Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Happy February! Here’s the job round up for the week of February 17th!

Northeast

Education-Exhibits Coordinator/Wethersfield Historical Society [Wethersfield, CT]

Curator/David Winton Bell Gallery (Brown University) [Providence, RI]

Assistant Education Director/Wade Institute for Science Education [Quincy, MA]

Registrar/deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum [Lincoln, MA]

Museum Educator/MIT Museum [Boston, MA]

Mid-Atlantic

Curator of Education and Public Engagement/Arkell Museum at Canajoharie and Canajoharie Library [Canajoharie, NY]

Collection Manager/George Eastman Museum [Rochester, NY]

Associate Manager, Education/Museum of the City of New York [New York, NY]

Education Associate/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum [New York, NY] 

Informal Education Specialist/Space Telescope Science Institute [Baltimore, MD]

Institutional Relations Officer/National Museum of the American Indian [Washington, D.C.]

Southeast

General Museum Educator/University of North Florida [Jacksonville, FL]

Director of Education/Mosby Heritage Area Association [Loudoun County, VA]

Collections Manager/University of Alabama [Tuscaloosa, AL]

Curator, Historic Museums/Georgia College and State University [Milledgeville, GA]

Midwest

Education and Collections Manager/History Museum at the Castle [Appleton, WI]

Assistant Exhibits Preparator/Missouri Historical Society [St. Louis, MO]

K-12 Education Program Manager/Missouri Historical Society [St. Louis, MO]

Historic Site Supervisor/State Historical Society of North Dakota [Williston, ND]

Exhibition Designer/Detroit Institute of Arts [Detroit, MI]

ICAA Research Specialist/The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston [Houston, TX]

West

Interpretative Specialist/Denver Art Museum [Denver, CO]

Collection Information Specialist/LACMA [Los Angeles, CA]

Museum Educator/Oakland Museum of California [Oakland, CA]

 

 

Making Use of the Tools We Have

This week the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) announced that they will be closing their doors for four months later this year to complete their ongoing renovation and completely rehang their collection. When the museum reopens in the fall, they will rotate their collection more frequently, juxtapose works in different mediums, and, crucially, include more works that emphasize the contributions of women, people of color, and non-European artists to modern and contemporary art. They will also partner with the Studio Museum in Harlem, an American art museum that focuses on African American artists, to display their collection while that museum is being renovated.

This is a massive and much needed undertaking. Women and people of color have historically been included in MoMA’s exhibits in marginal ways. A 2015 Artnet survey of solo exhibitions from 2007-2014 at major American art museums found that only 20% of MoMA’s shows featured women artists. Not that these types of exclusion are limited to MoMA. Artnet recently looked at exhibitions of work by black artists at 30 major museums from 2008 to 2018 and found that they accounted for a mere 7.6 percent. So full-throated attempts to remedy these biases and gaps are welcomed. But not every museum can afford to close for months to revamp their space or aggressively collect work from marginalized artists. What can workers at those institutions do?

I recently attended a workshop on Social Justice and Museums run by Nicole Claris, Manager of School Programs at the MFA, Boston, and Sara Egan, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The workshop was put on by the Young Emerging Professionals group of the New England Museum Association. Its focus was on how to marshal resources to create exhibits, programming, and other experiences that surface marginalized lives and multiple points of view. Examples of real life successes were shared, like revamping a volunteer training program to give docents the knowledge and tools they needed to tell inclusive and truthful stories. Then step by step instructions for how to apply these intentions to your institution were shared:

  1. The work begins with you. Take a moment to check with yourself and see if you are able to take feedback about your work. It is ok to make mistakes, but we also have to be able to learn from them. This is how we build more inclusive experiences that share multiple perspectives.
  2. Define your goals and audience. What tools and objects do you already have in your institution? Perhaps it is a piece of art featuring a person of color. Are you telling that story? Maybe your historical institution starts its narrative when Europeans came on the scene. Can you surface the indigenous story as well?
  3. Get support. Determine how the actions you want to take relate to your institutional values and priorities. Identify people in your institution that could be allies. Build an external network of people who can help you do this work – who is doing this work that you can point to as a leader? What community organizations can you build relationships with to help your organization change? Who can help you with your blind spots and keep you honest?
  4. Identify activities that align with your goals. External resources from organizations doing this sort of thinking can help. Among those recommended were the Teaching Tolerance Project from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Empathetic Museum Maturity Model.
  5. Use your collection! Know what you have, through and through. Take opportunities to research objects that you think might have another perspective to share.
  6. Picture success. What will change look like in your institution? Remember that incremental change is better than no change at all.

