Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Volunteers Needed for Free Fun Friday at the Fitchburg Art Museum!

The Fitchburg Art Museum is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to help with kids’ art projects and a Treasure Hunt during its Free Fun Friday event on Friday, July 27th, 2018. This is a great opportunity to see a large community event in action and be a part of it. No artistic experience is necessary!

Helping with the art projects involves explaining to the parents and kids how to do the project, showing them a sample and the supplies and tools, and tidying up the table when kids finish. It might involve preparing some of the supplies (cutting circles out of paper plates, cutting lengths of string, etc.) if supplies get low on the prepared ones. Helping with the Treasure Hunt involves sitting at a table and handing out the Treasure Hunt maps, reviewing the completed Treasure Hunts, and giving a prize to kids who complete one.

The day runs from 10:00 am until 4:30 pm; the Fitchburg Art Museum requests that volunteers stay a minimum of 2 hours. For more information or to sign up to volunteer, please contact Barbara Callahan at bcallahan@fitchburgartmuseum.org.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of July 15th!

Northeast

Education Manager [Old North Church, Boston, MA]

Art Lab Assistant [Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA]

Museum Preparator [Williams College, WIlliamstown, MA]

Polly Thayer Starr Fellowship in American Art [Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA]

Mid-Atlantic

Executive Director [Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury Maryland]

Co-Curator [Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC]

Development Coordinator [American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY]

Visitor Services Manager [National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York, NY]

Manager, Interactive Experiences [Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ]

Exhibition Curator/Director of Interpretation [Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, Washington DC]

Midwest

Deputy Executive Director [The History Museum, South Bend, IN]

Exhibition Designer [Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MI]

Curator of Exhibits [Missouri State Museum, Jefferson City, MI]

Southeast

Associate Curator [Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, FL]

Exhibit Technician [Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, FL]

West

Programs Manager, Pre-K Program [Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, CA]

Education Manager [Sacramento History Museum, Sacramento, CA]

Exhibition Developer [Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA]

Executive Director [San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, San Diego, CA]

Senior Exhibitions Coordinator [Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA]

 

Measuring a Museum’s Worth

Is it via attendance or admissions fees? The size of the collection or the amount of funding it receives? By almost any measure, the Philadelphia History Museum has not proved its worth, for it shut down indefinitely at the end of June.

The museum, which is designated in the city charter to be the repository for artifacts relevant to the Philadelphia’s history, closed last month after a significant reduction in funding from the city. Talks to partner with other institutions, most recently with Temple University, fell through. For at least the next year, the museum will be closed and the collection will be reviewed with an eye toward figuring out a new direction for the museum to take. It is unclear if that direction will include re-opening to the public.

The reduction in funding was the hiatus-blow for the organization, but thriving museums rarely experience cuts like this. Attendance was low, despite efforts to revitalize the museum, including a recent renovation in 2012. The museum had also collaborated last year to create a new curriculum for Philadelphia public schools that centered the life of free Black resident, Octavius V. Catto. Shot by two white men who were never convicted for their crime while urging citizens to vote on Election Day, the exhibit sought to tell an important story with relevance to today. This is a moment in America that begs for interesting and relevant retellings of history, and Catto’s story certainly fits the bill. But it is hard to demonstrate relevance if no one seeks it out.

This is not an admonishment to the people of Philadelphia for not supporting their museum. Nor is it a diagnosis of what went wrong, for this blog does not have insight into the marketing plan, visitorship goal, or budget needed to make the Philadelphia History Museum a world-class institution, or at least, a city-class one. Rather, it is a recognition that a lot of museums in the United States are missing the mark when it comes to attracting audiences and money, despite possessing compelling stories.

There are many reasons why this is happening, but in thinking about the Philadelphia History Museum, it is worth pointing out that Philadelphia’s population is less than 50% white. As we have discussed previously on this blog, museums are not neutral spaces. Museum audiences tend to skew heavily white and affluent and often potential local visitors are alienated from spaces that don’t strive to create content of and with the surrounding community. There are museums that have bucked this demographic trend. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA has tripled its non-white visitors in recent years, to the point that the museum’s visitors are starting to resemble the city’s racial makeup. They have done this with a mixture of initiatives that included highlighting artists of color within their collection, reaching out to local potential visitors in multiple languages, diversifying docents, and reassessing ticket prices. Other museums have also looked into their collections to find ways to create new relevance for existing content.

Hopefully the Philadelphia History Museum’s assessment will include considerations about community outreach, public programs, and exhibition content and interpretation, as well as the price of admission (at closing time, the adult admission was $10, in a city where the median income is only $41k/year, well below the national median).

