Weekly News Roundup: March 26, 2014

men-of-the-docks-1912-oil-on-canvas-lynchburg-virginia-randolph-college-maier-museum-of-artIs the British National Gallery’s acquisition of a George Bellows painting sold by Randolph College ethical?

Should nations sell cultural heritage to balance the budget?  Portugal plans to sell Miros.  Should museums be able to do the same?  The Delaware Art Museum plans to sell works to stabilize financially, it says.

New Brooklyn Museum show takes compelling look at the Civil Rights Movement.  “The show gets the balance of history right in other ways, too, by letting it be confused and confusing, a thing of loose strands and hard questions”  from the NY Times review.

The Museum as warehouse of memory: Berlin Museum is a confidential tip to insiders. 

Unbeloved history? Discussions about the Jewish museum in Cologne are ongoing. 

The home of Martha Mahlungus, an activist–and mother– will become a museum in South Africa. Continue reading

Orhan Pamuk on Small Museums

zaalzichten-2_bewOne of the conference’s special guest speakers is Orhan Pamuk,  the Nobel Prize winner in literature from Istanbul.  In a recent New York Times article, he highlighted the importance of small museums, for these reasons:

The economic growth that we have witnessed in non-Western countries over the past 20 years has brought with it the formation of a middle class. In order to experience the personal stories that come from within these emerging, modern middle classes, what we need are not huge state museums, but small and innovative museums focusing on individuals. The ingenious developments we’ve seen in museums, in regard to curating and architecture over the past 20 years, can turn small museums into wonderful tools through which to investigate and express our shared humanity.

Which museums does he particularly like at the moment?  The Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris, the Frederic Mares Museum in Barcelona, and the Rockox Museum in Antwerp, among others including his own Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.  And we’re sure he’ll have a great deal to say to all of us about the role of museums in the 21st century.


Top:  The Rockox in Antwerp, bottom, the street leading to the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.

Registrars*, Politics and Power

„How much politics is there in the work of a registrar?“ asked Katrin Hieke from this very blog via twitter.

My first, light-hearted thought was „not much“. We are not curators, so it’s not up to us to create exhibitions that raise questions or put a spotlight on important social or political issues. We are not directors, so it’s not our responsibility to decide how to deal with politicians and the current public opinion. We are not administrative officers so we don’t have to worry about how to stay in accordance with governmental guidelines. We are not marketing people, so it’s not up to us to sell what our museum does in all aspects mentioned above. We are there just for the well-being of our collections, to let logistics flow smoothly, to keep the paperwork together. What an easy, non-political job. Continue reading

Museum & Politik: Blitzlicht Nationales Kunstmuseum Lettland


Andris Breže: Dove of Peace, 2014

Die hier schon mal erwähnte Ausstellung zum Ersten Weltkrieg in Riga ist in der Zwischenzeit eröffnet worden. Kürzlich hatte ich Rahmen einer Konferenz zum Thema „Der Krieg 1914 und der Modernismus“ Gelegenheit, sie zu sehen. Hatte mich schon zuvor das Konzept fasziniert, hat mich nun auch die räumliche Umsetzung überzeugt: Die Verbindung von Geschichte und Kunst aus der Kriegs- und Nachkriegszeit sowie individueller Kriegserfahrung und zeitgenössischer Kunst. Nach wie vor sehe ich darin einen eigenen und sehr spezifischen Beitrag zum Jahrestag, der zum Nachdenken über den Weltkrieg anregt, aber auch eine wohl einmalige Chance bietet, Kunst aus Ländern zu sehen, die wir hierzulande oft nicht ausreichend wahrnehmen: Serbien, Kroatien, Tschechien, Slowakei, Finnland, Estland, Lettland, Litauen, Polen, Slowenien und Ungarn. Continue reading

What Do You Call the People Who Come to Your Museum? And those who don’t?

P1020056A few weeks ago, at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, CT we were talking with theater professionals about ways to change the interpretation of Stowe’s 19th century house into something more dynamic, more interactive, more dialogue-based.  One of the participants, Julia Rosenblatt, of Hartbeat Ensemble, suggested we think about visitors as spect-actors,  a concept from the Theater of the Oppressed, which was developed by Brazilian Augusto Boal, drawing on the work of Paulo Freire, whose work on the pedagogy of the oppressed was familiar to me, but the term spect-actor was not.   According to Boal,  spect-actors are both participants AND observers.   Just what we’re hoping for in the Stowe House project. Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: March 17, 2014

16tower1-videoSixteenByNine1050Not surprisingly,  this week’s news roundup includes a great deal of material from sources around the world, including Ukraine and Russia, about the impact of the current international crisis and the responses and reactions of  museums and other cultural colleagues.

Die Krim, Russland und die Museen – Крым, Россия и музеи – The Crimea, Russia and the museums

Ich sollte das nicht tun, ich weiß es selber am besten: Mich zu dem aktuellen Konflikt zwischen Russland und der Ukraine äußern. Viel zu wenig verstehe ich von Politik, kann trotz oder gerade wegen der vielen Berichte in den letzten Tagen und Wochen zu keiner eindeutigen Haltung kommen. Wie ist das möglich? Ist es doch scheinbar offensichtlich: Die Ukraine ist im Recht, Russland im Unrecht. Und je länger die Krise anhält, umso mehr scheint sich das zu bestätigen. Und doch: Ich empfinde keine Wut, nur Enttäuschung und vor allem Ratlosigkeit. Seit vielen, vielen Jahren arbeite ich mit russischen Kollegen zusammen, habe Freunde und verbringe viel Zeit in der Region und liebe die russische Sprache so sehr wie meine eigene. Ich kann nicht anders, als russophil zu sein. Darf ich das? Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: March 10, 2014


Should Rio have a Museum of Tomorrow or is a focus on the future neglecting its history, including a complex story of the slave trade? Archaeological discoveries of global importance are happening as construction quickens for the World Cup.

Was Christoph Schlingensief a political artist? A branch of the Museum of Modern Art in New York presents an exhibition of his works.

Archaeologists from around the world report wide-spread destruction of dozens of ancient sites in Syria. Continue reading

From ICOM Russia’s President

272394_10150693086905580_1226772_oThe letter below was sent this week to Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM and addressed to him and all ICOM members and museum workers from all over the world.

Dear Colleagues:

The Russian Committee of the International Council of Museums is a non-governmental organization that works according to the National and International law, ICOM Statutes and ICOM code of ethics for museums.

As well as our colleagues from ICOM Ukraine, ICOM and ICBS we would like to express our concern regarding protection of the cultural and natural heritage in Ukraine. We would also like to point out that cultural heritage should not be used to escalate tension. We would like to underline that in our point of view all controversies should be resolved only by negotiations and according to International law. Continue reading


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