Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

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]

 

Maasai Community Members Work to Decolonize Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum

The Maasai have been part of a process of cultural decolonization at Oxford’s famous Pitt Rivers Museum. The Living Cultures initiative is a collaboration between the museum, a Maasai community based campaign group called Oltoilo Le Maa, and community development organization InsightShare.  This initiative began when Maasai activist and Director of Oltoilo Le Maa, Samwel Nangiria, visited the museum for a conference last November. Upon walking through the museum he was shocked to see his own culture, objects from the Maasai community, “[They were] poorly described, with a lack of what the object is meant for [and its] cultural significance.” He described his heart beating fast “Because I know our culture is not dead. It’s a living culture.”

After expressing his discomfort with the museums director, Laura Van Broekhoven, he was invited back with four other Maasai leaders from Tanzania and Kenya. The purpose of the visit is to realign stories and descriptions of artifacts, showcase their powerful films and discuss how they use participatory video to bring sharply into focus their current land rights campaign. The Maasai leaders will work with the museum to change the way their living culture is represented beyond the framework of the imperial past.

This is especially important as the delegation has identified five of the sixty objects they have examined as sacred, which “they would not expect to find elsewhere apart from within their community.” One of which is an orkator, a bracelet that symbolizes the death of a father and is a form of inheritance that would be passed down through generations. As the bracelet cannot be sold or even given, it represents the darker side of many imperial ethnological museums. The Maasai believe that bad fortune may have come upon the family from which it was taken.

While this model of “originating-communities” visiting a museum for a week at a time is not sufficient to break down the colonial structures upheld by museums, the Pitt Rivers Museum is taking a step in the right directions by acknowledging the narratives of the people from these living cultures.

Further Reading:

Hey, that’s our stuff: Masaai tribespeople tackle Oxford’s Pitt Rivers museum
Living Cultures: Maasai leaders work with Pitt Rivers Museum to tell their story
Maasai leaders help Oxford University Pitt Rivers Museum better understand their culture

Where in the World is Salvator Mundi?

A year ago this month, Christie’s Auctions sold Salvator Mundi, one of about twenty known paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, for over $450 million, shattering all previous auction records and becoming the most expensive painting to ever be sold. The identity of the mysterious over-the-phone buyer remained anonymous for several days, until it was announced that a Saudi prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, had purchased the work with the aim of displaying it in the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. In September, however, the month that the Salvator Mundi was intended to be debuted, an official statement was released announcing a display postponement and that “further details will be announced soon.”

Although it has been over a year since the historic auction sale, Salvator Mundi has yet to be displayed, and scrutiny from museum professionals and art historians about its whereabouts has intensified. This week, it was announced that the painting may even be “lost,” since no one – aside from the Arab hierarchy – has seen it since the night of the auction.

This is not the first controversy associated with Salvator Mundi. In the media hype leading up the auction, many art historians and conservators were doubting its authenticity and provenance. Could this be the reason the painting has yet to be displayed? Perhaps the Louvre Abu Dhabi wants to ensure of its proper identification before it is shown to the world.

When, and if, Salvator Mundi is ever shown, I have to wonder where it will be displayed in the Louvre Abu Dhabi, especially considering it is a prominent portrait of Christ in a country that largely practices Islam. Will the painting be given a whole wall to itself, similar to the representation technique of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris? Or will it be placed in dialogue with other religious works, such as in “Gallery Four: Universal Religions,” where Qur’ans, Bibles, and Hindu sculptures would surround it?” The world will have to stay tuned to find out.

 

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