Ananda Coomaraswamy's role in making a place for Indian art at the MFA Boston

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Birch, Ellen

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Perhaps the most widely recognized historian of Indian art, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy is often assigned a foundational role in the development of Indian art history and the acceptance of Indian art into western fine arts collections. The first museum curator in America specifically dedicated to Indian art, Coomaraswamy worked at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA) from 1917-1947 – a period of rapid change for American art museums. Much as museum histories have often overlooked the stories of educators, Coomaraswamy’s role as a curator has thus far overshadowed his engagement with education-focused work. Over the course of his long career at the museum, Ananda Coomaraswamy contributed 61 articles to Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, a bimonthly periodical published by the MFA between 1903-1983 and distributed among museum members and visitors. In an effort to achieve a more holistic understanding of Coomaraswamy’s practice at the museum – particularly as it concerned engaging museum audiences – this thesis considers his Bulletin articles as a discrete body of work that fulfilled scholarly and outreach-focused functions.



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