Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: jshepp02 (page 2 of 4)

Three more years until a new definition

A man wearing glasses leans over a look, looking closely at something he is pointing at

We return to the question, “What is a museum?” this week but, instead of doodles by summer campers, we have the perspectives of the International Council of Museums community. A new museum definition was up for a vote at ICOM’s 25th General Conference in Kyoto, Japan this past weekend. The museum community polarized into two strongly for- and anti-new definition camps and, without a consensus, the Extraordinary General Assembly voted to… vote later.

The current ICOM museum definition, which has not changed much in decades and is likely familiar to most museum professionals, is as follows:

A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

Current definition from ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly on 24 August, 2007

The new definition, which split opinions worldwide, focuses less on the “what” and more on the “how” and “why” of museums. It references hot topics such as diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and pushes the idea of a museum ever closer to forum than temple:

Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.

Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.

new alternative museum definition selected by the Executive Board of ICOM on July 2019

I find my own opinions on this definition are split; I am drawn to the prioritizing of working with and for all people, but the ideas in it are disorganized. The editor in me wants something more concise! François Mairesse, a French professor and museum professional who resigned from the ICOM committee in charge of developing the new definition, shared a similar sentiment with The Art Newspaper, saying, “A definition is a simple and precise sentence characterizing an object, and this is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant.” He went on to say that the new definition was exclusionary to existing museums who do not match or would have difficulty adapting to it, adding, “It would be disastrous to impose only one type of museum.”

For me, this second part of Mairesse’s argument has no legs. The practical difference between the current and new definitions is the exclusion of the word education and the inclusion of voices outside of museum staff and leadership. Words and phrases such as democratising [sic], polyphonic, participatory, and critical dialogue mark the strongest change in how a museum who adheres to the new definition might operate. The rest – basic ideas on collecting, conserving, researching, interpreting (and can’t interpretation include education, anyways?), and exhibiting objects and ideas that tell the story of humanity for humanity – remains the same, albeit with loftier goals of benefiting “planetary wellbeing.”

Is that not what we, the museum community, should be striving for? To continue our work with care and further engage the communities we serve – to share the responsibilities of authority, expertise, and meaning-making? Just because the undertaking may prove challenging for “traditional” museums (Mairesse cited the Louvre, for example), doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

I am curious to see where the definition goes from here, as the vote postponement passed by the Extraordinary General Assembly means that ICOM will have another three years to refine a new definition before it comes up for a vote at the next General Conference. My hope is for something more succinct that keeps the participatory spirit. I expect the topic will be up for fresh debate in many Tufts Museum Studies courses (as well as in programs and institutions globally). What do you think, Tufts Museum Studies Blog readers, how should the definition change between now and 2022?

If you’d like some inspiration, or just a look at the ideas of others, ICOM collected 269 submissions for the Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials (MDPP, 2017-2019) to reference as they were coming up with the new definition. Are there any that strike closest to what you think should guide the museums of today? We welcome your thoughts in the comments!

Weekly Jobs Round-Up

Welcome to the start of another week! Here are the latest job postings from around the country. Happy hunting!


Director of Advancement / Concord Museum (Concord, MA)
Development Director / Fairfield Museum (Fairfield, CT)
Assistant/Associate Curator of Collections, Davis Museum / Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
Executive Director / Canterbury Shaker Village (Canterbury, NH)
Corporate Relations and Foundations Manager / Wadsworth Atheneum Musuem of Art (Hartford, CT)
Development Database Specialist / Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT)
Lead Horticulturalist / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
EiE Systems Analyst / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Stewardship Specialist / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Senior Curriculum Developer, Engineering is Elementary / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Professional Development Manager / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Membership Communications Officer / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Program Presenter, Staffed Exhibit Spaces / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Teaching Artists – Workshops Winter/Spring 2020 / Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA)
Staff Assistant, Digital Imaging and Visual Resources (DIVR) / Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA)
Staff Assistant, Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technology (DIET) / Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA)
Educational Programs Intern (Paid or Course Credited) / The Mary Baker Eddy Library (Boston, MA)
Retail Product Designer / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA)
Projectionist/Media Technical Specialist / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA)
Manager and Assistant Programmer of Film and Video / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA)
Salem Tour Guide / The Histrionic Academy (Salem, MA)


