We Share the Same Problems

P1030843_2In the sessions of the afternoon of September 10, we discovered how many issues we share transnationally;  how similar problems of our museums’ relationship to politics is both complex and important.

Hermann Schäfer of Germany began by taking on the task first of thinking about the conference title itself; saying that Germans would avoid using the word power in this context; but in Russian it has been.

He then proceeded to a fascinating explication of how the interests of museums and of politicians converge and diverge.  Museums are future oriented with our work of collection, preservation and education; while politicians are present-oriented, concerned with the next elections.

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Getting ready for the conference

P1030584On Monday, the day before the full start of the conference, the three national ICOM chairmen were joined by Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM and Mikhail Piotrovski of the Hermitage for a press conference in the ornate Hermitage Theater.  They shared the start of the conference–a goal to collaborate between Russia and Germany, now three years ago, and the enthusiastic joining of the United States to become a third partner.  The country chairmen, Michael Henkel of Germany, Vladimir Tolstoy of Russia and Kathy Dwyer Southern of the United States all shared their perspective on the importance both the topic and such person to person exchanges, because, as Southern said, “we all deal in politics every day,” from the internal to the global.

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Museums, Politics and Power live from Saint Petersburg!

MatissedanceOn September 8, the tri-national ICOM conference Museum and Politics finally starts and we are getting very excited! This social media project was created to accompany and document the conference. Since November 2013, we have shared posts from colleagues worldwide, asked questions and received thoughtful comments, gathered weekly worldwide news and created conversations on- and offline – all around the juicy topics of museums, politics and power.

In Saint Petersburg, the blog team will be complete and meet for the very first time in person (only Katrin has had the pleasure of knowing everyone in person). We will also give our best to share the events in both St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg with you: through posts on this very blog and updates on our Facebook page. If you are a Tweep, you can get in touch with us using the hashtag #museumspolitics and following Linda (@lindabnorris) or Katrin (@Museumthings) on Twitter. Linda’s also on Instagram as @lindabnorris. We will also try to update our Storify page while we are in Russia. Continue reading

Do Museums Need Disaster Plans for People?

Cross-posted from The Uncataloged Museum.

Any museum worth its salt has a disaster plan somewhere (hopefully somewhere easy to find).  It probably has information about contacting emergency services;  what happens to objects in collections storage and the safe evacuation of staff and visitors.  But over the last year, I’ve been paying attention to a number of conversations, in person and in the online world, about the ways we, as museums, can be more responsive to community needs in times of disaster.

I watched my colleagues in Ukraine step up during the protests on Maidan and the country’s ongoing changes;  Gretchen Jennings has focused on empathetic museums in her blog Museum CommonsElaine Gurian’s writings continue to inspire; my colleague and friend Rainey Tisdale curated this year’s Dear Boston exhibit on the anniversary of the bombing; and David Fleming’s talk on the Social Justice Alliance of Museums at AAM provided new inspiration. All evidence of a more people-focused shift for museums. But much of it seems ad hoc.  Committed folks in museums react on the fly as disasters–political, social, natural, environmental–happen. Continue reading

Drawing a Blank – Ukraine’s Maidan Protests and Manifesta

Foto: https://www.dw.de/manifesta-10-kunst-in-der-konfrontation/a-17743699

Foto: https://www.dw.de/manifesta-10-kunst-in-der-konfrontation/a-17743699

The European art biennial Manifesta is hosted by St. Petersburg this year. Until the 31st of October the Hermitage presents works of international contemporary artists, curated by Kaspar König. His choice of this year’s place had been strongly criticized and the beginning of the Ukraine crisis has continued to aggravate this debate.The American artist Sean Snyder and the Ukrainian cultural scientist and professor of Cultural Studies at the national University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Olga Bryukhovetska, reflect on the Manifesta and the power of contemporary art in the light of the Kiever Majdan protests. The text was published first in the magazine of contemporary art and culture „frieze“ no 164 (June, July, August, 2014).

‘It is by refusing to turn Russian money into cultural capital that we can get the point across that Putin’s policies are beyond the pale,’ wrote Jonathan Jones in a Guardian blog entry entitled ‘Let’s Hit Putin where It Hurts – All Artists Must Boycott Russia’, posted in early April. In fact, by that point, discussions around a boycott of the Kasper König-curated Manifesta 10 – slated to take place in Saint Petersburg from 28 June to 31 October – had been ongoing for several months, initially prompted by the Russian authorities’ oppression of dissidents and lgbt rights activists, and subsequently fuelled by events in Ukraine, with Russia punishing the country for the democratic victory gained during the recent Maidan protests in Kyiv. While the Polish artist Paweł Althamer, the Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi and the Saint Petersburg-based collective Chto Delat? have already declined to participate, the evolving situation in Ukraine compels everyone involved in Manifesta 10 to take a stance on whether or not to collaborate with Russia’s rich and powerful.

