Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa: The Main Complaint

In my last and final post for this series we will be exploring the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa and their attempt to address earlier criticism through the exhibit “The Main Complaint.”

The Tufts Museum Studies Blog has previously written the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) last year when Editor Kelsey Peterson addressed issues of diversity among the Museum’s staff. The privately funded art museum, often referred to as “Africa’s Tate Modern,” is the continent largest museum in the world dedicated to African art. In the two years since it’s grand opening the museum has faced many debates and controversies including the resignation of Executive Director and Chief Curator Mark Coetzee over allegations of racial and sexual misconduct and criticism regarding how accessible the museum is for the general public. MOCAA is in fact quite expensive at 190 rand approximately $14 USD. This may not seem exorbitant for museums in the U.S., but when compared to other costs in Cape Town, for example a Wagyu Steak Tartare dinner at a nearby posh waterfront restaurant is slightly less, it is an understandably unaffordable price for a city rife with economic and racial segregation.

From its onset, regardless of controversy, the museum has billed itself as an institution for all with a responsibility to represent everyone including audiences “who have often felt excluded from cultural institutions.” In fact, the opening exhibition, still on view today,  entitled All Things Being Equal asks visitors to questions “How will I be represented in the museum?” On its website the museum makes it clear that representation is an ongoing process for the institution, answering the question of “Is the Museum an accurate portrayal and representation of the African Continent?” with this statement:

“This museum is at the start of a journey to participate in the conversation of what it means to be African, and then begin representing the continent. This will be a process over many years to fully understand and represent such a huge continent with so many traditions, languages and cultural groups. No collection can represent an entire continent but Zeitz MOCAA hopes its collection will make a significant impact on how Africa and the world view and has access to works of art from Africa and its Diaspora.”

As I found out on my recent visit to Zeitz MOCAA, the institution does its best work when it is being self-reflective through grappling with these thoughts and ideas of representation, accessibility and institutional power. These ideas are best represented in the exhibition The Main Complaint, which opened to the public in November of last year and will be closing at the end of this week.

The Main Complaint is an infiltrating exhibition highlighting systematic, institutional failures, in an attempt to contextualise, recognise and repair. The exhibition exists as an ongoing series of interventions by museum staff and invited artists.

The Main Complaint is not confined to this exhibition space. The project exists as an infiltrating and sprawling series of interventions, workshops, talks and off-site programs – all of which will, in some form, end up in here. It’s unclear what this space will become. It may become claustrophobic and unaccommodating. Or perhaps it will generously harbour a collection of beautifully synchronised works and a range of alternative ideas.

The role of technology is an integral theme throughout, as an indicator of intergenerational communication, memory, modes of representation, accessibility, agency, and ultimately, a facilitator of collaborative, responsive change.

How much time are you willing to invest in the process?

According to Zeitz MOCAA Assistant Curator Michaela Limberis, the idea for The Main Complaint came from the idea of wanting to respond to the conversations surrounding the institution. The title is adapted from William Kentridge’s 1996 film, The History of the Main Complaint, which looks at white capital, power, and responsibility through the protagonist’s self-reflection while questioning what progress has been made. In an interview with ART AFRICA, Limberis described the importance of this exhibition for the young institution “some people perceived that there was a lack of communication between the museum and voices in the arts community, and believed that there wasn’t a sense of collaboration in the approach. As an institution that aims to be a representative of the African continent at large, there was an opportunity to being open to dialogue.” The artists explore many common themes of “access, value, representation, and ownership” within an institution.

The exhibition is in the in the Museum’s Centre for the Moving Image space, and as such relies heavily on film. Upon entering the space you are greeted by a foreboding security gate complete with a soundscape to set the scene. The piece, entitled “Right of Admission Reserved,” by Gaelen Pinnoch appropriately sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. The piece is a physical barrier at the entrance to the exhibition space, access to which is only granted through pressing the “request access” button. The artists aim is to make viewers feel intimidated by the gate and/or the access control procedure. According to the label, the piece is an attempt to “distill the sense of exclusion, usually imparted by covert expressions of power, control or authoritarianism in the built environment, into something physical and explicit.” The work manifests into physical form the feelings many have towards cultural institutions. By having this piece at the entrance to the exhibition space, it helps to set the tone to complaints of access and power within cultural institutions.

