Portrait of a gentleman's collection : the social lives of artefacts from an anthropological perspective

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Loeffler, Silvia
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Anthropology
Dublin Business School
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The purpose of my Final Year Project is to demonstrate that art objects in addition to their aesthetic value are embedded in the historical, economic and political aspects of culture. As example I will use the art collection of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, where manuscripts, prints, icons, miniature paintings, books and art objects from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe are on display. My Final Year Project employs Appadurai’s theory of the social value of things. Appadurai claims that objects have a social life of their own. Human transactions and calculations enliven things and exchange creates their meaning and value. Objects may be looked at from different angles in their social lives. I will elaborate on how art objects of the Chester Beatty Library were embedded in Ireland’s economy and politics in the past, how they reflect societal and historical changes and what they signify today.