A Reflection of Value

Luke’s institutional critique reminds me of something I read last semester about the World Exposition in 1893. The World Expositions tended to operate within many of the parameters outlined in Luke’s work, as they are physical and symbolic expressions of cultural, social, and economic power-relationships.

Because they house national and/or international “treasures” museums are an expression of a culture’s values, and the public responds by enlisting museums as their cultural keepers. This political struggle within the institutions, outlined by Luke, are evidence of a struggle within society as to what they believe our values should be. Similarly, the struggle for world hegemony can be seen in what the World’s Fairs choose to represent as the apex of cultural achievement. Just by looking at some of the architecture (begins at p. 8), it is clearly, visually, an expression of Greek and Roman heritage.


In 1893 the white international powers were celebrating industry, and their political and socio-economic dominance in international affairs by making architectural reference to one of the most powerful western empires. Endeavors such as these are not merely thrown together, they are in fact qui intentional. As Luke points out, a lot of vested interests are struggling to represent their own angle. So it is interesting and important to examine the ontological discourses of these “regimes of artistic, historic, or scientific interpretation” in order to examine the source of ‘truth’ and view it within its proper context (Luke, 223).

I guess, altogether, it is no surprise that the museums on The Mall in D.C. are inherently political. Look at the environment. And the museum in Los Angeles has a political lean that adequately represents the political lean of L.A. and its surrounding areas. And the MET in NYC represents the western tradition architecturally, as well as in its exaltation of the western artistic tradition.

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