Other works look directly at the relationships between artists and institutions such as Hhanya Mashabela’s “Ode to Institutional Critique” and Mitchel Messina’s “Lil Slugger Goes to Zeitz MOCAA.” Messina’s animated short was by far my favorite piece on view and made specifically for this exhibition. The film follows Lil Slugger to a slumber party at Zeitz MOCAA. From my understanding Lil Slugger represents smaller artists and the struggles they face while navigating institutions and systems of power. Throughout the film Lil Slugger is intimidated by security guards, rules, and other works of art before realizing that they may be struggling as well. The label description is written in Lil Slugger’s voice as he grapples with feeling hurt by “big systems’ while still trying to fix them:

And sometimes I wonder if these big systems broken and hurting also, and maybe they want to get better but only way how they can get attention is by acting out and doing things we wish they won’t.

If I ignore them maybe they will fall in with a bad crowd and get worse, maybe they will be pressured into being a badder system. But if I try to hug them they will push me away so hard I tumble and break my heart and never want to go back.

I was interested to see how many artists were willing to have their voices included in the exhibition and even more so in the institutions willingness to present narratives in which the Museum and cultural institutions as a whole were not always depicted in a positive light. I think overall Zeitz MOCAA excelled most in their exhibits that provided more self-reflective, meta looks at cultural institutions and the art world. I am curious to see how the Zeitz MOCAA will continue to progress with attempting to break down power structures and barriers to access and representation. As Limberis mentioned, as a young museum, Zeitz MOCAA has a lot of room for experimentation and that could bring the museum to the forefront as a leader in the museum world. I look forward to keeping an eye out for what they do next.

If you ever find yourself in Cape Town head to the V & A Waterfront for a visit to Zeitz MOCAA.

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

The Kigali Genocide Memorial: Remembrance and Learning

As an emerging museum professional I find it very important to visit museums whenever I am traveling. This allows me the opportunity to see common trends and innovative ideas within the museum field. I find this additionally valuable when traveling internationally to see how museums across the globe are presenting their materials. Over my next four posts I will be writing about four different museums in Rwanda, Zanzibar, and South Africa to see how these museums have handled difficult topics, dealt with controversy, and presented their collections in innovative and interesting ways.

This week I will be looking at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. The memorial is unique because it is not just a memorial, nor a museum, but the final resting place of over 250,000 Tutsi murdered during the 1994 genocide. It is a place of both remembrance and of learning and prevention. The memorial was opened in 2004 on the 10th commemoration of the genocide and was made possible by a 1999 land grant by the City of Kigali, and funding from Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide and Aegis Trust, a British NGO which campaigns to fight genocide worldwide. Today, the memorial has five primary objective:

  1. To provide a dignified place of burial for victims of the genocide against the Tutsi
  2. To inform and educate visitors about the causes, implementation, and consequences of the genocide, and other genocides throughout history.
  3. To teach visitors what we can do to prevent future genocides.
  4. To provide a documentation center to record evidence of the genocide, testimonies of genocide survivors, and details of genocide victims.
  5. To provide support for survivors, in particular orphans and widows.

The memorial has three permanent exhibitions. The first, The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, details the causes of the genocide, the horrors of the planned genocide, and the restorative justice and reconciliation of the post-genocide era. The second exhibit space, entitled Wasted Lives, documents the other genocides around the world. The third, The Children’s Room, is a memorial to the children murdered during the genocide and the futures lost with them. In addition to the exhibition space is the Burial Place and the Gardens of Reflection. The memorial has made a point of being a welcoming space for survivors and the families of victims.

The memorial is donation based and allows for a variety of different experiences. Through my research prior to arrival I had already decided I would be taking an audio tour. I decided on this experience for two reasons. One, because I knew the audio tours were a huge support for the memorial, and two, because I had never taken an audio tour before and after spending a fair amount of class time looking at them I felt I should experience one. I have always shied away from audio tours and saw them (unfairly, I’m sure) as an amateur way to experience a museum. However, I am very glad I chose to take an audio tour for the Kigali Genocide Memorial as it provided much more than supplemental materials but rather drove the intended narrative. Included in the (high by Rwandan standards) price of the audio tour was a rose to place upon the mass tombs and “Ubumuntu” pin.

The audio tour leads visitors through the gardens and Burial Place first. However, because we worried about time we chose to skip ahead and enter the museum space first. The first exhibition on the 1994 genocide occupies the entirety of the first floor, and is fashioned in a way that visitors will move around the outside of a central room containing a memorial sculpture. At three intervals visitors will encounter an opening in the exhibit materials that both allows them to look into the central room and out towards a flight of stairs leading to a stained glass window but no exit. The stained glass pieces are meant to represent the different ways in which the genocide could have been prevented or stopped but weren’t. Finally, the last flight of stairs at the end of the exhibit is unblocked and represents the future for Rwandans. The memorial uses not just the written and digital aspects of the exhibit but the actual physical space itself to tell the story.

