Weekly News Roundup: May 27, 2014

Image-2-Emley_loosepageA fascinating new website takes a look at photographs, colonial legacies and museums in contemporary European culture.

The V & A Museum begins a program–and gallery exhibit- of rapid response collecting.  Among the first objects:  Primark jeans made in the Bangladesh factory consumed by fire last year.

Probably an act of terror: murder in the Jewish museum in Belgium.

An exhibition at the Arp Museum in Rolandseck shows the presentation of violence in the history of art.

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The Museum as Forum – Does It Exist?

1599px-Raphael_School_of_AthensAs I looked at the mission statement for the Museums and Politics project, as well as at a list of the possible topics that might be covered, the phrase “museum as forum” leapt to mind. The whole idea of a project on museums’ links with politics and power seems to me to be predicated on the cluster of ideas that has emerged around the idea of “museum as forum.” Canadian museologist Duncan Cameron’s article, “The Museum, a Temple or the Forum?” launched this concept into the museum world in 1971, and a quick Google search illustrates how seminal this work has been. While Cameron proposed that museums create “the forum,” for experimentation, innovation, and a more open approach to the public, he saw this as a dimension existing alongside museums’ traditional role as temples of learning and culture. Over the years his idea has inspired a vision of the museum that downplays or entirely eliminates the “temple” role, redefining museums (at least in theory) as places of open or shared authority, increased collaboration with audiences, greater responsiveness to their communities, generators of public value, and centers for civic dialogue. See for example the two books edited by Karp, Kreamer, and Levine, Exhibiting Cultures and Museums and Communities. The qualities mentioned above are discussed in the works to which I’ve provided links, as well as in countless other books, conferences, journal articles, and blogs published since the later years of the 20th century. Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: May 12, 2014

P1020561Museums around the world celebrate International Museum Day on May 18, with Museum Nights, special programs, and much, much more.  Consider the issues of power and politics as you visit!

Debate about the planned, private Body World Museum of Gunther von Hagens in the centre of Berlin: Churches, politicians and Berlin’s tourism industry find such a museum tasteless, lurid, and impious.

One million visitors a year come to the Acropolis in Athens, but a bomb threat last week showed that well-visited museums could also be targets for terrorism.

Porchia Moore’s thoughtful reflection “ Performing Blackness: Museums, Mammies and Me,”  makes a thought-provoking read, no matter where you’re from.

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The Conference is Taking Shape!

At the end of April, the program committee for the Museums & Politics conference met in St. Petersburg to shape the conference program. They received as many as 146 session proposals from all over the world! For the first part of the conference in St. Petersburg, 73 papers have been accepted: 68 of them for the four parallel running sections; and another five to present in plenary.  The four sections will be

  • Museums and Foreign Policy
  • Museums and Society Development
  • Museums and “hard” History
  • Museums and Internal Politics

Another 19 papers will be presented in Yekaterinburg, where the second part of the conference will take place, with an emphasis on industrial heritage.  All who have submitted a proposal, have been notified in the week or so. (If not, please get in touch with the ICOM Russia Executive Directorate.)

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Revealing Queer, Revealing Our Work

Barbie Hull PhotographyHow do museums talk about history that has been socially oppressed for decades?

That was the question that drove me to graduate school. I wanted to know how museums have historically engaged socially oppressed communities within their exhibitions, collections, and educational initiatives so we can better understand how to continue this work into the future. The power dynamics and politicking that are associated with community or socially engaged work in museums, specifically the power dynamics between communities and curators, fear of critique when engaging contemporary politics, and the saddening reality that archives don’t reflect socially oppressed communities, are some of the barriers museums face when working with communities that are not socially accepted.

To better understand how history museums can use exhibitions to write these communities into the archive, Queering the Museum project (QTM) partnered with the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) to explore Queer representation and collecting practices in their institution. Continue reading

Das Museum als Identitätsstifter



Das Nationale Kunstmuseum in Minsk zeigt derzeit eine Sonderausstellung, die einige Fragen zu „Museum und Politik“ in Belarus aufwirft. Zum einen geht es um die Deutungshoheit nationaler Kunstgeschichte, zum anderen um die Verquickung musealer, wirtschaftlicher und politischer Interessen. Worum geht es?

Gezeigt wird die Ausstellung „10 Jahrhunderte Kunst in Belarus“  (27.3. bis 10.7.2014), das „Projekt des Jahres“ aus Anlass des 75.Jahrestages des Museums. Was auf den ersten Blick selbstverständlich erscheint, ist indes hoch politisch. Der Titel „Kunst in Belarus“ markiert eine Position in der Debatte über die nationale Identität: Was macht Belarus aus? Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: May 5, 2014

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Who’s left out of the story?  Social media results in the inclusion of a female scientist in an exhibition at the Smithsonian.

An Austrian museum refuses to return a headdress to Mexico, but offers free admission to Mexican citizens.

Quantity instead of quality? The Kunsthaus Graz, Austria, has been confronted with local elected officials’ desire to organize only blockbuster exhibitions and events with popular topics that draw many visitors, despite their reasonable programming in the last decade.  Background, here and open letters here.

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and museum director Dariusz Stola explain the concept of the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Continue reading


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