America and was the basis for the subsequent founding of many national museums. In fact, collecting has lived alongside scientific and professional archaeology until the modern day, and there is debate surrounding this activity from anthropology, history and, of course, from archaeology.

Gänger's book examines this phenomenon in two countries: Peru and Chile during much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1837-1911). Her information comes from archives, primary and secondary sources, and visits to the countries and institutions mentioned in the text. The four chapters of this book are organised geographically from north to south, starting with Peru. Before starting with the topics to be developed in detail, Gänger's introduction explains the basic development of the book. She then closes the book with a series of conclusions. A simple location map of cities in South America, another map from the late nineteenth century to give an idea of the cartography of the time, an illustration of the first Inca of Tawantinsuyu, Manco Capac, by Guarnan Poma de Ayala, a photo of street with Inca walls in Cusco from collection Squier, a representation of the Inca Dynasty from the late nineteenth century, a map of the area of Araucanía and Valdivia in Chile in the late nineteenth century and thirteen other illustrations of objects isolated and arranged in archaeological collections from the late nineteenth century provide an idea of the topics covered here. Abundant footnotes complete references to the various topics covered in the book.

In her introduction Gänger describes the environment in which the collecting habits of the local elites were developed in Peru and Chile, especially in the capital cities and other major cities of each country. It also summarises the studies that have been conducted on collecting and the history of archaeology in general in both countries, describing the different approaches that the authors have taken, and finishes by summarising the chapters of the book.

With regard to the milieu of nineteenth century cities where antique collections are found, Gänger make visible a phenomenon that has not been carefully studied, which justifies the publication and reading of this book: the historical analysis of the formation of the collections generated by native and immigrant residents of these cities. As Gänger states, because they come from countries with colonial or economic ascendancy at that time, travelers of different forms (military, scientific, religious, etc.) have received increased attention in the archaeological and historical historiography. In addition, many were part of expeditions sponsored by state or academic institutions that assured academic visibility and allowed them to operate in the hegemonic academic circles of the time. In fact, as noted in this book, many of these travellers made first contact with many collectors and visited, studied in detail, and even bought parts of their collections. …

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