Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

On Climate Change and Museums

This weekend, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) met in Katowice, Poland with the aim of reaching a global climate agreement. Almost 200 hundred nations’ diplomats were in attendance, and all agreed to track their annual greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. With steadily increasing climate-related natural disasters and CO2 emissions that continue to rise, global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed not just internationally, but locally too. How can museums contribute to this conversation? Or, better yet, how can museums practice and promote climate activism?

With their frequent public programs focused on sustainability and climate change, the Hammer Museum is an excellent role model for other museums to follow in seeking to create more educational opportunities related to climate conversations. In the past year alone, the Museum hosted (free) monthly panel discussions concerning water usage, environmental equity, renewable energy sources, and ecosystems.

Similarly, many museums across the country feature rotating exhibitions that address conservation. The Museum of Science in Boston, for instance, currently displays three exhibits about wind power and other green energy alternatives. However, visitors should sometimes take these exhibits with a grain of salt: I’ll never forget the experience of visiting the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX and encountering an entire hall dedicated to “the benefits of fracking.” As it turns out, the exhibit was funded by Exxon.

While hosting programs about environmental conservation methods and creating platforms for discussing climate change is crucial, institutions must also consider clean energy and sustainable practices before the design and construction process for a new museum or remodeling project even begins. Both Boston Children’s Museum and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco have green roofs covered in native plants (and therefore bees), mechanisms for catching rain water, and other organic materials. “Living,” or green roofs such as these not only help reduce overall air pollution, but also function as natural insulators for buildings.

Finally, the American Alliance for Museums (AAM) is a great source for museums that wish to ground theirselves in green practices. The 2018 AAM annual meeting, for example, promoted the Environment and Climate Network to “establish museums as leaders in environmental stewardship and sustainability, and climate action.” Although COP24 is a strong start in the fight against further climate change, the issue can’t be modified without support from local institutions around the globe. I think museums are a wonderful place to begin.

 

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Hello everyone! Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of December 16th, 2018:

Northeast

Associate Registrar for the Collection/Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum [Boston, MA]

Galleries Coordinator/Massachusetts College of Art and Design [Boston, MA] 

Program Manager/Cambridge Historical Society [Cambridge, MA]

Rosenfeld Project Manager/Mystic Seaport Museum [Mystic, CT] 

Knox Curator/Yale Art Gallery [New Haven, CT]

Mid-Atlantic

Project Manager/Liberty Science Center [Jersey City, NJ]

2019-2020 Cole Fellow/Thomas Cole National Historic Site [Catskill, NY]

Library and Archives Intern/Fellow/Longwood Gardens [Kennett Sq, PA]

Head of Public Programs/National Gallery of Art [Washington, D.C.]

Southeast

Director of Marketing and Public Relations/Gunston Hall [Lorton, VA]

Director of Development/Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art [Charleston, SC]

Assistant Curator/Registrar/Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Museum [Ponce Inlet, FL]

Director of Education and Visitor Services/Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center [Chattanooga, TN]

Midwest

Arts and Cultural Management and Museum Studies Program Director/Michigan State University [East Lansing, MI]

Director/Illinois State Museum [Springfield, IL]

Exhibit Designer/Split Rock Studios [St. Paul, MN]

Curator of Works on Paper/Chazen Museum of Art [Madison, WI]

Exhibit Curator/International Museum of Art and Science [McAllen, TX]

West

Associate Curator/Henry Art Gallery [Seattle, WA]

Assistant Events Manager/Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco [San Francisco, CA]

Collections Information Specialist/LACMA [Los Angeles, CA]

Exhibition Designer/Autry Museum of the American West [Los Angeles, CA]

 

Weekly Job Roundup!

Hello Museum Folks! Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of December 9, 2018

Northeast

Rosenfeld Project Cataloguer / Mystic Seaport Museum [Mystic, CT]

Education Manager / USS Constitution Museum [Boston, MA]

Curatorial Assistant / Williams College Museum of Art [Williamstown, MA]

Communications Content Editor / Yiddish Book Center [Amherst, MA]

Executive Director / Hull Lifesaving Museum [Hull, MA]

Mid-Atlantic

Chief of Exhibits / State Museum of Pennsylvania [Harrisburg, PA]

Director of Interpretation and Education / National Trust for Historic Preservation [Washington DC]

Audience Research Associate / Philadelphia Museum of Art [Philadelphia, PA]

Curator of 20th Century American Art / Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts [Philadelphia, PA]

Executive Director / Oxford Arts Alliance [Oxford, PA]

Southeast

Archivist / South Carolina Department of Archives and History [Columbia, SC]

Curator of Asian Art / Birmingham Museum of Art [Birmingham, AL]

Director of Curatorial Affairs / Artis-Naples [Naples, FL]

Museum Manager / Jekyll Island Authority [Jekyll Island, GA]

