Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Boston-area museums

First, we’d like to start with a land acknowledgement for Tufts University that we are grateful to borrow from an article in the Tufts Daily:

Tufts University’s Medford campus is located on Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) and Massachusett traditional territory. Tufts’ Walnut Hill was once one of the hills in a slave-holding estate called Ten Hills Plantation. Both Africans and Native Americans were enslaved in the colony of Massachusetts, and trade in Native American and African laborers made Massachusetts a driving force in the Atlantic slave trade. 

Op-Ed: Acknowledging our settler-colonial present, the Tufts Daily

Last year, in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Tufts Museum Studies Blog editor Danielle Bennett shared a list of articles covering efforts to decolonize museums around the world. This year, we’re sharing events happening at Boston-area museums, planned jointly with indigenous educators, artists, and leaders, that celebrate native history and culture.


Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Monday, October 14, 2019
10:00 am–5:00 pm


Features: free admission, special events

Enjoy free admission and special events at the MFA for Indigenous Peoples’ Day—and the Fenway Alliance’s 18th annual Opening Our Doors Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes and celebrates the heritage of Native Americans and the histories of their nations and communities. Enjoy music and dance, take a tour of our Native North American Art Gallery and respond to our collection, and drop in on family art-making activities and artist demonstrations.

Co-created and presented in partnership with Akomawt Educational Initiative and Jonathan James-Perry, Tribal Citizen of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Nation.

Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, stands on the historic homelands of the Massachusett people, a site which has long served as a place of meeting and exchange among different nations.

Cost: free with free admission


Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Abundant Voices at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Monday, October 14, 2019
10:00 am–4:00 pm

Also offered as part of The Fenway Alliance’s Opening Our Doors Day.

This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Gardner Museum is honored to collaborate with choreographer and Neighborhood Salon Luminary Marsha Parrilla of Danza Orgánica to present local Indigenous artists from the Massachusett, Nipmuc, Mashpee Wampanoag, and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes.

The theme for the day is “Abundant Voices,” emphasizing the necessary perspectives and incredible work of these creative leaders. Enjoy hands-on art making, interactive performance, storytelling, a special performance from Gardner Museum Choreographers in Residence All Ready with local youth performers and more. 

Explore additional hands-on activities and performances organized by The Fenway Alliance throughout the day across the street from the Gardner Museum in beautiful Evans Way Park.

Cost: free with free admission on a first-come, first-served basis


Native American Poets Playlist at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Saturday, October 12–Monday, October 14, 2019
9:00 am-5:00 pm

In a program marking Cambridge’s Indigenous People’s Day–celebrated as the federal holiday Columbus Day–eight Native American poets may be heard reading their work in the galleries. Enrich your museum visit by listening to an evocative recorded playlist of contemporary poems by Native American authors. Wander freely across the first-floor galleries to see where the poems take you and expand your understanding of Native arts and cultures. The poems, drawn from a powerful recent anthology, New Poets of Native Nations (edited by Heid E. Erdrich; Graywolf Press) celebrate Native poets first published in the twenty-first century. Hear the exhibits “come into voice” and experience the museum in a new way. Borrow a free audio player with regular museum admission.

Jointly sponsored with the Harvard University Native American Program and the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University

Cost: free with regular admission


Indigenous People’s Weekend at Plimoth Plantation

Saturday, October 12–Monday, October 14, 2019
9:00 am-5:00 pm


Long before Europeans arrived, the Wampanoag people were living in this area known as Patuxet. Join us as we acknowledge the indigenous groups that have called this place home and celebrate their traditions through song, dance, and craft.

Cost: free with regular admission


Wampanoag Perspectives on Land: Acknowledging Indigenous Space at the Fruitlands Museumm

Monday, October 14, 2019
2:00–3:00 pm

Join Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) on Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Fruitlands Museum as she presents “Wampanoag Perspectives on the Land: Acknowledging Indigenous Space.”  Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) is a multi-medium traditional and contemporary artist, with specialties in wampum shell carving and reviving natural dye techniques for her finger-woven sashes, bags, and baskets.

Cost: free with regular admission (space is limited – registration is requested)


Though the city of Boston and state of Massacusetts have yet to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we’re heartened to see that hasn’t stopped our cultural institutions. You can find other Boston-area happenings in this list from Cultural Survival. If you’re not in the Boston area, you can find Indigenous People’s Day events around the country in this list by Indian Country Today. Our guess (and hope) is that more museums near you may be celebrating and collaborating with indigenous voices tomorrow* – take a look for yourself!

*and next week, and next month, and next year, and so on – for many more days besides just tomorrow!

Boston events for museum professionals this week

Hello friends and happy Monday! We have details of two events happening this week for museum professionals to share with you. One is happening tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1, and the other on Wednesday, October 2. Both events are FREE but do require advance registration.

Using Visual Thinking Strategies to Jumpstart Audience-Centered Learning

by the Greater Boston Museum Educators Roundtable

About:
Join us for a half-day workshop to consider VTS in a new light! Visitors today suffer from staccato looking: scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, making instantaneous assumptions about what they see. In order to be responsible citizens in an increasingly global society (with more and more focus on visual culture), visitors of all types need to develop their visual literacy. Doing so increases their ability to assess images and information of all types, including artwork, maps, and primary vs. secondary sources. This level of deep thought and critical thinking informs understanding of our shared human history and fosters a respectful curiosity.

After participating in this workshop, educators will understand Visual Thinking Strategies as a methodology of facilitating conversations about artwork and its broad applications in museum and historic site settings. Participants will learn how to build observation and communication skills in their audiences, how to encourage the consideration of multiple perspectives, how to use images/objects thoughtfully in program planning, and how to improve facilitation skills when teaching. Through small group work and VTS discussions, teachers will walk away prepared to employ an exciting technique that will strengthen audience engagement and foster critical and creative thinking in your museum or historic site.

When:
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT

Where:
Otis House Museum
141 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Museum Careers Panel Discussion

by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

About:
Interested in learning about diverse professions in museums? Hear from a panel of MFA staff members in curatorial, education, exhibitions, conservation, marketing, public relations, and other departments as they discuss working in the museum world. Learn about their career paths, the challenges they encounter in their fields, and the opportunities they envision for the future of museum work. This event is free with Museum admission and open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Students attending institutions participating in the University Membership Program receive free Museum admission.

When:
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. EDT

Where:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Barbara and Theodore Alfond Auditorium (Auditorium G36)
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

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.

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