By W. H. Walsh
Advent to the character of ancient rationalization
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Additional resources for An Introduction to the Philosophy of History
The nation became the legitimate vestal of memory and of the past's ruins. Art institutes began cropping up throughout Europe: in France, the Louvre opened in 1793; Spain followed suit in 1820, with the Prado Museum; Britain produced the National Gallery in 1824 and the British Museum in 1852; and in Berlin, the Altes Museum was founded in 1830. This bracketing of art into the autonomous sphere of museums complements the movement that hands art over to the expertise of historical science, to the investigations of historiographic study and the minutiae of scholarship.
Embroiled in the cultural battles of the French Revolution, the museum in France was attacked as a proof of the cultural falsehood of the new era, a modern age cut off from the ties that had bound a formerly integrated society to the lifeblood of its historical tradition. The criticism leveled at the museum centered on the question of authenticity: the museum endangers artistic and cultural authenticity by removing artworks and artifacts from their original locations and placing them in galleries where they can only be gawked at, and never, so to speak, lived with.
Art warrants a different historical thinking because the work of art makes history in an essentially different way than other artifacts do. Art constitutes a caesura of history, hence of experience and of the subject: it cuts into the very concept of the subject of culture in a way that calls into question ideas of immanence, naturalism, and authenticity. The history of museums reveals changing practices in the ways of presenting and apprehending art. From the cabinet of curiosities to the modern art gallery, the culture of esthetic visuality undergirds an ideological production of the individual.
An Introduction to the Philosophy of History by W. H. Walsh
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