The word maidan – square – has come to define a revolutionary, self-organized people defending their rights. Since 1989, when students demanding Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union occupied Maidan, major protests have always taken place here. In a bid to inhibit mass protest, the square’s lavish open spaces – typical of late-Soviet design – were remodelled in the early 2000s: kitschy sculptures were installed and glass domes rose up from the new underground shopping mall, impeding movement. These precautionary measures failed dramatically, however, when allegations that the election of the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, had been corrupt resulted in the Orange Revolution of November 2004.

The latest Maidan protests, which began on 21 November 2013, saw the site reconfigured as a stronghold for protesters, who occupied the square with tents and tyre barricades. Art was a significant presence from the outset, with students from the nearby Kyiv Conservatory carrying a piano into the square and playing Chopin for the crowd despite freezing temperatures. The protestors, a number of whom were artists, designed posters, painted helmets and graffitied slogans around the square. Continue reading

Spreading the Conversation

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.55.28 AMAs the conference in St. Petersburg draws closer, and issues of museums, power and politics continue to grow in importance (just check out any of our weekly news roundups for confirmation of that),  we wanted to take a minute to share the ways in which you, dear reader, can contribute to the conversation, whether you’ll be heading to Russia or not.

We’ve just created an open LinkedIn Group, Museum, Politics and Power. Got a question, want to start a conversation, or looking for like-minded colleagues?  Find us there and share your point of view.  And of course, don’t forget our Facebook page.   If you’re on Twitter,  we have a hashtag, #museumspolitics and you could follow either Katrin Hieke (@MuseumThings) or Linda Norris (@lindabnorris) for regular updates.

But what about here on the blog, you might ask?   Voices from all over the world help make this a compelling read–so consider contributing yours.  If you’re presenting at the conference, you could use this space to work out ideas, ask for information, and get feedback.  But if you just have an interest and want to speak out on a Museum, Politics, and Power topic, we welcome any and all civil discourse.  More about writing a post here.

The generous sharing of information and ideas should–and usually does–characterize the museum field worldwide.  So spread away!

Photo by Drew Harty

FAQs for Presenters and Attendees


We’ve had questions from several presenters about the details of the conference, so we asked conference organizer Afanasy Gnedovsky of ICOM-Russia to help us develop this FAQ.  If you have more questions, please ask in the comments below and we’ll find out the answers as we can.  Of course, don’t forget to check out the conference website as more information is added on a regular basis.   Thanks Afanasy!

How long should my presentation be?

  • All speakers in the section parts of the conference will each have 25 minutes. You could choose whatever format works best for you– 15 min + 10 min for discussion or 20 min + 5 min for discussion.  But people will have questions so please leave some time for discussion.

If I want to use Powerpoint, Prezi or other media in my presentation, can I?  How and where should it be submitted in advance?  How far in advance?  Can you use materials in Mac formats?

  • Yes of course, you can use ppt. We ask all speakers to send their presentation in advance; the deadline is 25th of August. Please send your material (I use this word, because that could be not only ppt, but also a film or audio file, or pdf or something else). You could send us in any mac format, we will change it into ppt. You could send your presentation to: [email protected] and [email protected].   If your presentation is to large to email, please use a file sharing system such as Dropbox.

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Weekly News Roundup: June 9, 2014

IMG_2415The Hermitage’s director talks museums and politics.

A fascinating look at Soviet-era museums.  Are they now museums of museums?

Nazi-Art in a museum in Kleve? Is it allowed to display art from National Socialist artists?

Nina Simon interviews Eric Siegel of the New York Hall of Science on the museum’s e-book project False Conviction: Innocence, Guilt, and Science.

“At Home in Holland,”  a new student digital history project in Amsterdam, responds to the way that hostile reactions to immigrants have undermined the traditional idea of Dutch tolerance and hospitality in recent years.

What role do museums have in our philanthropic thoughts?  R.J. Stein takes a thoughtful look at the good museums can do in the world (and reminds us that not all museums are good at doing good.)

Orhan Pamuk, keynote speaker at the Museums and Politics conference,  about his “museum of innocence.”

A useful list of resources for museums and controversy, via Australia’s Lynda Kelley.

Imitating a famous painting, a Luxembourg artist exposes her genitals at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris; won’t face charges but removed from gallery.

Sweden returns ancient textiles to Peru.

Image:  A nautical diorama at the Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic in St Petersburg by Konstantin Budarin


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