Knowledge and repatriation in museums

In this class we have focused on the nitty-gritty of museum work, from basic exhibit design techniques and audience research tools to fundraising and (this week) human resource management. We have not dwelled at all on the larger issue of what is a museum? What are museums for, and more importantly, what are the implications for cultural and political power that collecting, preserving, and representing history of a variety of cultures entails?

Via Ed Rodley, this article by British sociologist Tiffany Jenkins warns about repatriation trends in western museums and offers a definition of enlightenment-based universal museum. Courtney Johnston, director of an art museum in New Zealand, wrestles with Jenkins’ criticism. Johnston offers a thoughtful take on the current shift in museums’ identities and shifts in cultural power.

Take a look. Tell us what you think.

The chief bit of legislation that informs this conversation in the United States is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). You should be familiar with it.


Museum In a Trailer

This article is just a little Monday motivation for hard working museum studies students, like ourselves. It reminded me a little of our exhibit in the fact that they are taking an important aspect of their local history and making it relevant to today. They also had limited space to make a big impact. It is also INCREDIBLY cool. Just another awesome innovative experience for museum goers. Most importantly, it is helping to educate the public, but also future public historians like ourselves.


Open Authority in the Museum

I thought this article was very intriguing, as our Set Up and Local Content team has been trying to figure out the best ways to open up dialogue and discussion during and after our exhibit. Our struggle is figuring out how to be facilitators when we will not be able to keep a constant eye on what people are contributing to the dialogue. I think Lori Byrd Phillips’ words on keeping a museum open to other authorities besides the museum itself is very important for our exhibit. After reading this article, I thought maybe we could figure out a way to use the laptop or some form of media to open up a dialogue on in some way on the computer, which would allow us to keep an eye on the content while away from the exhibit. Obviously, we still need to figure out as a group what we want to do, but this article makes good points on the importance of open authority in the museum right now. Some visitors might have a lot more experience and knowledge on the subject than we do.

March 2 agenda

Guys, I can’t believe we’re in March already. Here’s what we need to think about this week:

  1. We’ll review how the WGS panel went.
  2. Tell me what program you will be reviewing and when you want to present on it to the class.
  3. Things have slowed down on the blog. Please pick it up a bit.
  4. Angela Thorpe from the President James K. Polk State Historic Site will help us talk through issues of staffing, volunteer management, and inclusion/diversity in museums. Please be prepared with questions based on the reading.
  5. To that end, here is another brief post from the Center for the Future of Museums blog that you’ll want to look at.
  6. I will also expect you to offer intelligent observations on your upcoming internship experiences based on the chapter on internships. (e.g. In your search of internship postings and review of tasks and duties that museums are offering… are they comporting with the recommendations the chapter makes?)
  7. Program plans. Let’s spend some time in class checking in on where we are with programming plans. We need to be defining down what we want to accomplish and begin putting specific information on paper. Take a look at the “Project Definition and Deliverables” that I sent out at the beginning of the semester and be prepared to take a comprehensive view of the process at this point. Don’t forget the Google Shared Docs I set up for you to keep notes and begin fleshing out your plans on.

February 24 agenda

Things for this week.

  • The team presenting our project at the Assemblages: Anti-Oppression Work on Saturday will be giving a run-through at 2:30 on Wednesday. Please show up to offer support, critique, or ridicule if you can. Meet at my office.
  • The team will be presenting on Saturday, February 27, at 2:30 in the Elliot University Center.
  • We will have Edith Brady, director of the High Point Museum in class on Wednesday to talk about budgets and taxes. Please be prepared, based on your reading of the three chapters, to engage her with relevant questions.
  • ADDITIONAL ASSIGNMENT: Use the Form 990 finder at the Foundation Center to look up a Form 990 for a friends group or foundation for a museum of your choice. Considering the late date here, you don’t need to fully analyze it, but be prepared to tell me something that you discovered that is of interest to you.
  • Be prepared to tell me what museum program you will be reviewing, and when you want to present that program to the class.
  • We’ll aim to break by 6:00 so those of us going to see Michelle Alexander have time to get over there.

“North Carolina’s Memory Hole”

My mom cut out this article (go mom) from the Raleigh News and Observer. It was written by Robin Kirk, professor at Duke and faculty advisor for their HAL module (which she mentions! Yay free publicity!). The article is really interesting both for its general content, but also for the relation it has to us and our project. Basically, Kirk requested a photo from the State Archives of an execution by lethal gas in North Carolina in 1936, only to be denied. As she found out, “current interpretation of the law” denies access to all historical material related to executions. Check it out.

Networking Good News

As we have seen in much of our reading this semester, networking is absolutely vital to our careers. It is especially important for us in the next few months to create connections to help promote our exhibit. With this in mind, I saw an opportunity to promote our exhibit to my R.A. in Lofts on Lee (living on campus does have its perks).

Every month all R.A.’s are expected to host a program for their residents to promote community engagement. I have been to almost all of the events my R.A. has hosted this year, including our trip to the Civil Rights Museum this afternoon. After receiving our tour of the museum, I informed my companions (consisting of two graduate students and two R.A.’s) that the Museum Studies program was creating a Mass Incarceration Exhibit that was going to be here in November. All of them were really excited and asked me many questions about it. They were glad that this topic was finally being addressed and recommended that we continue to move forward with creating an interactive component because that is more appealing to most audiences. To make things even better, both R.A.’s said they would like to bring students back to the museum in November to see this exhibit. The benefits of doing this is that 1. the R.A.’s get a free idea for their monthly program and 2. the students do not have to pay entrance fees because the school covers all programmings done by Res-Life. As we continue to gather more information about the exhibit I will be sharing it with my R.A. so she can suggest this exhibit to her co-workers.