Elizabeth Emery, professor of French in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, has just received a coveted award from the National Endowment of the Humanities. It will fund archival research and the completion of a book about 19th-century women and their struggles in the world of art and philanthropy.
"Montclair State University is thrilled to learn that Dr. Emery is receiving her third award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this time to complete her book on Clémence d’Ennery who was the first French woman to build a free public museum of Asian art. Known today as the Musée d’Ennery, scholars and the public have free access to d’Ennery’s significant collection of small Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Korean objects. We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for recognizing scholars such as Dr. Emery, who are critical for advancing knowledge of the past that provides insight into today’s cultural conditions," said Robert S. Friedman, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University.
Emery’s book centers upon D’Ennery (1823-1898), a working class woman who assembled 6,300 objects from Asia, built a museum with her own money, and willed it to the French nation. D’Ennery’s struggles to establish herself a collector and curator of Asian art serve as a lens through which to examine the late 19th century, a time very much like our own. Then as now, globalization, technological disruptions and increased literacy rates encouraged the creation of new media outlets, markets and social structures and, most notably for this book, public libraries, public school, and public museums dedicated to art, history and ethnography.
D’Ennery’s attempts to create free public access to her collection mirror the challenges faced by other women, such as Boston socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner, but with even greater complexity given D’Ennery’s lower class origins. The completed book will encourage discussion of the difficulties faced by non-elites in gaining access to cultural institutions; the persistence of barriers related to gender, race, and ethnicity; imbalances in the writing of history; the aesthetic choices we make in our daily lives; and the complex motivations driving philanthropic acts. The working title is: Clémence d’Ennery: A Female Connoisseur in the Age of Male Collecting.
“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.