This past August 23rd, the Wiese Foundation gathered notable professionals specialized in the management and research of archaeological collections in the country. “On this occasion, we are gathered for an issue which, although it is absolutely central to allow the development of archaeological sites, it is seldom addressed: collections policies and management.
At the Wiese Foundation, we understand archaeological collections in their role as generators of identity and social identity. For all of these reasons, we have convened distinguished speakers from the local and international context in order to ensure the quality of the content of this colloquium”. With these words, Claudet Lascosque, General Manager of the Wiese Foundation, inaugurated the event.
The colloquium started at eight o’clock in the morning and continued up to seven in the evening. The first table focused on the “Formation and historical dynamics of collections in Peru”. The second table discussed “Collections and specialists”. The third table covered “The social role of Collections nowadays”. The fourth table focused on the “Institutional Sustainability” of the institutions connected to the work, and the central theme for the fifth table was “Collections as an axis of development. Final reflections”.
Table 1: Formation and historical dynamics of collections in Peru
“Material archaeological remains are nothing but the intervention of human beings over nature, which consists in modifying it and altering it. All of us, living human beings, do it, but man has the particularity of generating, over time, different ways of doing the same thing, and those different ways of doing the same thing give us a growing, ascending history”, by Luis Guillermo Lumbreras.
The speakers at the first table were Luis Guillermo Lumbreras (professor emeritus at UNMSM and former director of the National Culture Institute), Virgilio Freddy Cabanillas (Head of the research group Cultural Heritage and Heritage Education from the Seminar on Andean Rural History), Carlos del Aguila (Head of Petro Peru’s Unit on Cultural Management and Social Responsibility) and Marta Kania (teacher at the Jagiellonian University of Poland).
For Lumbreras, “The archaeological collection started with the gathering of a set of objects considered to be of a high artistic level, which evidenced the important tasks performed by people over time. Art collections are the starting point for this function of collection-building. Over time, art collections have been maintained, but archaeological collections have been evolving in a different way, although the field of art has been maintained as one of utmost importance. The selection and presentation of material remains left behind by social activity, […] at the same time, we have been building through archaeology a different way of appreciating them, a way of understanding, rather than the excellences of the human being, the simple and common activity of human beings and the construction of the space within which they live. Material archaeological remains are nothing but the intervention of human beings over nature, which consists in modifying it and altering it. All of us, living human beings, do it, but man has the particularity of generating, over time, different ways of doing the same thing, and those different ways of doing the same thing give us a growing, ascending history. This enables us, archaeologists, to build stories from the accumulation and the development of this collection of vestiges that we leave behind with our social activity”.
Later, Virgilio Freddy Cabanillas indicated that it was “necessary to update the website”. “I believe that it would be a leap, because that information, those images, that content, must be seen by all of society”. Carlos del Aguila stated that “in spite of all of the significant progress made, we are in a very concerning situation by not fulfilling the expectations for such a volume of collections”. And, finally, Martha Kania spoke about museums and nationalisms, about how museums become temples for the nation and how this reinforces identity, as well as how it turned out at the dawn of the XXth century, based on Anderson’s postulates.
Table 2: Collections and Specialists
“We have to think about information: how we manage it and how we store it” by Kevin Gosling
The speakers at the second table were Kevin Gosling (General Manager of Collections Trust), Rafael Vega-Centeno Sara-Laafosse (teacher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru), Luisa Vetter Parodi (holder of a bachelor’s degree in Archaeology and a Doctorate in History with a major in Andean Studies), Ruben Buitron (Head of Laboratory at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex).
Gosling presented his ideas according to the strategies pertaining to registration and cataloguing, conservation and research, stating that “we must think about information: how we manage it, how we store it … I come from an organization that is in charge of setting standards and norms and we have several levels of norms. We can start with those at the political level, at the government level and the level of interest groups, setting up a cooperation for handling the different situations”.
Rafael Vega-Centeno mentioned that “one can never say that the research on a collection is over. On the contrary, a collection that has already been researched is, rather, a better candidate for future research than one that has never been touched”. Luisa Vetter Parodi pointed out the importance of “asking ourselves whether the archaeologist is a professional who only dedicates to excavating or one who can perform his profession by studying museum collections”. Jose Alva said that “the depots of the Cao Museum house an enormous diversity of materials that correspond to the entire occupational history of the site”.
