Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Curatorial Innovations Lecture, April 17, 6PM

The American Land Museum: Places as Cultural Artifacts

Curatorial Innovations Lecture. 
Free and Open to the Public.

Menschel Hall, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street

Wednesday, April 17, 6:00 pm

Matthew Coolidge, Director, Center for Land Use Interpretation

The Center for Land Use Interpretation explores how land in the United States is apportioned, utilized, and perceived. Through exhibitions and public programs, the Center interprets built landscapes—from landfills and urban waterfalls to artificial lakes—as cultural artifacts that help define contemporary American life and culture. Coolidge will discuss the Center’s approach to finding meaning in the intentional and incidental forms we create and also talk about the Center’s efforts to develop the American Land Museum, a curated selection of locations across the country that exemplifies our relationship with the American landscape.

Matthew Coolidge is Founder and Director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles, a non-profit research and education organization founded in 1994 that is interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface, and in finding new meanings in the intentional and incidental forms that we individually and collectively create. He has a background in contemporary art, architecture, and film, and studied environmental science as an undergraduate at Boston University. He has been a teacher in the Curatorial Practice Program at the California College of Art, and has lectured and worked with students at universities around the U.S. and abroad.

Free event parking at the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street

Presented by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard Graduate School of Design

From Monument to Memorial: A Symposium Review

“We can’t change the past but we can change history.” -Dr. Kymberly Pinder

On Friday, March 29th, I attended Tufts University’s one-day symposium, “From Monument to Memorial: Space, Commemoration, and Representation in America Now.” Organized by the Department of Art and Art History, the symposium invited audiences to consider the role of public civic art in America and its current impact in our present political climate. Discussions on history, heritage, memory, and legacy were the undercurrents of each presentation.

Before the first panel began, Tufts University Art Gallery Director Dina Deitsch discussed the symposium organizers’ deliberate choice to host the event in Tufts’ Alumnae Lounge, a rather contentious space on campus due to the nature of its monumental murals. Commissioned in 1955, the mural’s east wall depicts the historical founding of Tufts on Walnut Hill, while the west wall shows Tufts students, faculty, and deans in an attempt to provide a “snapshot of student life” in the 1950s. Although there are at least fifty individuals painted between the two walls, almost all of the figures are white, Protestant men (except for a few white women). In fact, the only reference to Medford’s diverse population is a small image of the Isaac Royall Slave House, and the artists completely ignore the fact that Walnut Hill is a site of spiritual significance for the Mystic people.

The Alumnae Lounge murals do not portray the diversity of Tufts University, both past and present. (Stay tuned on updates concerning the murals; there is currently a working group determining how best to make the space more inclusionary. An announcement about the murals’ changes to come will be made in the next few months, according to Deitsch.) Considering the ongoing debates concerning the Alumnae Lounge, the space served as a fitting backdrop for the day’s discussants, with Deitsch’s speech further setting the tone for the issues at heart of each panel.

The morning session, “Local Histories/Contested Spaces,” was comprised of four panelists: Danielle Abrams, Professor of the Practice in Performance at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts; Kerri Greenidge, Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts; Diana Martinez, Director of Architectural Studies at Tufts; and Kymberly Pinder, Provost of Massachusetts College of Art.

Each panelist discussed a controversial site, monument, or public art project and the importance of re-contextualizing it in its proper narrative. For instance, Danielle Abrams talked about her research concerning the segregated Lincoln Beach, an amusement park that was open from 1939-1964 in New Orleans. Today, Lincoln Beach is in ruins, and the nearby “whites only” Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park is often more referenced in the archives. Abrams is working to uncover these archives and prevent the complete erasure of Lincoln Beach from memory by collaborating with the last living generation of individuals who used to frequent the park and can speak to their experiences of segregation.

After the morning panel session, symposium participants and audience members had the opportunity to go on a two-hour guided bus tour led by Kendra Field and Kerri Greenidge of Tufts’ African American Trail Project. The Trail Project is a collaborative effort among students, scholars, and community members, intended to interrogate Massachusetts’ white history. With an aim of placing greater Boston historical monuments in their proper context – that is a narrative that also includes the memory and experiences of “historic African American, Black Native, and diasporic communities,” the Project is bringing to light history that has long been negated. The sites on the tour span five centuries and five neighborhoods of greater Boston, including Somerville/Medford, Beacon Hill, Roxbury, and Mattapan. Some examples of tour stops include the Dorchester North Burial Ground, Bunker Hill Monument, Royall House and Slave Quarters, W.E.B. Du Bois House, the Charles Street Meeting House, and Marsh Chapel. Sites continue to be added to the growing list, and members of the public are welcome to suggest or edit any site.

