Weekly News Roundup: June 2, 2014

SAL_2010_050-1The 9/11 Museum’s Gift Shop is controversial, but the Guardian actually spoke to museum visitors about what they purchased there.  What they purchase–and the reasons why– might surprise you.

The Berlin Senate considers the controversial plans for a “Body Worlds” Museum in the basement of the television tower in Berlin to be a private affair: “The planned museum is a private museum and is […] not set up on public land,” they say. As long as no fundamentally unlawful aspects play a role, the Senate holds back with judgments on exhibitions.” The tourism agency Visit Berlin, the CDU party as well as churches in the surroundings strongly speak against this project.

On June 6, Portland Art Museum’s fifth year of Shine A Light asks audiences to rethink what is possible in an art museum.  Dance, karaoke,  healing rituals and arm wrestling with artists are just a few of the artist-generated projects on tap

How to save money and not to close a museum?

Continue reading

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

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.)

Continue reading

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

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

The BestBlog Blogstoeckchen

BestBlogA few weeks ago we were lucky to receive the BestBlog Blogstöckchen from another international project: the Registrar Trek, along with 11 questions.


1. How did you get the idea of setting up the blog?

Once upon a time – last summer, to be more precise – Kristiane and Katrin met for a chat in a café in Bonn, Germany. Some months ago we had worked together in Minsk, Belarus, and wanted to catch up on things. We talked about museums, ICOM, museum conferences, blogging experiences and international networking. And we discovered that we would like to explore how we could improve knowledge transfer, foster new connections and networks among our many colleagues worldwide and make ICOM and its work more visible. Thinking of the next conference co-hosted by ICOM Germany, we eventually came up with the idea of setting up a blog to try all this. We wanted to create a space for international conversation that everybody worldwide has easy access to and where it is easy to participate and exchange ideas way before and also after the conference and also among those, that for any reasons can not attend the conference.

Having this in mind, we started to share the up-to-then only rough idea with colleagues from the ICOM national committees co-hosting the conference who might want to join us on this daring journey. Linda from the US with her experiences both in international museum work and blogging was excited to  join us; and soon after Irina from Russia completed our team of four. Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: April 7, 2014


Arts for the Aged: The audience of cultural institutions is getting older. The young, however, are not among the recipients of culture, but are the organizers and producers. What impact will this have in the long run?

The State of Mississippi, who long used the power of the state to enforce segregation, will now open a civil rights museum.

In March, local museum professionals and academics gathered at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Museum to attend the Jamaican launch of the new publication Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity

How should we view the museum?  Perhaps as a kaleidoscope, says the Incluseum bloggers.

Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: April 1, 2014


What can museum collections tell us about climate change?  The scientists at an Australian museum take a look.

A new Social Justice Alliance for Museums includes compelling case studies and informative resources.

Is free admission a political issue?  Definitely access is.  Listen to Museopunks podcast with Dallas Museum of Art director Max Anderson talk about their free admission approach and the future of free.

ICOM’s Special Report on Training Museum Professionals.

The Colorado State Museum closes exhibit on Sand Creek Massacre;  to consult with Native Americans on the interpretation of the event 150 years ago. Continue reading

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.


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