Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Museum Topics (page 1 of 29)

A Promise for All People: Reflecting on an Afternoon at Boston’s Old State House

I have been fascinated by the history of the early Americas and United States since middle school, and dreamed of one day moving to the Boston area — since American Revolution sites are pretty hard to come by in my hometown on the central coast of California. When I arrived last autumn to begin my studies at Tufts, one of the first places I headed for was the Old State House, and it is a museum visit that has stuck with me all these months later. As I sit in California, home for a visit before it’s back to New England, I thought I would use my first post as the new History editor to reflect on that first afternoon I spent making a pilgrimage to this powerful place.

The Old State House is an impressive building. Built all the way back in 1713, it has been restored and maintained beautifully. A two-story brick structure, it manages to still catch the eye, though it is surrounded now by a swarm of much taller modern buildings.

The Old State House, 12 September 2020.

That first day, I paused outside for a few minutes; I’ve done so every time I’ve returned. The infamous Boston Massacre (for so it was called by beloved propagandists like Paul Revere) occurred here, in the shadow of this building, on the snowy night of March 5th, 1770. An initially harmless scuffle — characterized by shouting and snowball-throwing — between Bostonians and British soldiers, many of whom were intimately acquainted because of the army’s longtime residence in the city, ended badly, and five patriots lost their lives. They are all buried together, in the Old Granary Burying Ground, a five-minute walk from the Old State House. This is another place I like to pause. Once I witnessed a father reading the victims’ names off the headstone to his little son and daughter — telling them the story of that chilly night. They listened unwaveringly.

The headstone for the Boston Massacre victims at the Old Granary Burying Ground, 12 September 2020.

One of the names this man read to his children was Crispus Attucks. As I walked through the Old State House that day, feeling the periodic rumble of the subway beneath me, it was this Crispus Attucks — not the Liberty Tree Flag, not John Hancock’s deep red coat, not the musket dug up at Bunker Hill — who most captured my attention.

Crispus Attucks was a sailor; he worked at sea and on the docks of the Atlantic coast; he was in Boston that night; he was, tradition tells us, the first to die. Beyond that, we don’t know much about him — except that he was part Black, part Native American. He was a man of two peoples, both of whom were severely oppressed, marginalized, and enslaved — in an era when white British colonists were crying for freedom from the “slavery” of the British crown but ignoring the rights of others. Attucks was the first to die for the cause of liberty though white patriots had no intention of offering him such a right.

On my visit to the Old State House that warm September afternoon, I climbed the stairs to the second story and was met with the special exhibit Reflecting Attucks, which examined the man’s memory, the legend he has become. Attucks is a civil rights icon and a symbol of freedom, equality, and courage, everything America should and could be. The information about the exhibit online says that Attucks’s legacy “reminds us that as long as the nation fails to realize the promise of the American Revolution for all of its people, we will always need another Attucks.”

Crispus Attucks by William H. Johnson, 1945. Via the online exhibit Reflecting Attucks.

It wasn’t what I had expected to be struck with at the Old State House in Boston. I thought I would leave thinking about John and Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock; or the night that protesting patriots tore down the building’s famous lion and unicorn statues; or the day the Declaration of Independence was read aloud from its balcony. Instead, I was thinking about our world today — the current moment of reckoning in this country, the demands of so many that we do finally realize the promise of the American Revolution for all of its people.

Every time I have returned to or reflected upon the Old State House, I think about the power of museums to make us confront the past and motivate us to shape the future. Crispus Attucks’s name reverberates through the rooms of that brick building, the wooden floors that shake with the movement of the subway, the ground outside which once was stained with his blood — and beckons us to listen, to learn, and to change.

For information on the Old State House’s hours and admission, click here. To check out the online Reflecting Attucks exhibit, click here.

Weekly Job Roundup

Welcome to this week’s roundup of exciting opportunities!

The Des Moines Art Center (Des Moines, IA), where they are seeking an Associate Curator.

Northeast:

Mid-Atlantic:

Southeast:

Midwest:

West:

Where was your last museum visit?

One of the assignments in my Exhibition Planning course is to share about an interesting exhibition that we went to see. Most of my classmates tended to share about the most recent exhibition that they saw, myself included. Whether in-person or virtual, as museums start to open up more and more it’s been wonderful to be in gallery spaces again.

For myself, my last visit in-person was to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond, Virginia to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. 

Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

This traveling exhibition was the last stop before these artifacts returned to Egypt and it was focused on the ancient cities of Thonis-Heraclion and Canopus which are located under the sea, along the coast of Alexandria.

I really have enjoyed learning about underwater archaeology in the course of my studies at Tufts, and I had never seen an exhibition that included a focus on how these artifacts were excavated. With Sunken Cities, this was really one of the major aspects that the exhibition focused on. Visitors got to see footage of the excavations and learn about where these cities were and how much is left to excavate. There’s still quite a lot of work to do at these sites, yet there are already enough artifacts to have an entire exhibition! As a visitor, this was really exciting.

