nóvember 2015

museum geek

Well, my 2012 world tour of museum conferences is over. After three conferences in three countries in four weeks, plus time at the Smithsonian and visiting plenty of museums, I have aeons of raw mental material for processing and synthesis. But as I begin doing so, I thought I’d start at the end rather than the beginning, with thoughts inspired by the excellent keynote that David Fleming, CEO National Museums of Liverpool, gave at INTERCOM 2012.

Titled The Political Museum, David’s speech considered museums and the myth of neutrality. One of the standout concepts was the idea that “all cultural activity is political, but some is overt and some is covert.” He argued that museums should be overt in their political positions, acknowledging the inherent politicality involved in museum work, and that they should actively take positions on and around issues.

Unsurprisingly, this was a talk I loved…

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Museum Matters

This week, we read Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum and discussed the myriad of ways museums can encourage visitors to engage, participate, and contribute. Simon’s book is full of rich examples highlighting the different levels of visitor participation. Examples vary from exhibits that allow visitors to rank their favorite objects and artwork to exhibits that visitors can create themselves by contributing personal objects. Simon mostly uses examples from medium to large museums and cultural institutions; at the end of some sections she emphasizes the applicability of participatory practices at smaller organizations. For instance, even a museum with limited space and a small budget can create a profile badge for visitors to choose an answer, “YES” or “NO,” to an opinion poll – one method Simon emphasizes as effective for participation.

For my interview, I spoke with Heather Cunningham, a curator consulting at Morven Museum and Garden in Princeton, NJ. Heather…

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