We don’t all work at MoMA, but we can all make changes that tell wider, more robust stories about art, history, science, and the world. Do you have resources for doing this sort of work? Share in the comments!

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

This Valentine’s Day, find your perfect match. Here’s the job round up for the week of February 10th!

Northeast

Curatorial Fellowship / The Trustees [North Andover, MA]

Education Program Manager / Design Museum [Boston, MA]

Exhibitions Coordinator / Clark Art Institute [WIlliamstown, MA]

Public Programs Associate / Shelburne Museum [Shelburne, VT]

Museum Director / Carpenter Museum [Rehoboth, MA]

Mid-Atlantic

Head of Public Programming / The Phillips Museum [Washington DC]

Curator / University of Buffalo Art Galleries [Buffalo, NY]

Museum Fellow / Bucknell University [Lewisburg, PA]

Development Assistant / National Museum of Women in the Arts [Washington DC]

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, & Inclusion Project Manager / American Alliance of Museums [Arlington, VA]

Southeast

Museum Assistant / Rogers Historical Museum [Rogers, AR]

Curator / MOCA Jacksonville [Jacksonville, FL]

Manager of Family Programs / High Museum of Art [Atlanta, GA]

Midwest

Exhibition Assistant General Manager / Hamilton Exhibition [Chicago, IL]

Director of Curatorial Affairs / Allen County Museum & Historical Society [Lima, OH]

Curator / Contemporary Arts Center [Cincinnati, OH]

Assistant Exhibitions Preparator / Missouri Historical Society [St. Louis, MO]

Associate Director / Sheldon Museum of Art [Lincoln, NE]

West

Collections Manager & Exhibitions Coordinator / High Desert Museum [Bend, OR]

Executive Director / Coos History Museum [Coos Bay, OR]

Curator, Natural Science / Oakland Museum of California [Oakland, CA]

Director & Curator / University of Denver [Denver, CO]

Director / Wichita Falls Museum of Art [Wichita Falls, TX]

Iziko South African Museum: |Qe: The Power of Rock Art

This week I will be exploring the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town, South Africa and the Museum’s attempt at decolonizing a controversial and culturally damaging exhibit space in the post-apartheid period.

The Iziko South African Museum (SAM) is one of an amalgamation of eleven national museums in the  Cape Town area.  The cluster of museums were founded in 1998 with legislation to break down the power structures in the existing museums. The Izizko Museums of South Africa include the South African National Gallery, the Bo-Kaap Museum, and even the interpretive areas of a local winery. Iziko means hearth in isiXhosa, one of the eleven national languages in South Africa. In the isiXhosa tradition the hearth is the social center of a home and is the space associated with warmth, kinship, and shared stories. In naming the national heritage institution after the hearth they are declaring them “centers of cultural interactions where knowledge is shared, stories told, and experiences enjoyed.”

Although SAM is part of the Iziko Museums, it has a longer history as the first museum in South Africa founded in 1825. The museum focused on natural history. Like many 19th century natural history museums, SAM included material culture from local indigenous groups while reserving cultural history museums for the display of settler culture. The practice of displaying cultural”others” next to animals in Natural History museums has long been opposed. This practice was exemplified with “Bushman” Diorama which had been on display in the museum since 1960. The display was controversial not just for its racial stereotyping and inaccurate representation of Khoe-San culture, but for the use of body casts that were taken from 1907 and 1924 which had been painful and humiliating for the participants.

The diorama was closed in 2001 and was replaced with |Qe: The Power of Rock Art. At the entrance to the exhibit space,  SAM acknowledges the harmful history of the space with a message Jatti Bredekamp, Iziko CEO.

|Qe- The Power of Rock Art is a milestone in the history of this Museum, the oldest on the African sub-continent. For almost a century the South African Museum housed some of the most significant examples of rock art produced by San artists, however it was better known for displays of plaster body casts that emphasized the physical features of san people rather that their history and culture.

The Tragic history of dispossession, brutality, and cultural loss that befell the San people at the hands of the colonial settlers was overlooked in favour of idealized displays that reinforced stereotypes. In 2001 the so-called Bushmen Diorama was closed to allow for a process of consultation with descendant communities. In planning the rock art exhibition we initiated a conversation with Khoe-San communities regarding the ways Iziko presents their cultural heritage. This has enriched the exhibition immensely and the dialogue will continue.

