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College of Arts and Sciences

Rebecca Clark

Class of 2020

 Rebecca Clark

Hometown: Nashville, TN

What is your College Scholar project?
I am researching the relationship between cultural identities and the designation of artifacts/art as cultural properties in Japan through the lenses of anthropology, art history, and religious studies. My project is broken down into three key focal points: the art historical and historical development of modern-day Japanese culture and art; the identification of culturally significant objects by both the in-groups and the out-groups of Japan, its government, and its diaspora; and finally, the protection of these objects by both legal and social means on scales ranging from the local and traditional to the international and governmental. During my years as an undergrad, I will be focusing primarily on Buddhist art and traditions as means to focus and streamline the project as I trace the relationship between Buddhism, its art, and Japanese culture. In particular, I will pay specific attention to the events surrounding the destruction and sale of Buddhist artifacts during the Haibutsu Kishaku era (1868-1873) and its ramifications in terms of preservation and ownership of Buddhist art and architecture both in Japan and in Western collections today.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
I enjoy spending time volunteering at the Johnson Museum as a student educator and a tour guide through my position as the Social Outreach Coordinator for the student group SEAM (Student Educators: Art and the Museum) as well as planning art exhibitions for the Johnson through the History of Art Majors Society (HAMS). Additionally, I am a member of the Cornell Sport Taekwondo Team and spend time training for competition with my teammates. When I’m not participating in these activities, I’ll most likely be passing my free time with a graphic novel or a new crochet project.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?
I’ve had the great fortune to intern over the summer as an Asian Art Research Intern at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago. The experience was fascinating, giving me opportunities to handle and research art objects in person —the best analogy I can draw is that it was a museum I could touch. Learning about art in the classroom is wonderful, but there’s an aspect about each type of object —from the texture and weight of stoneware to the smell of old calligraphic scrolls— that can’t be replicated or understood until it is handled in person. A favorite memory of mine is when my mentor brought me to a storage room and, after I finished gawking at the hundred or so Han Dynasty tomb artifacts surrounding us, told me that my task for the week was to catalogue and inventory the items for a client. It was the perfect opportunity both to put my knowledge to the test and to learn even more about these objects.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
My end goal is to go on to graduate school after a year of research abroad and earn a PhD in cultural studies along with a JD in cultural property law. From there I hope to practice as a lawyer and an advisor to communities and official bodies grappling with the constantly changing nature of cultural identities and cultural properties in this increasingly multicultural world.