Director of Development / Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)
Associate Curator of 18th and 19th Century European Painting and Sculpture / Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA)
Director of Marketing / Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY)
Art Center Educator / Burchfield Penney Art Center (Buffalo, NY)
Education Programs Manager / The American Civil War Museum (Richmond, VA)
Curatorial Research Associate / Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Vice President, Education and Engagement / Museum of the City of New York (New York, NY)
Senior Coordinator, Donor Relations / American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Postdoctoral Research Associate – 18th 19th c American British Art, Architecture, Landscape / National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Washington, D.C.)
Manager of Education and Engagement / Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA)
Museum Educator / The Capital Jewish Museum (Washington, D.C.)
Associate Director, Collections and Research Services (Chief Curator) / The New York Public Library (New York, NY)
Curator of Italian and Spanish Paintings / National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
Curator of Jewish Culture/Judaica / The Jewish Museum (New York, NY)
Marketing and Communications Manager / American Alliance of Museums (Arlington, VA)
Director, Sales and Advertising / American Alliance of Museums (Arlington, VA)
Registrar / Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, NJ)
Paper Conservator (term) / Princeton University Library (Princeton, NJ)
Early Childhood Educator, Children and Family Learning / American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Education Manager / The Museum of the City of New York (New York, NY)
Education Assistant – Professional Learning (F/T) / The Museum of the City of New York (New York, NY)


Finance Director / Orlando Museum of Art (Orlando, FL)
Chief Museum Registrar / Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU (Miami, FL)
Museum Assistant Registrar / Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU (Miami, FL)
Curator of American Painting / Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (Winter Park, FL)
Membership Manager / Sarasota Art Museum – Ringling College of Art + Design (Sarasota, FL)
Museum Manager / The Early Works Family of Museums (Huntsville, AL)


Education Associate / Nebraska History Museum (Lincoln, NE)
Communications Director / Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati, OH)
Development Director, Membership / The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO)
Director of Exhibitions / Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO)
President and CEO / Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago, IL)
Assistant Educator / Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (St. Louis, MO)
Director and Curator of Exhibitions and University Collections / DePauw University (Greencastle, IN)
Jim Crow Museum Education Coordinator (Temporary, Full-Time) / Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI)
Curator of Academic Programs / Sheldon Museum of Art (Lincoln, NE)

South Central

Public Historian / The Alamo (San Antonio, TX)
President and CEO / Oklahoma City Museum of Art (Oklahoma City, OK)
Director of Education / Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)
Exhibition and Program Manager / Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University (Houston, TX)


Development Assistant / Millicent Rogers Museum (Taos, NM)
Museum without Walls Collection Strategist / Los Altos History Museum (Los Altos, CA)
President and CEO / The Amerind Foundation (Dragoon, AZ)
Executive Director / Pratt Museum (Homer, AK)
Head of Publications / Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA)
Senior Manager of Membership and Visitor Experience / Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito, CA)
Education and Engagement Manager / Whatcom Museum (Bellingham, WA)
Associate Registrar / Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA)
Director of Philanthropy / The High Desert Museum (Bend, OR)
Executive Director / New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe, NM)
Curator of Education and Interpretation / Museum of Glass (Tacoma, WA)
Curator-At-Large / Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art (Davis, CA)
Curator of Contemporary Art / Santa Barbara Musuem of Art (Santa Barbara, CA)
Managing Director of Education / The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (Los Angeles, CA)

Internship Posting at the Harvard Art Museums

From the Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Fall 2019 Registrar’s Office Internship
Collections Management, Harvard Art Museums

The Harvard Art Museums’ Department of Collections Management is accepting applications for an Intern to assist with a variety of projects in the Registrar’s Office.