This first exhibit was the largest and told the story of the 1994 genocide by first describing pre-colonial Rwandan society and the affects of colonization. As someone who grew up in the Western world I am so used to hearing histories told from the colonists view. I was most impressed by how the memorial made it very clear that the genocide was directly the result of colonial influences going back over a century. I was shocked to learn that the designation of Tutsis and Hutus were not tribal affiliations but social classes created by Belgians based on arbitrary differences such as the size and shape of your nose and the amount of cows you own. Additionally, the exhibit made clear the ways in which the internationally community failed Rwanda prior to and during the genocide. While much of the exhibit focused on the causes of the genocide, the memorial did not shy away from showing the horrors and atrocities of April to July 1994, particularly those acted upon women and children. Sections of the exhibit were beyond difficult and at one point I had to stop to take time to compose myself. It was hard to understand how anyone, let alone friends and neighbors, could commit these violent crimes. But, this reality is another fact the memorial attempts to drive home, by the end of the genocide it was estimated that over one million people, or 1/5 of the remaining population were potentially culpable. Instead of condemning those that took part, the memorial attempted to show what conditions could lead to a neighbor killing their neighbor.

The two exhibits in the second floor of the inside space were much smaller than the first. However, The Children’s Room, was likely the hardest and most moving section of the whole memorial. The space started with a small sign, a message for the child victims, “children, you might have been our national heroes…” Inside the rooms were large pictures of children, the labels juxtaposed personal details like their age and favorite foods with their last words (cries for help,) last memories (watching their mothered murdered,) and ways in which they were murdered. At the end were cloths lines along which survivors could post photos of their lost loved ones. It was a painful room. It was particularly hard knowing those children would have been around my age now. When I was enjoying my idyllic childhood, a child just like me was facing genocide.

The final section of the memorial looked at post-genocide reconstruction. After such a difficult topic this section was inspiring and uplifting in its depiction of how Rwandans were able to use restorative justice as a form of reconciliation through their Gacaca Courts. Gacaca, meaning “justice amongst the grass,” in a traditional communal justice system that was adapted to try more than 1.9 million cases. The courts are meant to promote communal healing and present opportunities for truth-telling that allowed many survivors to find the bodies of their loved ones. The exhibit depicts Gacaca as a success that has paved the way for peace in Rwanda. And as an outsider, I was struck by how at piece Rwanda seems, and what a huge capacity for forgiveness and healing Rwandans have. But, as we all know, museums are not neutral and oftentimes have an agenda in the stories they choose to tell. Although the memorial presents a very positive image of post-genocide Rwanda, conversations with others paints a less rose-colored view. Regardless, the memorial pushed their story of forgiveness and healing through the rest of the exhibit spaces as well. I left feeling drained but also positive and in awe of the Rwandan people. I would hope that the forgiveness and community healing is real but struggle to see how it could be.

 

Making Museums Connected

This week’s post comes from Jingya Guo, a graduate student in the History and Museum Studies program

As a new graduate student of Museum Studies so far, I can always notice shifts inside my understanding of museums. I’ve been to museums many times when I was in China. I visited museums with my parents, and sometimes my peers. We read written labels’ discourse on the provenance of an object, such as a hand-made wooden chair from Ming dynasty, then we received a bunch of information in terms of how it was produced and how its social context was according to the introduction of docent. We experienced this process again and again in a short time period, then we finished our museum visit. The museums in my mind were shrines containing works of art, I was cautioned against touching objects in museums, photos were strictly forbidden to be taken even though the flash light was not open. I hardly noticed people working in museums behind the scene. Museums were once temples for me to worship the beauty of great human wisdom. They were isolated from what I experienced in my daily life. However, I know something in my mind may have already changed, I am not only a museum visitor but also a museum studies student, which means museums will possibly be my workplace. The dual identities that I embody makes me think more about what museums are, and what museums mean to me. With the external changes of technology and globalization, it is indispensable for a museum to make connections with the outside world and stop regarding itself as a “temple.” Museums need to restart life at a grass-roots level and make it popularized to the public. Integrating museums into the community and making people engage in museum activities needs to become a significant considerations for museum professionals. It is the responsibility of museum professionals to make museums connected.

Why is it important for a museum to play an active role in community?

