The Sendak Saga keeps on going…

The New York Times published an article yesterday on the continuing saga of Maurice Sendak’s stuff which shed light on this situation in a way I had not realized– that the $10,000 worth of items the foundation has requested back from the Rosenbach (i.e. Potter and Blake’s work) are to be part of a potential house museum in CT.

Considering the things we have learned and discussed in Archival Management this semester, I am shocked that the executor of Sendak’s estate would think that pulling his work out of a readily-accessible collection back to his home would be a good move.  How will this house museum be accessible to researchers?  Then again, I also wonder if this move to pull the collection back to his home makes sense if the full-fledged research center takes flight because it would keep all of his work in one place for researchers going through his things.

I am not especially happy about the political arguments happening about this saga– that the Rosenbach did not take him seriously as an artist, or that the executor of his estate has no formal training in interpretation or archives.  Why would the Rosenbach negate his place in the art world?  Why would an executor who so loved her employer take on a project which might jeopardize the preservation of his legacy?  Who is really thinking about preserving Sendak’s collection in the most accessible way possible?  Is this just a case of King Solomon?

What was especially interesting to consider in regard to the executor of his estate is her close relationship to Sendak.  She has insisted that she knows his collection intimately for what was important to him and therefore she would be right in interpreting that collection in the museum.  However, we have had very different discussions about the way collections are assessed and appraised in class.  While sentimental value is valid, objects and documents also have other values to researchers.  Something that this executor deems trivial or important might have an opposite inference with researchers.

Also, I find it disturbing that this executor has used the argument that Sendak was unhappy with how the Rosenbach did not take him seriously as an artist as reason to pull part of his collection.  Part of the collection being pulled raises the question as to whether Beatrix Potter can be both rare and a children’s book at once… is it not a tad bit hypocritical to negate Potter as a means to glorifying Sendak?  It seems counter intuitive to me.

I was glad to read that the Christie’s auction is postponed until further notice; I was also interested to read that the Sendak research center could open as early as late 2015.  I would surely like to visit… but does anyone really go to house museums?  This issue is the whole other arm to the conversation here.  Have the executors of Sendak’s estate considered that house museums are in crises?  Do they know?  All the more reason for all public history-archival-management-constituents-donors to work closely together.  It will be sad if the Sendak house museum is created only to fall very quickly.


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