Several years ago, inspired by the Brooklyn Historical Society’s award-winning project devoted to teaching effectively with primary sources, I began to consider a radical idea—that the Archives of American Art be included, in some way, in every single undergraduate course and graduate seminar in the history of American art.
Patriotism can involve loving one’s homeland for the diversity of cultural enclaves it encompasses, while not excluding the rest of humanity or claiming the superiority of our homeland to every other on earth. To be sure, global thinking (in the form of economic globalization or cultural imperialism) has a lot of negative baggage attached to it, but having a cosmopolitan outlook should be encouraged in tandem with patriotic thinking, not seen as its opposite.
I have often asked myself what exactly is the meaning of the term “American art” and why museums of American art are important. In this particular historical moment, can an art museum help to build a sense of common commitment to a place, a set of ideals, and one another?
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