Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Kelsey L. Petersen (page 1 of 4)

Who does the new National Law Enforcement Museum serve?

On Saturday, the National Law Enforcement Museum opened to the public in Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. The Museum, which cost $103 million to construct, has a collection of 21,000 objects, and is intended to educate visitors about the experience of working in law enforcement. Featuring twelve interactive exhibits, visitors have the opportunity to engage with forensics, enter a 911 call center and play the role of a dispatcher, or participate in an officer training simulator.

Although Dave Brant, the museum’s executive director, has stated that “this facility will help us to educate, inform, create dialogue, around both the history of law enforcement [and] the current status of law enforcement,” I have to wonder who is missing from the museum’s narrative. How does the museum address Black Lives Matter, if at all? What about the lack of women in law enforcement, and the minority officer experience?  Does the museum discuss implicit biases among officers? At a time of intense racial divides, how does the National Law Enforcement Museum plan to engage visitors in a much-needed conversation?  Moreover, what does it mean for this museum to open now, merely two weeks after the Washington Post reported that 756 individuals have been fatally shot by police in 2018?

According to the museum’s website, its mission is to “introduce visitors to the proud history and many facets of American law enforcement in an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Our ‘walk in the shoes’ experience lets visitors learn what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer through innovative and engaging exhibits, artifacts and programs. We also seek to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve with thought-provoking programs that promote dialogue on topics of current interest.”

While it seems as if the museum is trying to become a space for constructive conversations, it is clearly one-sided. Despite an entire exhibit devoted to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, there is no mention of Black Lives Matter. Ultimately, through the use of special programming and other year-round educational programs, the museum is trying to improve community relations while striving to provide an alternative view of law enforcement not often told in the media.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Hello readers! Here’s the Weekly Jobs Roundup for the week of October 14th.

Northeast

Exhibit Designer [Museum of Science, Boston, MA]

Development Assistant [Concord Museum/Concord, MA]

Assistant Registrar [Williams College/Williamstown, MA]

Coordinator of Studio Arts and Family Programs [New Britain Museum of American Art/New Britain,  CT]

Director of Development [Greater Portland Landmarks/Portland, ME]

Mid-Atlantic

Assistant Curator of Exhibitions and Programs [Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY]

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

Senior Director of Collections Management [Virginia Museum of Arts/Richmond, VA]

Assistant Manager of Guest Experience [Mt. Cuba Center/Hockessin, DE]

Exhibition Designer [High Museum of Art/Atlanta, GA]

Southeast

Associate Curator of Education for Public Programs [Norton Museum of Art/West Palm Beach, FL]

Development Associate [Boca Raton Museum of Art/Boca Raton, FL]

Associate Director of Development [Boca Raton Museum of Art/Boca Raton, FL]

Midwest

Education Manager [Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum/Indianapolis, IN]

Site Manager [Texas Historical Commission/Rockport, TX]

Museum Manager [Mansfield Historical Society/Mansfield, TX]

Curator and Exhibits Manager [Door County Maritime Museum/Sturgeon Bay, WI]

Educator of Visual Literacy and Learning [University Museums/Ames, IA]

West

Director of Education and Community Engagement [Pittock Mansion Society/Portland, OR]

Curatorial Practices Specialist [Anchorage Museum Association/Anchorage, Alaska]

Curatorial Assistant [Hammer Museum/Los Angeles, CA]

Exhibitions Manager [UC Riverside Arts/Riverside, CA]

Exhibitions Manager [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/San Francisco, CA]

The “Spectacularization” of the Modern Art Museum

Spiraling ramp ways, dizzying spatial effects, metal beams that emulate a flapping wingspan, and multimillion-dollar converted industrial buildings: these are just some of the many characteristics we find in the recent cultural phenomenon known as the “spectacularization” of museums. From Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to the Broad Museum in Los Angeles,  art museums have quickly become places not just containing great art, but works of art in themselves. Yet again, another museum architectural wonder is set to open next week- the Glenstone Museum, in Potomac, Maryland. With a hefty renovation price tag of $200 million, the new museum design features a network of glass-enclosed passageways surrounding an 18,000 square foot water court. Although aesthetically intriguing, does this flamboyant architecture detriment the art viewing experience?

From the mid-twentieth century onward, in part as a result of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, there has been a shift from the Neoclassical-type museum design to more open, airy, and dynamic building projects. This approach is global; from I.M Pei’s construction of the glass pyramids at the Musée du Louvre, to Thomas Heatherwick’s conversion of a grains silo into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, there has been an increased use of “blockbuster” museum building types. Not only do these facilities boost attendance, revenue, and local economies, they also act as a catalyst for greater interest in art.

In 2016, for instance, SFMOMA received a $305 million-dollar facelift from Snøhetta, a Norwegian design and branding firm. Two floors of the seven-story building are now free and accessible to the public. With daily free public tours, the space encourages anyone to visit and learn. The multitude of seating arrangements in these spaces also invites visitors to sit down, relax, and digest the art surrounding them. Similarly, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles – another renovated contemporary art museum – offers free tours that facilitate engaging conversation about both the art and architecture that are available to the public on a weekly basis.