National History Day in Kentucky State Coordinator / Kentucky Historical Society [Frankfort, KY]

Midwest

Executive Director / Museum of Danish America [Elk Horn, IA]

Executive Director / Russian Museum of Art [Minneapolis, MN]

Public Information Officer / Missouri Historical Society [St. Louis, MO]

Head of Exhibitions / Saint Louis Art Museum [St. Louis, MO]

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs / Historic Sites Manager [Des Moines, IA]

West

Collections Manager / Arizona Historical Society [Tucson, AZ]

Content Production Specialist / Getty Trust [Los Angeles, CA]

Archivist / The Chinati Foundation [Marfa, TX]

Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellowship / San Antonio Museum of Art [San Antonio, TX]

Archaeologist / Bishop Museum [Honolulu, HI]

 

 

Adventures in Repatriation: Around the World and Down the Street

 

Last month, the Medford Public Library, in the town where Tufts University is located, announced an auction of “surplus goods”. The goods turned out to be a number of Native American religious objects, including shaman’s masks and rattles and a totem pole, all of considerable monetary value. The items were donated to the library in the 1880s by James G. Swan, a Medford-born collector of Native American objects, long before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in the 1990s. The auction was halted by the mayor of Medford, Stephanie M. Burke, after public outcry organized by American Indian groups took hold.

Even though NAGPRA governs ownership and repatriation of sacred indigenous objects and remains in the hands of institutions that receive federal funds, not all organizations have completed the required inventory of objects that apply to this law. An incident like this might have happened and could still happen anywhere in the country. Native American object collecting was incredibly popular in the late 19th century, as indigenous people were thought to be “vanishing” as the conquest of the American continent completed. It is entirely likely that similar collections exist unprocessed in the archives of other libraries, schools, or museums across the country, and that more attempts to auction goods may take place in the future against a background of dwindling federal funds for cultural institutions.

Controversies around objects stolen from indigenous, colonized, and otherwise disempowered people around the world are making news every day now, in a flood that is by turns both reparative and dismaying. Under reparative, the President of France, Emanuel Macron, recently announced the planned return of 26 works of Dahomey art to the Benin government, who formally requested their return a number of years ago. Macron suggested that more such repatriations would be forthcoming, an important step in acknowledging the role France had in the destructive colonization of Africa in the 19th century.

Under dismaying, however, one can find any number of refusals including the famed Benin Bronzes or the Kohinoor Diamond, all of which remain in British hands for now. But changes may be underway. Not only are governments demanding the return of cultural objects from colonizing countries, in some cases countries or individuals are stealing objects out of the Western museums that keep them. Private citizens are also forming groups to wage social media campaigns that pressure institutions to return works to home countries.

As technology and globalization conspire to shrink the world, the call to return wrongfully obtained objects will only grow louder. Amid the din, protests and refusals from governments and institutions still holding ill-gotten treasures will sound like the weak excuses they are. In an attempt to counter tours that highlight illicit artworks at the British Museum, the museum has developed a series of lectures that focus on the proper provenance of many works originating in other countries. While any move toward transparency is positive, telling a partial story designed to improve an organization’s credibility while ignoring the larger issue the institution is complicit in is marginally laudable. With some luck and a lot of guilt and outcry, however, the public can keep pushing this important conversation to a place of resolution, rather than obfuscation.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Greetings readers! Here is the national jobs roundup for the week of December 3rd:

Northeast

Facilitator [Tsongas Industrial History Center/ UMass Lowell- Lowell, MA]

Manager of Youth and Family Programs [Greenwich Historical Society- Cos Cob, CT]

Vice President of Experience [EcoTarium- Worcester, MA]

Supervisory Museum Curator [JFK Library and Museum- Boston, MA]

Collections and Exhibition Technician [The Boston Athenaeum- Boston, MA] 

Assistant to the Registrar for Data Entry, Photography, and Rights and Reproduction [Middlebury College Museum of Art- Middlebury, VT]

Director of Development [Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT]

Traveling Science Workshops Teacher [Discovery Museum, Acton, MA]

 

Mid- Atlantic

Public Programs Manager [New York Transit Museum- NY, NY]

Assistant Manager of Professional Learning [NY Historical Society- NY, NY]

Director of Advancement [Cooper Hewitt- NY, NY]

 

Southeast

Director of Education [Chrysler Museum of Art- Norfolk, VA]

 

Midwest

Membership Manager [Grand Rapids Art Museum- Grand Rapids, MI]

Assistant Curator [Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL]

 

West

Coordinator for School Programs and Teaching Resources [Denver Art Museum- Denver, CO]

Director of Development [Bay Area Discovery Museum- Sausalito, CA]

Manager, Traveling Exhibits [Royal Ontario Museum- Toronto, Canada]

PR/Marketing Manager [Buffalo Bill Center of the West- Cody, WY]

Museum Educator [Western Gallery- Bellingham, WA]

 

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