Protecting Baltimore's Lucas collectionJudge Joseph Kaplan...

LETTERS

October 14, 1995

Protecting Baltimore's Lucas collection

Judge Joseph Kaplan undoubtedly knows fine points of the law but does he fully understand the mandate and role of museums? His decision that permits the Maryland Institute of Art to sell the Lucas collection would indicate he falls into the common misconception that museums are mausoleums -- places where inert, long-dead items are stored, some displayed to satisfy current taste or whimsy. Unfortunate.

Museums are not guardians of the irrelevant, unless one subscribes to the trendy, mindless rejection of the output of all dead white European males. For those, the vital dynamic nature of what is to be found in a museum will be forever self-denied. For what museums do best is show us what we were, what we are and what we can or should not want to be -- and not just what we are as Caucasians but as Asians, African-Americans and Native Americans. It's all there but only for the curious, wishing to know more.

What museums have on their walls and in the "stacks" are not simply objects to view aesthetically. These items are about ideas, both personal and social, about values, political and ethical; in short, about us. They tell us from where we came and how we define ourselves. We are comforted by a sense of continuity, a feeling for time and place. If these objects are not to be revered and preserved in museums -- where? Certainly they were never meant to be cast off like unneeded items in a garage sale.

The Lucas collection has been nurtured for 60 years by two of America's finest museums. Their curatorial efforts have burnished the collection to its current international stature. The collection did not stay in a hall closet like a bundle of baseball cards. It was endlessly studied, mounted for display, reviewed, cataloged, handled reverently with white cotton gloves, made available to scholars from around the world and students locally. This was a costly process that even Judge Kaplan concedes -- evident in his caveat that the institute may owe the museums a fee for 60 years of proprietorship.

But the museums are not interested in reimbursement. They are, correctly, appealing the decision. They assess George A. Lucas, a discerning and learned collector. His eye and values tell us much about his time and place -- 19th century France. Dismantled, we lose not only that part of our heritage -- we lose the man.

Baltimore is hemorrhaging. We have lost sports teams, corporations and tax-paying residents. What's next? Fort McHenry, if the price is right?

The bleeding must stop. This world-class collection should stay in Baltimore and remain intact.

Kenneth A. Willaman

Baltimore

We all pay a price for our indifference

As the welfare reform debate proceeded in the U.S. Congress, another drama unfolded before my eyes on my daily train commute from Baltimore.

At first I didn't notice. Perhaps the passenger shelter on the station platform looked a bit shabbier, but who could tell for sure amid the dreary urban setting? Days went by, and it became more obvious: a metal brace was detached and twisted one day; the next day an entire support post was gone. The scavengers -- ''metal men'' featured in an earlier Sun article -- were at work, trying to make a living selling to junk yards.

The two dramas moved in sequence. Each day's news reported another ''savings'' in a welfare reform proposal in Congress, and I watched as another piece of the passenger shelter disappeared.

Finally it happened. As I climbed the steps to the station platform, there was no escaping it: the passenger shelter was completely gone. The only remnants were a stripped bolt or two, and non-salable and now broken plastic roof panels tossed in the weeds.

That morning's paper reported that welfare ''reform'' reductions had passed both houses of Congress. How fitting a symbol of the future. Because of inadequate programs for the poor, I and my fellow job-holding commuters would wait for our trains unsheltered from the rain and snow. We all pay a price for indifference.

Arthur Boyd

Baltimore

Living wills and power of attorney

The Sept. 28 story by Ed Brandt, ''Patients can stop intervention,'' discusses a new law in Maryland which allows persons to make known their wishes relative to resuscitation or care in a medical emergency or crisis.

Mr. Brandt stated, ''Many elderly people have a living will, which designates a relative to make the life and death decision, but paramedics will recognize only the form or the bracelet because the new laws shields them against lawsuits as long as they 'act in good faith.' ''

The often misnamed ''living will'' is a life-sustaining declaration. The declaration does not designate a relative to make a life-and-death decision, if not being kept on a life support system is the desire of the individual, but removes that responsibility from the family, which is one of its great benefits.

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