Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Museum Topics (page 1 of 16)

5 Museums That are not a Joke this April Fool’s Day


Whether you’re celebrating Passover, Easter, or simply April Fool’s this April 1, here are a few quirky museums that are no joke with their odd collections. Enjoy these fascinating finds!


  • The Lunchbox Museum, Columbus, GA
    • Some of these school-day classics displayed in the Lunchbox Museum are worth over two grand. Most of the lunchboxes displayed are made of tin, and range in date from the early to mid 20th The museum’s collector, Adam Woodall Jr. finds the most rewarding part of this museum to be the light in people’s faces when they find the lunchbox that they once took to school.
  • The Twine Ball Museum, Darwin, MN
    • This museum honors the largest ball of twine ever made by one man, along with some other eccentric oddities of this mid-western town. Darwin MN actually celebrates a Twine Ball Day every year-yikes!
  • The International Cryptozoology Museum-Portland, ME
    • Yes, there is actually a museum dedicated to unknown animals, and myths and legends such as BigFoot. The museum carries most of its label interpretation out through questions that seek to relate known animal biology to these creatures with an unproven existence.
  • National Mustard Museum- Middleton, WI
    • This museum features close to 6,000 variations of mustard from all 50 states. The museum also displays antique jars and mustard marketing from days past. The curator of the museum is actually the former Attorney General of the state of Wisconsin-talk about leaving your day job for your side-hustle.
  • The International Banana Museum, Mecca, CA
    • Nestled in California, this museum has everything-and I mean everything- banana related. There are jewelry, creams, cookie jars, pencil sharpeners-you name it, there’s something banana related.

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone!

Museums Amidst the “Me Too”

Women have played the role of artistic muse for millennia, serving as the objects of desire, lust, and love in paintings that offer depictions ranging from fully clothed to stark naked portrayals of the female persona.

Did these women pose willingly? Maybe. One cannot be sure.

Did some women suffer sexual assault or harassment from male artists who wished to portray their figures? Undoubtedly.

In the midst of the #MeToo movement which has spread an awareness of the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment via social media, museums must ask themselves how they fit into such a movement.

Most recently, Chuck Close has been accused of predatory behaviors toward his female subjects, but these accusations also stem back to ancient Greek pottery and painting, Manet, and even Picasso.

So how do we, as museums, deal with the uncomfortable imbalance of power that so often occurred between artist and subject throughout history?

Some might say remove the art- as protesters against Balthus’ work at the Met did, but censoring the exploitation of female subjects, would be censoring a lot of classical work, from Roman murals to the Renaissance to Impressionism, and in a sense would be censoring a large part of human history.

The artwork themselves are not a crime, but the stories behind the inspiration and the relationships between artist and subject may have been,

Museums should acknowledge these heinous acts within their actual context, and discuss the difficult history that surrounds such works. If there is a problematic story surrounding a work, tell it. Celebrate and honor the subjects and the humanity of the works, not the illicit artist.

Furthermore, to throw the buzzword relevance into the mix, museums would do well to tie these past examples of exploitation to current movements against oppression, gender inequality, racism and misogyny. There must be a learning dichotomy for these works that contextualizes the political, social, and racial scenes of these paintings, the problems with the scenes, and a call to action about what we can do today to eliminate these types of power structures in modern day history .

Therefore in addition to social media, #MeToo should be able to find another platform within museums through which difficult topics can be discussed within context, and the stories of those subjected to the acts of corrupt and debauched artists can give voice to those who have been oppressed and silenced by such acts.

Tufts Prison Symposium: Applications of Museum Education

The Tufts Prison Symposium illuminated the role of education in the prison system. During the two-day program, former inmates described their interactions with correctional officers, clinicians, and educators. They advocated to end a dehumanizing system that perpetuates a hierarchy of power and hinders opportunity for both professional and educational advancement. In the final workshop, Tufts students’ reflected on their experiences tutoring at correctional facilities and their unique responsibility as educators.

Tutors  described an educational approach that meets learners where they are, that cultivates a non-hierarchical relationship, that instills a sense of accomplishment, and that shares ownership over the learning process. Additionally, the tutors discussed the importance of valuing the whole learner and incorporating the learner’s experiences into the educational experience. They affirm that the learners’ ideas are valuable. For museum educators, their teaching experiences sounded extremely familiar. The tutors’ teaching methods parallel those in museums.

Emerging museum education philosophies advocate for shared-authority, encouraging learners to use prior experiences to derive personal meaning from the exhibited content. Gallery teaching focuses on skill development and relationship-building, rather than mastery of content. Teaching techniques such as Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) validate multiple perspectives and generate confidence. VTS uses images to inspire discussion and exploration; educators serve as facilitators, rather than content-providers. In this educational model, educators relinquish agendas and permit learners to direct the conversation.