The exhibit opened for permanent display in 2003 with the aim of acknowledging the spiritual power rock art had for the indigenous people of southern Africa.  The exhibit title was developed with consultation of modern day speakers of N/u, a language related to /Xam, the now extinct language of the souther San. The use of the word “|Qe” is meant to convey the pervasive sense of power of the art.

When I visited in January of 2019, the exhibit had been updated slightly to reflect the recent finds from the Blombos Cave in South Africa. These finds have been used to show the earliest signs of art in Anatomically Modern Humans, previously designated to European rock art, with the discovery of carved ochre and what may have been the production of ochre pigments dating back 70,000 years. The exhibit itself was laid out over two rooms telling, in my opinion, three connecting stories: 1) The history of rock art in South Africa and the rest of the world 2) The production of rock art by San people prehistorically through modern day and its significance culturally and spiritually, and 3) The work of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in the 1870’s to record the oral literature of the /Xam.

While the third story gave context to the interpretation of the rock art using the now extinct /Xam language, I felt its inclusion did a disservice to the exhibits intent of decolonizing the space. The Bleek and Lloyd story line exposed the “White Saviorism” the museum was still representing. For a more in depth critique of the exhibit and its disingenuous attempts at representation I recommend reading Remaking /Xam Narratives  in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Hendricks Mona D. Additionally, although the exhibit boasts its consultation with San communities, it is still displaying a historically “othered” group in a natural history museum. This point becomes complicated as often human material culture of the Pleistocene is relegated to Natural History Museums. However, the strength of this exhibit is in how it connects the early, prehistoric rock art to the modern-day San, as the continuation of a rich culture.

It is through the connection of the first and second storyline that the exhibit was most successful. When colonizers first found rock art in southern Africa they believed the art was too complex for the “primitive” San. The Khoe-San were racialized as being the lowest on the evolutionary time-scale. The connection between modern San rock art and prehistoric rock art turns that narrative around by showing the depth of San culture and tracing them back to the earliest Anatomically Modern Humans in South Africa. Furthermore, through the interpretation of recent rock art by descendants of /Xam speakers we can better understand the why? behind the rock art of South Africa.

While I think the Iziko South African Museum  has much work to do to decolonize its practices, |Qe: The Power of Rock Art, is an interesting exhibit in its telling of South African rock art. My hope is that the museum will continue to hold conversations with the Khoe-San communities and to break down the power structures upheld through colonialism and apartheid.

Further reading:

Remaking /Xam Narratives  in Post-Apartheid South Africa 

Limitations of Labels: Interpreting Rock Art at the South African Museum

The Politics and Poetics of the Bushman Diorama at the South African Museum

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Hello job seekers! Please find below the national jobs roundup for the week of February 5th!

Northeast

Director, Division of Education [Marine Biological Laboratory- Woods Hole, MA]

Executive Director [Connecticut River Museum- Essex, CT]

Membership Assistant [Brooklyn Museum- Brooklyn, NY]

Education Specialist [Heritage Museum and Gardens- Sandwich, MA]

Project Manager for Community Archiving Grant [UMass Boston- Boston, MA]

Director of Museum Experience [Discovery Museum- Acton, MA]

STEAM Programs Supervisor [Providence Children’s Museum- Providence, RI]

Mid-Atlantic

Campaign Director [National Museum of African American History and Culture- Washington, D.C.]

Associate Director of Education [Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum- Washington, D.C.]

Education Specialist [Friends of the National Zoo- Washington, D.C.]

Processing Archivist [The Phillips Collection- Washington, D.C.]

Museum Educator [Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution- Washington, D.C.]

Museum/Historic Site Interpreter [Delaware State Museums- Lewes, DE]

Southeast

Manager of Family Program [High Museum of Art Atlanta- Atlanta, GA]

Museum Assistant [Rogers Historical Museum- Rogers, AR]

Associate Museum Educator [Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art- Bentonville, AR]

Audience Research and Evaluation Associate [Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art- Bentonville, AR]

Manager of Interpretation [North Carolina Museum of Art- Raleigh, NC]

Assistant Museum Curator [City of Portsmouth- Portsmouth, VA]

Midwest

Director of Curatorial Affairs [Allen County Museum and Historical Society- Lima, OH]

Exhibition Assistant General Manager [Hamilton Exhibition, LLC- Chicago, IL]

West

Curator [Draper Natural History Museum- Cody, WY]

Museum Education Assistant [Hands On Children’s Museum- Olympia, WA]

Director K-College Programs [Lucas Museum of Narrative Art- Los Angeles, CA]

 

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