The Philadelphia History Museum is the designated keeper of historical objects for the city of Philadelphia. Although it’s archive remains intact for now, it is not a library. Part of a museum’s mission is to take those objects and documents and interpret them for the public, helping the citizens of the city remember and understand their history. This requires support and support includes money. While it is perfectly acceptable and necessary to demand that museums present innovative exhibits and engage with audiences in current fashion, it is also necessary to provide the support that those museums need to be good and useful and interesting institutions. Art and history and culture require patronage, to see the work through periods of devaluation and maintain these common goods for all.

Our best museums are building collaborative experiences that decenter authority, tell important stories from their collections, and engage with local populations to create community spaces that are compelling, inclusive, representational – and thriving. Our best cities deserve nothing less.

 

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s the weekly jobs roundup for the week of July 9th!

Northeast

Temporary Gallery Manager [Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH]

Head of Education, Addison Gallery of American Art [Phillips Academy, Andover, MA]

Interpreter [Castle Hill, Ipswich, MA]

Interpreter [Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA]

ArtLab Director [Harvard University, Cambridge, MA]

Assistant Registrar [Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA]

Director of Education and Engagement [New Haven Museum, New Haven, CT]

Director of Living History Sites [Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA]

 

Mid-Atlantic

Chief Curator, Online Museum [YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, NY, NY]

Coordinator of Public Programs and Public Engagement [The Whitney Museum of Art, NY, NY]

Interpretation and Public Engagement Educator [The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY]

Museum Educator [Erie Maritime Museum, Erie, PA]

Senior Managing Educator, Audience Development and Engagement [The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY]

Preparator [Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga, NY]

Museum Specialist [Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Washington,DC]

 

Southeast

Outreach Education Instructor [Jamestown- Yorktown Foundation, Williamsburg, VA]

School and Family Programs Manager [Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL]

Character Interpreter [Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, MA]

Midwest

Assistant Curator of Education [Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin- Madison,  WI]

West

Associate Director of Education [The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA]

Education and Volunteer Coordinator [Museums of Western Colorado, Grand Junction, CO]

Director of Education [Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ]

Associate Conservator [The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA]

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art: Indigenizing Museum Spaces

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Like many museum lovers, a visit to an unfamiliar city is a chance to discover new museums. Being in the museum field, those visits are an invaluable chance to find inspiration, see museum trends in action, and gain new ideas for future practice. Never have a found this to be more true than with a recent visit to Indianapolis and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. This one-of-a-kind museum exemplifies what it is to be a modern museum focusing on interactive displays, shared authority, and visitor experience. But more importantly, the Eiteljorg is a decolonizing museum, representing indigenous people and cultures not as relics of the past, but as contemporary and still here.

The Eiteljorg Museum was founded by Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist Harrison Eiteljorg in 1989. Originally conceived as an art museum, the institution made an early commitment to a shared authority with indigenous people. As founding curator Mike Leslie wrote, “The museum’s overall programming emphasizes not only the historical importance of Native American art and artifacts, but also their importance in a modern context. We must not forget that Native American cultures are still flourishing artistically.”

By 1991 the museum had formed the American Indian Advisory Board, this board would work directly with the museum’s administrators, curators, and collections staff to provide guidance, assistance and direction in all matters associated with the art, history, and culture of native peoples of North America. One of the main takeaways from the advisory board was the need for the museum to create a distinction between ownership and stewardship in relation to sacred and sensitive objects.

In 2002 the museum continued to to indigenize museum spaces with the opening of a new permanent gallery, Mihtoseenioki: The People’s Place, created in collaboration the advisory board and representatives from local tribes. The exhibit was opened to interpret the Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, and other tribes who were and still are an important part of the state’s history and culture.

Mihtohseenionki (The People’s Place)

It was in this exhibition I felt the most inspired, intrigued, and moved. Mihtoseenioki tells the stories, both past and present, of the original Miami people as well as that of other tribal groups that moved into the current state of Indiana as the result of European conquest and expansion. The written panels were written by members of native communities and curated by Ray Gonyea an Onondaga Iroquois. While many museums have been accused of presenting indigenous people and cultures as historical and ethnographic this exhibition leaves visitors with the knowledge that indigenous people are still here and that tribal cultures are still being practiced. This same theme was carried through the rest of the Eiteljorg’s art galleries. The gallery space was organized not chronologically but geographically with historical and contemporary art side by side.

While I was most affected by the Eiteljorg’s decolonizing efforts, the museum further impressed me with their commitment to improving the visitor experience. This was made clear through the incorporation of different evaluation tools throughout the exhibition, encouragement of visitor feedback, multiple hands-on, participatory, and interactive exhibit elements for visitors of all ages.

As museum practitioners, I encourage us all to keep and eye on the Eiteljorg Museum and any future innovations they may take.

 

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