About the Harvard Art Museums:

The Harvard Art Museums, ranked among the world’s leading art institutions, is comprised of three museums (Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler) and four research centers (Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis). The museums have played a leading role in the development of art history, conservation, and conservation science, and in the evolution of the art museum as an institution. Through research, teaching, professional training, and public education, the museums strive to advance the understanding and appreciation of art. Integral to Harvard University and the wider community, the museums and research centers serve as resources for students, scholars, and the public.


This internship will provide an introduction to the practical aspect of managing fine art collections in a major museum and introduce the successful candidate to the museums’ cataloguing and temporary loan processes. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to:

  • Work alongside Registrars for the Collection – Katie Press and Karoline Mansur – to assist with the management, archiving and possible digitization of collections management records.
  • Work closely with the Registrars to archive temporary loan records, re-house original museum documents for safer access, and assist with other ongoing projects as needed.
  • Gain experience tracking museum objects through research into original collection files and the electronic collection database The Museums System (TMS).
  • Please note that this internship is unpaid.


  • September – December 2019 with flexible start and end dates.
  • 8-16 hours (1-2 full days) a week between 9am – 5pm (Mon., Thurs and Friday are preferred)


This internship would take place at our Somerville Research Facility, 200 Inner Belt Rd., Somerville, MA. There is free parking onsite as well as a complimentary shuttle that leaves from the Museums in Cambridge every hour. More details are available here.


  • The student must receive credit for this internship in order to be eligible.
  • The internship is open to graduate or undergraduate students.
  • Comfortable working in Excel, Word, and with data entry. Training in TMS will be provided.
  • A willingness to learn, ask questions, and accept feedback is essential.

How to Apply:

Please forward a letter of interest and resume to Claire Burns, Collections Management Coordinator at

Application Deadline: August 27, 2019

Weekly Jobs Round-Up

We’ve got a long list for you today – here are the job listings from the last week and a half. Happy hunting!


Senior Manager, Board Relations and Artistic Planning / Handel and Haydn Society (Boston, MA)
Sanctuary Director: Nantucket Sanctuaries / Mass Audobon (Lincoln, MA)
Human Resources Business Partner, Hiring and Compensation / The Trustees of Reservations (Boston, MA)
Leadership & Planned Giving Coordinator / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Brain Building Together (BBT) Explorer / Discovery Museum (Acton, MA)
Director of Education & Volunteer Programs / Zoo New England (Boston, MA)
Adult Learning Fellow / The Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston, MA)
Education Associate I, Live Presentations / Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Teaching Artists – Workshops Winter/Spring 2020 / Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA)
Education Associate / Old South Meeting House (Boston, MA)
Civics Education and Visitor Experience Internship / Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate (Boston, MA)
Development Assistant II / Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA)
Program Coordinator / Hancock Shaker Village (Pittsfield, MA)
Program Officer: Community Initiative / Mass Cultural Council (Boston, MA)
Educator / Old North Church & Historic Site (Boston, MA)
Old North (Clough House) Costumed Educators / Old North Church & Historic Site (Boston, MA)
Executive Director / Bennington Museum (Bennington, VT)
Director of Collections / Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Kemper Assistant/Associate Curator of Academic Affairs and Exhibitions / Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)


Curator / US Navy Memorial Visitor Center (Washington D.C.)
Museum Exhibit Technician / Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, D.C.)
Marketing and Public Relations Director / Biggs Museum of American Art (Dover, DE)
Collections Database Administrator / Penn Museum: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia, PA)
Development Officer for Education Programs / The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Senior Managing Editor for Public Programs and Creative Practive / The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Associate Curator (Programs) / Rutgers University – Express Newark (Newark, NJ)
Development Associate, Corporate Relations / American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Kress Interpretive Fellowship / Smithsonian Art Museum (Washington, D.C.)
Vice President, Education and Engagement / Museum of the City of New York (New York, NY)
Associate Curator of Media Arts / Museum of the Moving Image (New York, NY)
Community Engagement Coordinator / Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
Associate Registrar / Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Deputy Director and Gail Engelberg Director of Education and Public Engagement / Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & Foundation (New York, NY)
Curator of Jewish Culture/Judaica / The Jewish Museum (New York, NY)