Mabel O. Wilson, Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, led the keynote address, “Memory/Race/Nation: The Politics of Modern Memorials,” in which she discussed the events of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the University of Virginia’s counter-protesters who shrouded their campus’ statues of Confederate figures in response. While traditionally University of Virginia’s campus tours spoke of Thomas Jefferson’s founding of the school and his legacy, now, thanks in part to increased student pressure, UVA tours highlight a narrative that was silenced for so long, one that acknowledges the approximately six hundred slaves that worked for Jefferson during his lifetime. Furthermore, a coalition of students and staff are “connecting the dots that have been missing,” with a forthcoming Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, a planned campus monument in the shape of a broken slave shackle, on which the names of 660 individuals are engraved along a timeline in a shallow pool of water in “an effort to humanize the unknown.”

As the symposium drew to a close, panelists left the audience with a series of questions to consider. How do we represent highly personal histories, and who do we represent in telling said narratives? How can we reconsider commemoration in light of recent violent events such as the Unite the Right rally in 2017? When should we preserve history, if at all, and what should we do with contentious spaces or monuments? For a room filled with museum professionals, artists, professors, trailblazers, and graduate students, these are timely questions for everyone to think about in our ongoing work of reframing histories.

Unusual Collections: The Dog Collar Museum

Humans have always been interested in unusual, curious, and odd things. For this reason unusual collections, both personal and in museums, exist throughout the world. This interest in collecting the unusual and interesting can be traced back to the cabinets of curiosity popular in 16th century Europe. The Dog Collar Museum, at Leeds Castle in Kent, England, is an example of a once privately owned collection of unusual items now on display for the public.

The Dog Collar Museum run by the Leeds Castle Foundation is billed as “a unique collection of historic and fascinating dog collars [that] has been built up over the years and is now the largest of its kind on public display anywhere in the world.” The collection started with sixty dog collars donated to the Leeds Castle Foundation by Mrs. Gertrude Hunt in memory of her husband, historian and Medievalist, John Hunt. Since its donation in 1977, the collection has grown to over 130 rare and valuable collars spanning from Medieval to Victorian times. Recently, thirty additional collars were discovered in storage and are now on display for the first time. The oldest of the collars in the Dog Collar Museum is a 15th century a Spanish iron collar for a her mastiff that would have been worn for protection of the dog while on hunts. Some of the most interesting collars in the collection are the ornate, gilt baroque collars bearing inscriptions, coat of arms, and messages of the owners.

The collection is housed on display in the former stable and squash court of the Leeds Castle. The castle a museum itself, was started in honor of former owner, Lady Baille. The museum aims to display the collection in a “fresh and creative new presentation–fun for children and adults alike.”  It interprets the collars as not just functional objects, but as personal items that can give insight into the lifestyles and relationships between the dogs and their masters. If ever in Kent, England, be sure to check out the Dog Collar Museum and the other interesting exhibits and beautiful grounds at Leeds Castle.

Symposium on the Rosa Parks House Project this Friday, May 18

Please join RISD and Waterfire Providence for a symposium on the controversial artist intervention on the Rosa Parks House. The day begins with a tour of the project followed by panel discussions about art, preservation, and memory. This project brings up questions of race, artistic appropriation and preservation and should be an important discussion for all. Free. For more information about the symposium, please visit their website.

Event Invitation at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology – April 18

Wednesday, April 18, 6:00 pm
Unseen Connections 
A Natural History of Cell Phones

Joshua A. Bell, Curator of Globalization, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Cell phones are among people’s most prized possessions. They play an important role in daily life, facilitating everything from communications with others to the recording of social experiences and emotions. Despite the importance and ubiquity of cell phones, few people know how these devices are made or what happens to them after they are discarded. Using an anthropological lens, Joshua Bell will discuss the international network of relations that underpins the production, repair, and disposal of cell phones and the emerging social implications of this network at both global and local levels.

Lecture. Free and open to the public. Presented by Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street. Free event parking at 52 Oxford Street Garage.

This event will be livestreamed on the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture Facebook page. A recording of this program will be available on our YouTube channel approximately three weeks after the lecture.

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