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Anisha Gupta was drawn to conservation due to her love of cultural objects and her desire to preserve these objects and help facilitate access to them. She received a Master of Science in Art Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2016 and then completed a Mellon Foundation fellowship at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Before starting her doctoral studies, she was the Assistant Conservator for Archival Materials at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum in Philadelphia. As a conservator, Anisha began to wonder about the role the objects she was conserving played within their communities of origin and how those roles might be subverted by Western collections care practices. She decided to pursue a PhD so she could better understand the relationships connecting objects, their creators, and their caretakers. Her studies aim to bring community-based practice into collections care methods.
Anisha passed her exams in December 2022, and her proposal presentation in June 2023, and is now working on her dissertation. Her dissertation committee members are: Joelle Wickens, Chair (WUDPAC Associate Director), Ken Cohen (Department of History, Director of Museums Studies), Julie McGee (Department of Art History, Africana Studies), and external members Brittany Webb (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) and Jane Henderson (Cardiff University).
TOPIC: People-Powered Conservation: An Analysis of Power Structures in the Field
This research will reexamine cultural heritage collections care practice in order to decenter Western methodologies and illuminate how the care of an object reveals institutional and societal values. The goal of this research is to identify the central priorities, assumptions, and ramifications of museum collections care practice, and to consider alternative practices and methodologies. Gupta’s research will trace the history of Western-centered collections care practices, examine the fundamental assumptions of collections care through alternative theoretical lenses—including critical race theory and postcolonial studies—and conduct a case study contrasting Western and non-Western collections care practices and inherent value systems.
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