In this context, the name Sackler is best known as that of the
family that built Purdue Pharma and developed OxyContin.
At Harvard, however, Sackler carries vastly different implications. A huge portion of our Asian art collection comes directly from their family, and various other buildings and rooms also display the family name as a result of accepting a vast sum of donations.
Tied together by an extensive history of benefaction and legal documents, Harvard now finds it impossible to shed itself of this name and its associations. Regardless of what we can do to alter the past, however, we recognize the necessity of acknowledging all perspectives and experiences of this complicated, devastating issue, listening to additional voices, and through this modifying our practices going forward to permanently prevent the reoccurrence of anything similar.
The Arthur M. Sackler Building and Harvard are public-facing institutions with an educational mission. They teach people how to be civically engaged scholars who practice the responsible telling of history, which includes acknowledging and validating all perspectives of a complex issue. We aspire to do the same and to prompt other museums and educational institutions to reexamine how their funding practices can better represent the interests of the communities and the public that they serve.