Table 3: The social role of Collections nowadays
“The museum is not there just to give, but to interact”, by Gabriela Bertone
The speakers at the third table were Gabriela Bertone (archaeologist from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos), José Carlos Cornejo Arana (Tourism Oficial Guide from Instituto Superior de Turismo Cevatur – Peru), Rosario Arias Quincot (author of “Ianchaak. A travel to the realm of the Moches”) and Isabel Collazos (Curator of the Larco Museum).
For Bertone, “the museum is not there just to give, but to interact. Sometimes we err by having impeccable collections, but with much less information than we could offer”. In turn, José Carlos Cornejo Arana stated that “The educational services department [of a museum] contributes to building bridges between the collections and society”.
Rosario Arias Quincot said that she hopes that “the novel Ianchaak: A travel to the realm of the Moches” will be a connecting point that may serve to link these two worlds: the one from the XXIst century and the one from the Moches, exhibited in the collections and museums”. For her part, Isabel Collazos focused her message on the fact that “we must find the balance between two great treasures: the public and the collections”.
Table 4: Institutional Sustainability
“The collections are still the heart of museums and what we must try to drive is the way in which the usage of these collections is approached”, by Pedro Pablo Alayza.
The speakers at this fourth table were Denisse Pozzi-Escot (director of the Site Museum of Pachacamac), Mariana Watson (General Manager for the North American market with the receptive tourism operator Coltur Peru) and Pedro Pablo Alayza (director of the Pedro de Osma Museum).
Denisse Pozzi-Escot described the strategies that they are using for the conservation of the collections housed at the Museum of Pachacamac. The renowned archaeologist indicated that “the expansion of the city of Lima and the urban pressure are actually exerting great pressure for seeking strategies that allow us to protect this important sanctuary”.
For her part, Mariana Watson stated the importance of asking ourselves: “Where are we now? Where do we want to go? And what must we do to get there? There are many goals that a cultural institution must set for itself. Each one will have its own mix”. As for Pedro Pablo Alayza, he said that “The collections are still the heart of museums and what we must try to drive is the way in which the usage of these collections is approached”.
Table 5: Collections as an axis of development. Final reflections.
“It is, indeed, urgent to be sharing what we have because it is the only way to give accessibility to the collections”, by Ulla Holmquist
The speakers of the fifth table were Claudia Porto (museologist from the Chamber of Representatives of the National Congress of Brazil), Ulla Holmquist (former Minister of Culture of Peru) and Rafael Vega-Centeno Sara-Laafosse (professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru).
Claudia Porto spoke about the collections and the way in which they contribute significantly to the population in order to generate critical thinking and as a means to generate social development. She mentioned examples from Brazil related to museums as social initiatives.
As for Rafael Vega-Centeno, he indicated that “every community, from the smallest one to the greatest nation, requires a memory in order to consolidate itself, but memory has difficulty to anchor itself if it does not have a materiality to tie it with and, what do museums have? What do collections have? They have materiality”.
Finally, Ulla Holmquist stated that it is important to “have a policy for the registration of the codes of our museum, regardless of how small it is. The photograph and the code will be our starting point… It is, indeed, urgent to be sharing what we have because it is the only way to give accessibility to the collections… I see this type of gathering in a very positive and optimistic way, because this type of experience did not exist 25 years ago. We have an opportunity for creating our own proposal”.
Conclusions: “Regarding an archaeological collection, a foundation does not play a philanthropic role: it assumes a responsibility”, by Ingrid Claudet Lascosque
Ingrid Claudet Lascosque, General Manager of the Wiese Foundation stated the following: “some time ago, when I joined the Wiese Foundation, I learned that, regarding an archaeological collection, a foundation does not play a philanthropic role: it assumes a responsibility, it assumes the duty to preserve and to share knowledge and give it back to society. Once we are aware of that, we make many decisions. It is up to us to be clear about the diagnosis and the action plan for the schedules that we must follow in order to undertake projects. We must find the policy and strategy guidelines necessary to be able to obtain the availability of the resource and never lose sight of the fact that all projects start and finish with people”. This is how the Vth Colloquium on Archaeology “Collection Policies and Management in Peru” ended.