A museum’s nature and characteristics facilitates the need to establish a interactive relationship between itself and the society. Museums, as explained by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), is an institution serving for education and aesthetic enjoyment. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also demonstrates that museums maneuver to organize its collection and design programs for “educational and aesthetic purposes”. The International Council of Museums straightforwardly points out that museums should be open to public and render service for society and the local community.  These institutions address the educational role that museums play and intentionally highlight the interactive relationship between the society and museums. The belief that museums are holy places, storing precious artifacts, has been doubted by many scholars. John Cotton Dana, mentioned that an ideal museum should reach as much of the population as possible and be in proximity to the center of a city. The reason for the existence of museums is for the informal education of the public and as a service to society. Although the nature of a museum can be modified by humans and may change over time, the consensus or agreement that most of us have reached so far in terms of the role of a museum is that it should serve the public so that it can initiate potential at a maximum level.

Another reason for building a connection between museums and outside world is the internal demand of a museum. The organization, administration of museums, design of museum programs and the management of collections in museums all requires a network of external contractors, the engagement of those who can satisfy needs of the museum and help them reach public expectation. For example, in order to gain public trust and get an understanding of what direction museum programs can lead towards, more and more museums adopt the strategy of crowdsourcing. To encourage people to participate in the direction or guidance of museum projects, some museums use social medias such as online forums to connect with the public and understand the public need as much as possible. In terms of collection stewardship, museums have to integrate visitors’ experiences, personal interests, and museum resources into the consideration of the management and use of collections. Museums’ own operations and the purposes of serving public cannot be isolated from the society. Indeed, it is the reciprocal relationship built between museums and the public that help developing museums and meet the internal demands of a museum.

What does museum’s connection mean to me? Why is it crucial for me?

The philosophy that a museum should be open to public and building connections with society has led to a shift in the role of museum workers. As a future museum professional, I need to consider the role that I play in front of museum audiences. Not only should I become a collection manager, or exhibition planner, or museum educator, but more importantly I need to take the responsibility of acting as a facilitator between museums and the public. The mission that museums undertake for informal education and public memory always reminds me of my goal, which is to engage visitors in museums and make them feel freely exhibitions. Also, as a museum visitor who does not have many impressive experiences and happy memories, I do not want visitors to have miserable and frustrating memories when they stepped out from museums. I want them to be able to relate their museum experiences to their daily life, and make museum a social space for family and friends.

To make museums connected, what might be challenges or difficulties for museum experts and museum itself?

What I will eventually encounter in my career might be a realistic museum working environment instead of the romantic picture depicted in textbooks. Many factors have to be taken into consideration for museum professionals. One thing is that we need to be cautious that outside connection will not negatively intervene with the administration of museums. For example, individuals like philanthropists who donate their collections to the museums or fund museums may want to have more say in affairs of the museum and to be involved in decisions of the museum’s mission and scopes. Multiple personal goals or interests may also be involved in the museum’s connection with the public. The other challenge for museum programmers may be in keeping a balance between the freedom enjoyed by the public and the application of the museum’s resources including money and time. Engaging the public into the museum experiences also requires certain rules in order to avoid the waste of museum resources and make the work of museum effective.

In conclusion, it is a long way for museums to transform into a paradigm that everyone may agree on. But the goal of keeping a dynamic relationship with public and connecting with the society should always be a focus for museum experts.

Hello from Your New Editors!

Hello and Welcome Back!

It’s graduation time in academia! A time to pass torches, hand over keys, etc. As rising second year students in the Tufts Museum Studies program, we are very excited to take over where Dominque and Andrea left off, and we wish them heartfelt congratulations and lots of luck as they make their way into the museum world.

For our first post, we want to take a moment to introduce ourselves and let you know who we are and what we hope to bring to the blog this year. We also want to hear from you, to make sure this space responds to what you want to have in a museum studies blog. Please leave comments or drop us a line at our email in the sidebar.

With that, please bear with us for the long post this week and allow us to introduce ourselves!

Danielle Bennett, Museum Studies and History

Hi, I’m Danielle and I’m so pleased to be co-piloting this blog through the next year! I am a student in the Museum Studies and History program so I hope to bring you news and perspectives on that side of the museum field from little historic houses to large institutions.

I study American history, and am particularly interested in the intersections of race, gender, and class as the United States industrialized and took on the dimensions we know today. I am deeply interested in civics education in the United States and believe that museums have a large role to play as informal educators of both students and adults. I am a believer of the importance of polyvocality within museums – both on the exhibit floor and in the development stages, and strongly believe in grounding museums within their communities for mutual benefit. I hope to highlight these issues in the blog in coming months.