According to the Glenstone Museum’s website, “architecture is as essential as artwork and landscape, providing a minimal design to complement the collection and visitor experience.” Because so many museums that undergo these extreme updates ensure that their changes will positively serve the local population, instead of only capitalizing on tourists, I find that overall dramatic architecture types are inherently good, and that visitors are just as eager to discover the art inside as they are to experience the architecture itself. Similarly, the couple who is responsible for funding Glenstone has recently shared that one of the reasons why they decided to expand was to bring in more local school groups, “where arts education is at risk.” While it may be true that some visitors are more interested in the architecture than the art that lies within, I argue that these waves of dramatic architecture construction and conversion actually promote serious inquiry, encourage critique, and invite conversation.

Weekly Jobs Roundup

Hello everyone and happy fall! Here’s the jobs roundup for the week of September 23rd:

Northeast

Program Assistant [Edward M. Kennedy Institute/Boston, MA]

Visitor Experience Coordinator [Edward M. Kennedy Institute/Boston, MA]

Membership, Engagement, and Stewardship Coordinator [Smith College Museum of Art/ Northampton, MA]

Associate Director of Donor Relations [Museum of Science/Boston, MA]

Development Associate [Boston Children’s Museum/Boston, MA]

Executive Director [The Connecticut River Museum / Essex, CT]

Mid-Atlantic

Visitor Services and Membership Coordinator [Biggs Museum of American Art/Dover, DE]

Museum Manager [McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center/McKeesport, PA]

Executive Director [McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center/McKeesport, PA]

Director Traveling Exhibitions Department [International Arts and Artists/Washington, DC]

Exhibit Manager [Morehead Planetarium and Science Center/Chapel Hill, NC]

Southeast

Coordinator of Museum Interpretation [High Museum of Art/Atlanta, GA] 

Coordinator of Public Programs [High Museum of Art/Atlanta, GA]

Curatorial Administrative Assistant [Norton Museum of Art/West Palm Beach, FL]

Conservator [Vizcaya Museum and Gardens/Miami, FL]

Midwest

Collections Manager [Frazier History Museum/Louisville, KY]

Curator of Collections [Carver County Historical Society/Waconia, MN]

Curator (Exhibitions) [Las Cruces Museum System/ Las Cruces, NM]

Museum Curator (Education) [Las Cruces Museum System/ Las Cruces, NM]

Director of Education and Outreach [Asia Society Texas Center/Houston, TX]

West

Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art [San Diego Museum of Art/San Diego, CA]

Exhibitions Manager [De Young Museum/San Francisco, CA]

Museum Manager [City of Independence/Independence, OR]

Executive Director [Sacramento History Alliance/Sacramento, CA]

Curator of History and Campbell House [Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture/Spokane, WA]

How has the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa Addressed its Lack of Diversity?

In September of last year, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) – the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world – opened its doors on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. Hailed as “a new beacon of art” and “Africa’s most important museum opening in a century,” MOCAA promised its visitors an accessible and engaging space in which to enjoy one hundred galleries of installations, photography, paintings, and video works on view. Although its collection represents an impressive breadth of global art, and the artists represented are queer, female, and international, MOCAA received criticism for its lack of diversity among its high-ranking staff (most of whom are white and male). Considering the Museum will be celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, how has it addressed this problem…if at all?

At MOCAA, boutique lighting, white walls, and spaced out exhibitions provide an aesthetic experience that facilitate art viewing, encouraging visitors to stay for hours and to become lost in the great art before them. From Yinka Shonibare’s film installations that reflect on colonial practices, to sculptures by Swazi artist Nandipha Mntambo that explore the notion of binaries, MOCAA poignantly displays art from critically acclaimed artists. The collection, in addition to being beautiful, is worldly, intellectual, and relevant to today’s ever-changing political climate.

As a result of this universal approach, the canon of African art history is slowly widening and shifting to a more inclusive perspective. Despite these positives, the “overarching amount of white male voices” among its staff and Board of Directors becomes problematic when we consider the fact that only twenty-six years ago black South Africans were not even allowed to enter museums. Apartheid, the discriminatory racial classification system that severely restricted black South Africans’ rights to own land, vote, or visit certain areas, existed throughout the country from 1948-1991. Although apartheid has been abolished, its effects of systemic racism divisions still linger.

In May, MOCAA faced even more criticism when Mark Coetzee, executive director and chief curator (and personal friend of museum founder Jochen Zeitz), resigned due to professional misconduct allegations. Azu Nwagbogu, MOCAA’s photography curator, replaced him as the new director and head curator. Nwagbogu is also the editor-in-chief of Art Base Africa, an online contemporary African art journal, and has been the director of the African Artists’ Foundation since 2007. With these outstanding qualifications, it makes me wonder why he wasn’t hired as chief curator in the first place. In this role, Nwagbogu will also oversee the Museum’s curating training program, which trains twenty aspiring curators from around the continent “to work specifically in the context of their communities.”

I think there is hope for change with its youth curating program. After all, the Museum is still in its infancy; at the time of this writing it has only been open to the public for one year. With the criticisms it has received regarding its “whiteness” in a country that has experienced ongoing intense racial divides, I hope that in the coming year, and under the new direction of Nwagbogu, MOCAA will mindfully make decisions to prioritize inclusion and diversity among its staff, Board, and program efforts.

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