Who coined the phrase "Cultural Cathedral?"
December 30, 2004 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Who coined the phrase "Cultural Cathedral?" MI.

I used this phrase in the description of a blog I'm starting about museum theory. In using the phrase, I meant to characterize museums as places where a visitor might experience a sense of awe, humility, aesthetic beauty, and spiritual insight. In other words, a humanistic/cultural site that functions in the same way cathedrals do in the context of religion. It tripped so liltingly from my typing fingers, and is so graceful and apt a phrase, that I instantly knew I couldn't have made it up. Problem is, I don't know whose phrase it is (or I would reference their work).

The earliest citation I could find on Google was this one from 1987; but even here it's such a casually tossed phrase that it must have already been in the parlance. I'm sure it comes from the work of some thinker I'd admire. Any help?
posted by Miko to Society & Culture (7 answers total)
There is a lot of scholarship that considers the museum the temple of the secular religion, but I have never seen 'cultural cathedral' before. I really like it though. Would love to see this new blog (my email is in the profile). Since I moved to memphis no one, except my boss, wants to talk museums.
posted by jmgorman at 9:25 AM on December 30, 2004

1940 reference for "cathedral of culture" (search for that phrase in the page)
posted by andrew cooke at 9:44 AM on December 30, 2004

The earliest mention of the phrase "cultural cathedral" I could find was from something called Horizon magazine...

Horizon, Oct 1986 v29 p35(4)

Cultural cathedral; the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is a vital center of culture in New Jersey. (USArts; strategies for the 80's) Michael Karp.

I can't access the entire article, just a brief citation.
posted by icontemplate at 9:48 AM on December 30, 2004

Scratch that.

The earliest entry I could find was from a July 8, 1979 issue of the Washington Post, in an article called "Museum Guide to American Culture."

In it, the article goes "...Meyer's book is really an ethical and moral rumination based on two assumptions:

1) The art museum is a kind of cultural cathedral whose contents and operations hould reflect humankind's best aspirations, and

2)The galleries and colloections basically belong to the public because most museums are nonprofit corporations held in public trust and supported at least indirectly by public monies..."
posted by icontemplate at 9:58 AM on December 30, 2004

Thanks, iContemplate...now, who is Meyer? It sounds like he's the guy I'm looking for.

I'm guessing this article isn't available online without paying a fee to the Post. Might I be wrong?
posted by Miko at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2004

The full-text is available on Newsbank, which my library subscribes to.

I'm e-mailing a copy to the address on your Blogger profile page.
posted by icontemplate at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2004

Oh, and the "Meyer" is Carl E Meyer, author of The Art Museum: Money, Power, Ethics and The Plundered Past.
posted by icontemplate at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2004

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