VTS programs typically include a studio project, during which learners produce art that responds to the images they encountered. The art project serves as a tool to express both knowledge and experience. The general public rarely encounters inmates’ personal narratives. The three students who served on the panel recognized that the prison system purposefully segregates inmates from society, contributing to the dehumanization of prisoners. Museums have a responsibility to reflect the experiences of people in the community. The absence of inmates’ stories contributes to a dominant narrative that presents stories from the perspective of those in power.

Perhaps there is an overlooked opportunity for museums to partner with prisons. Such a partnership would provoke questions concerning complicity in the prison system and institutions of power, yet the initiative could create an educational environment that empowers the learner and expands the people we recognize as part of our community fabric.

Interpreting Aboriginal Culture- An Australian Outlook

This week’s post is brought to you by Melissa Kansky, a first-year student in the Museum Education M.A. program at Tufts,


Image 1 :  (Bark Painting exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW)

Image 2    (Political poster, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia )


Museums provide a lens into a community’s cultural identity, as well as the social issues that define its history and development. During Winter Intersession, I had the opportunity to travel to Australia. While abroad, I relied on art museums to uncover the layered history of the unfamiliar place. Despite the unique character of each museum, they exhibited similar themes, revealing dominant questions that permeate Australian society. The national institutions consistently used their respective collections to address the country’s colonization practices and resulting injustices against the Aboriginal people.

Similar to museum practices in the United States, Australian museums have, historically, depicted indigenous culture as static and archaic. Displays of Aboriginal culture had been restricted to anthropological museums, which provoke visitors to associate Native heritage with primitive and obsolete populations. However, in 1959, the former deputy director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales advocated that the museum include Aboriginal works, moving indigenous culture from the domain of natural history into an art context. Although controversial at the time, the decision acknowledges that Aboriginal experiences contribute to present Australian identity and enable Aboriginal peoples to direct their narrative. Aboriginal artists produced the series of Bark Paintings, exhibited on the first floor of the museum, specifically for the gallery. As a result, the artists determined the way in which their culture was presented for public consumption. Additionally, wall text often includes the artist’s voice and perspective, permitting both artist and curator to contribute to the interpretive process.

In addition to elevating Aboriginal voice, museums also highlight persistent colonization practices. An exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia illustrates current issues regarding land ownership and indigenous rights. The temporary exhibit, “Word: MCA Collection,” contains political posters from the permanent collection. The posters respond to displacement and cultural appropriation. The contemporary collection indicates these social injustices are not confined to Australian history, but influence present political structures, showing that museums must be courageous enough to not only participate in, but also advance, challenging conversations that shape the country.

While Australia is certainly not perfect in its museum practice, the country offers a model for greater inclusion of indigenous perspective. In the United States, the Abbe Museum, located in Bar Harbor, Maine, has positioned itself as a leader in decolonizing museum practices, which demands sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture. Nevertheless, indigenous collections have, largely, been limited to natural history museums, tribal museums, or indigenous-focused museums. In contrast, exhibitions in non-disciplinary museums expand where visitors encounter Native voice and the way it is incorporated in the community’s story. Museums that prominently feature Native artists signify that the experiences of marginalized populations are part of our national character.

New Year, New Museums

Happy New Year Museum lovers!

Here’s to the next twelve months of dialogue, thoughtful interpretation, social action, and reflection in our institutions.

With a new year, comes a host of new museums opening around the world!  Here are 8 new museums opening in 2018. Take a look, be inspired, and plan a visit!

  •  Guardian Art Center, Beijing
    • Opening: May 2018
    • This institution serves the public in a bi-fold manner; a museum and a modern auction house. It is an innovative idea for a creative, modern space set amid the ancient backdrop of Beijing
  • The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, Montgomery, Alabama
    • Opening: April 2018
    • This powerful museum, located at the location of the former slave warehouse in Montgomery, will explore historical and contemporary issues of slavery, segregation, racial terrorism, etc.
  • Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza Egypt
    • Opening: Late 2018
    • Not only does this massive institution display objects relating to Egypt’s colorful history, this museum provides one of the best views from which to view the colossal pyramids!
  • Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Richmond, VA
    • Opening: April 2018
    • The largest arts project in this college’s history, this Institute of contemporary art will be opening with a show comprised of 30 artists, all dealing with contemporary, Social Issues
  • Victoria and Albert Museum of Design, Dundee, Scotland
    • Opening: Late Summer 2018
    • Scotland’s first museum to exclusively display design throughout the 20th century, is anchored in the River Tay, Yes, it is an actual floating watercraft.
  • Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington
    • Opening May 2018
    • Even the structure of this museum screams NORWAY, as the angular walls are meant to represent fjords. Check out Scandinavian film, art, history, and culture in this smartly designed space.
  • Glenstone Museum, Maryland,
    • Opening: late 2018
    • This museum, featuring landscape, architecture, and contemporary art, is set to include a water garden in its newly constructed space right outside of DC.
  • Fotografiska, London
    • Opening November 2018
    • With an original branch in Sweden, this photography museum is expanding to London, and will feature exhibits all year round from legendary photographers
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