Useful art

May 16, 2003

In your report on the 25th anniversary of the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts ("Show your art, institutions told", THES, May 9), it was wrongly claimed that the University of East Anglia offers the only postgraduate museum course based in a university museum.

The University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has offered specialised programmes in archaeological heritage and in social anthropology and museums for at least 20 years, and it has made extensive use of its collections in undergraduate training for almost a century.

While we fully support UEA director Nichola Johnson's emphasis on the indispensable role of collections in research and teaching, the myth of objects gathering dust in stores around the country is a substantial part of the image problem faced by university museums. It obscures the fact that collections have been continually updated (in our case mainly through field-collecting by graduate students and academic staff), that generations of students have been introduced to artefact-based research, and that visitors from around the world come to the museum on a daily basis to work with our collections.

Amiria Henare

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