I received my BA in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which was undoubtedly an influence on my historical interests. I am based in New York City, where I spent time working as a political and labor organizer before spending several years at a telecommunications tech startup. I am currently a Teaching Assistant for the Tufts History Department and I work as the Social Media Manager for the Alice Austen House in Staten Island, NY. This historic house museum gets to weave threads about an early female LGBTQ figure, New York City history, and photography into a unique story with a lot of contemporary resonance. If you’re ever in New York, make sure you pay us a visit! I’ll also soon be interning with New-York Historical Society, one of the first museums in the country, with a collection that ranges from Tiffany Lamps to vintage board games, to protest signs from the 2017 Women’s March, and beyond! I hope to share perspectives on presenting history influenced by both of these organizations.

Amanda S. Wall, Museum Studies and Education

I am Amanda and am so excited to be your new Museum Education Editor. I am originally from New York by way of Los Angeles and have just completed my first year in the Museum Education M.A. program. My journey to Museum Education started as a child with a love for museums and archaeological sites. I loved learning everything and was always so enthused to share what I learned with others. Museums were a way to connect with the past to understand the present. This love led me to pursue a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Spanish, concentrating in Bioarchaeology, at SUNY New Paltz. While at New Paltz, I had the chance to conduct research on a newly discovered skeletal population culminating in a final project and poster on sex determination. I also had the opportunity to attend an Archaeological field school at the National Historic Landmark, Historic Huguenot Street. Upon graduating, I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer with City Year New York working with students at an East Harlem elementary school.

Although I loved both archaeology and education, I wasn’t clear on how I could pursue both interests until I began volunteering at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. I started as a Gallery Interpreter, becoming certified in five different exhibitions as a Docent-in-Training, before moving on to the Vertebrate Paleontology collections team where I worked rehousing, inventorying, and researching archival techniques. My experience at NHM led me to realize that a profession in the Museum field would be a perfect way to merge my two academic interests. In the coming year I will be interning with the MIT Museum and the Tsongas Industrial History Center. In my free time I love to hike, travel, and play with my dog. As the Tufts Museum Studies Blog’s Museum Education Editor I will be focusing on museums and the public sphere, both in terms of education and how we are relating to and engaging our public.

Kelsey Petersen, Museum Studies and Art History

Hello everyone! My name is Kelsey Petersen, and I will be representing the art history side of Tufts’ Museum Studies program! Before I introduce myself, I would like to say a big thank you to Andrea and Dominique for this past year of thought-provoking discussions, helpful job postings, marvelous newsletters, and of course for their enthusiasm for all things ‘museum.’ We’ll miss you, and best of luck as you launch into your next stage of museum work!

It surprised me how fast my first year as a Master’s candidate in art history and museum studies flew by; in some ways it feels like we were just in Museums Today, debating the Berkshire Museum and exploring the multifaceted roles museums cast in our communities. As I reflect on my coursework over these past two semesters, I realize my favorite areas of learning occurred when discussions from my art history and museum studies courses intersected. For example, I first learned about decolonization methodologies in Museums Today, when I studied the Abbe Museum as a case study of a museum that has transformed its display, collecting, and consulting practices to prioritize Wabanaki voice. These critical methodologies are what I often ground myself in, whether it is in an African Art seminar or Exhibition Planning. Overall, I hope to bring these interdisciplinary intersections with me into my new role as co-editor, and further connect art historical approaches to the museum world.

Now for a little about my background: I grew up in the Bay Area, California and lived in Los Angeles as an undergraduate, so I must confess my first New England winter was a little challenging to get used to (although I did enjoy all the activities that came with it, like cider donuts and snow days). Now that spring is here and the sun is back out, I’m excited for more bike rides! Wherever I go, my bike and a book are usually not too far away.

My first entry point into the museum world was when I worked in a visitor services position at a contemporary art museum. I quickly fell in love with the power of art to connect people and ideas, and wanted to become more involved with the behind-the-scenes aspect of programming. After interning in the education department at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, I knew for sure this labor of love was for me, and decided to pursue my Master’s for more related opportunities. Since moving to Boston and starting the Tufts’ program, I started a collections internship at the Fitchburg Art Museum, and have happily discovered another possible career niche. Ultimately, this first year in the Tufts’ dual program has been incredible, and I can’t wait for another year of enjoyable challenges, new perspectives, and learning.

We are really looking forward to further exploring and discussing the museum world with you, and we welcome you to contribute as guest author at any time!

« Older posts

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Switch to our desktop site