Development Director / The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (Fort Smith, AR)
Membership Manager / Sarasota Art Museum – Ringling College of Art + Design (Sarasota, FL)
History Museum Curator / City of El Paso, El Paso Museum of History (El Paso, TX)
Museum Membership & Outreach Coordinator / City of El Paso, El Paso Museum of History (El Paso, TX)
Chickasaw Heritage Center Museum Director / The Chickasaw Nation (Tupelo, MS)
Collections Manager / The Hermitage (Hermitage, TN)
Exhibit Manager / The Corpus Christi Museum (Corpus Christi, TX)
Director / North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, NC)
Deputy Director of Operations / George Mason’s Gunston Hall (Mason Neck, VA)
Curator / College of Visual Arts and Design: University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
Director of Education and Outreach / The Bryan Museum (Galveston, TX)
Director of Development / Nauticus Foundation (Norfolk, VA)
The Nancy and Tim Hanley Associate Curator of Contemporary Art / Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, TX)
The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art / Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, TX)
President & CEO / Exploration Place, Inc. (Wichita, KS)
Exhibits Researcher / Space Center Houston (Houston, TX)
Assistant Curator / Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (Pine Bluff, AR)
Director of Development / Hermitage Museum & Gardens (Norfolk, VA)


President & CEO / DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) (Naperville, IL)
Museum Manager / 21c Museum Hotel (Chicago, IL)
Preparation and Security Assistant / Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (St. Louis, MO)
Exhibit Developer / Indianapolis Children’s Museum (Indianapolis, IN)
Director of Marketing & Communications / United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum (Colorado Springs, CO)
Director of Guest Services / United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum (Colorado Springs, CO)
Director of Content Strategy / Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Membership Representative / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (Cleveland, OH)
Director, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH)
Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Engagement / Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MS)
Paper Care Specialist / Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI)
Facilities Manager, History Center / Minnesota Historical Society (MN)
Senior Curator / Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Chicago, IL)
President, Director, and CEO / Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, OH)
President and CEO / Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago, IL)
Archivist / Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (Colorado Springs, CO)


Executive Director / New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe, NM)
Programming and Outreach Assistant / Zócalo Public Square (Los Angeles, CA)
Database Manager, Senior / Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona)
Exhibit Project Manager / California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, CA)
Development Director / National Hot Rod Association (Glendora, CA)
Asian Art Curatorial Research Fellow / Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA)
Museum Educator / IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (Santa Fe, NM)
Associate Director of Visitor Experience / Oakland Museum of California (Oakland, CA)
Manager of Family Engagement / Oakland Museum of California (Oakland, CA)
Associate Registrar or Registrar / Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA)
Director of Philanthropy / The High Desert Museum (Bend, OR)
Ahmanson Curator of Native American History and Culture / Autry Museum of the American West (Los Angeles, CA)
Curator of Western History / Autry Museum of the American West (Los Angeles, CA)
Associate Editor / Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
Executive Director / San Bernardino County Museum Association (Redlands, CA)

What is a museum – and what goes in it?

As students and museum professionals, we are constantly revisiting the question of, “What is a museum?” We ask it of ourselves and of the visitors we serve – a quick search on Youtube, for example, yields such entertaining videos as What is a Museum? from The Brain Scoop and Ask the Kids: What is a Museum? from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

I gathered a few more answers to the question this week as I taught summer camp at the Dallas Museum of Art. Titled The Museum of ME!, this camp introduced children ages 6-8 to different museum jobs and how exhibitions are created (thanks for the inspiration, Tufts course on Exhibition Planning!). By the end of the week, campers took on the roles of curator, designer, conservator, registrar, preparator, and educator as they developed and fabricated their own mini museums.

To start us off right, our very first activity was a big camp brainstorm to come up with a collective understanding of, “What is a museum?” Each camper and teacher drew a picture of something they believed “goes” in a museum, which we then taped to a big butcher paper drawing of an imaginary museum. You can see some of the responses below – each is a tiny representation of our museum interests and priorities. A few might even make you laugh.

Unsurprisingly, my contribution was… summer camp!

What might you add to our museum? What is a museum to you?

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