Return the Windows?

Scholarly Reasons

The windows vitally animate the house and gain significant meaning when they are presented in their original context versus the more neutral space of a museum gallery.

Before the establishment of the Martin House Restoration Complex, there was no central research authority on the Martin House windows, which led to many collectors and curators assigning their own interpretations to the windows, which resulted in incorrect catalogue information and windows exhibited upside down. One example of incorrect cataloging is the naming of Wright’s most famous art glass design called Tree of Life. This design originated from the Martin House and ended up in collections all around the world bearing the name Tree of Life. Yet the name itself is an interpretation; Wright did not name his window designs beyond referring to them by their location in his houses, such as first and second floor window designs and cabinet doors. Studying the windows in-situ of the Martin House for their intended purpose best serves their study.


Museum Standards of Practice

According to the International Council of Museum’s recommendations for museum standards, museums should be prepared to initiate dialogue for the return of cultural property to their place of origin. When objects carry strong affinities with national, regional, or local identities, museums’ policies should be flexible to work in close collaboration with these communities.

Museums widely practice a process called deaccessioning (removing an object from their collection). Deaccessioning can serve the purpose of transferring an object from one museum to another museum that specializes in the study that object. Items for deaccession are not the sole decision of a curator or director. These major decisions are submitted to a governing committee that votes on the potential outcome.


Ethical Reasons

Frank Lloyd Wright never intended any of his windows to be seen outside of the architectural context he designed. The primary “organic architecture” principal that underpinned Wright’s work is fundamentally based on the notion of a holistic design scheme that integrated the environment, architectural plan, and interior fixtures and furniture. Contradicting this vision is a violation of Wright’s intent.


Practical Reasons

Buffalo is tourist destination known for its variety and examples of architecture. The Martin House receives tens of thousands of visitors each year. If the windows were returned they would be reinstalled for permanent display to their visitors.

The UVic Legacy Art Galleries rotates their exhibitions regularly and as a result the windows are not frequently exhibited enough to garner a strong justification for them to remain in the collection, often spending most of their time in storage.


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