I would say the other major focus of this exhibition was the cosmopolitan culture of these ancient port cities, especially the religious ceremonies. An entire section of the exhibit walked visitors through the mysteries of Osiris, religious ceremonies that took place at a certain time of year.

image

British Museum, “The Mysteries of Osiris”

It was really wonderful to go and see this exhibit, and I’m looking forward to going to museums again as things open up now that we are getting vaccinated!

What was your last museum visit? Are there any exhibitions that you are looking forward to visiting in the near future? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Activate the space: A conversation with Flor Delgadillo

Image 1.  

Flor Delgadillo is 2nd year master’s student at the School of Museum and Fine Arts.  Flor Delgadillo is a Mexican interdisciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, print, digital fabrication, performance, and video as her media. Delgadillo’s vibrant installations activate spaces using multiple methods of video display, surprising surfaces, and objects.  

In the interview Flor reflected on her artistic practice with a primary focus on the recent solo exhibit at SMFA, Mission Hills campus.  MORPHOLOGY, Delgadillo’s latest installation reflects on her diagnosis of epilepsy at the age of four. The artwork has sourced imagery of Delgadillo’s brain waves using an electroencephalogram machine (EEG). These waveform recordings of Delgadillo’s brain activity during sleep, are projected onto gallery walls. The artist was subjected to routine tests throughout her life. In the artwork MORPHOLOGY, Delgadillo reclaims her self-care by monitoring and isolating her own Theta, Gamma, and Delta brainwave activity during sleep. Her routine testing was done in Guadalajara which required constant migration between the U.S. and Mexico.  

 Sayyara  

Art is not what you see but what you make others see (Edgar Degas).  What is your response to Degas’s quote? 

Flor 

I very much resonate with the phrase because I think as artists, we often feel a responsibility to address certain things. I think that it’s important to allow the viewer to read what they want. Especially with issues of identity, race and gender, since those are individual experiences. I think that’s why I am able to use the body in the way that I do which is very much in like the tools that I use. That’s why I like to use different mediums.  

Sayyara  

How would you describe your core mediums?  

Flor  

Color, reflection and the body 

Sayyara 

What attracts you most about those mediums?  

Flor 

I think of color as a language and the body as a vessel to experience the sensory properties like light, color projection and reflection.  

Sayyara  

In the Morphology installation you used projection which penetrated through a cut out plexiglas form of human brain. Can you talk a bit about that? 

Flor 

I like to think of the human brain as the battery of the body. I wanted to show that by transforming it into an objects/sculpture form, where transparency and the reflection was important. The light from the projector bounced from and through the plexi and was reflected across the room, floor and the walls. Much like, how brain sends signals to all parts of the body, the objects in my installation communicated with one another and together activated the space. Additionally, the projection was not static, as the viewer could see the movement of the line of brain activity juxtaposed with the image of the brain.   

For this reason, I think of this installation as a performance with the objects, images and the locations have been choreographed. Nevertheless, there was not an overchallenging amount of stuff in the room, which was intentional. I left the space open for viewers to respond to the installation by moving around it, however their body felt comfortable. I also intended to mobilize the peripheral vision of the viewers by ensuring there was something to look at regardless of the positions in the space.  

This is basically, a manipulation of the tools and imagery to test human reactions As a young child, my sleep was monitored, as part of the EEG test. In comparison, viewers of my work have the full control of the interaction, which is inherently not as invasive, as a medical test would be. 

Image 2.  

To some the light may be overwhelming, yet, others find the space meditative. Color is its own language.  

 Sayyara  

What makes you say the brain is the battery of the body? 

Flor  

Well, I think it’s arguably the most important muscle and it is resilient in its ability to function. I can’t help but think of it, as the battery that we depend on, as it ensures the overall functionality of my body.   

Sayyara  

My belief is that many people will enjoy being in this space because of its vibrance and liveliness. What do you think people can learn with Morphology installation?  

Flor  

As adults we are more encouraged to learn by reading and writing things on paper rather than using interactive activities. Morphology installation offers an active way of learning through observation and movement. Also, It reminds me of how I learned as a child through play, when I was permitted to move, react, interact, and make mistakes as and as a result creating my own meanings. This is what I want the visitors to walk away with, their own perception of the artwork.  

 Image 3. 

Sayyara  

Is there anything you want to add for a wrap up? 

 Flor  

The last thing that I will say is I find it very important to use play and humor in serious situations. This might be just my personal preference and coping mechanism.  

I think it’s important for us to grow as individuals while staying aware of our inner innocent children. I don’t want to say things get uglier, but as adults we’re no longer sheltered or blind sighted. Therefore, I like to approach certain issues with, I don’t want to say fun, but in a more vibrant way. Sometimes, I find it to be the only way to talk about important issues, which otherwise can be neglected. I think I’ll leave it at that.  

Note 1. EEG : An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. The brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even during sleep. The activity can be viewed as wavy lines on an EEG recording known as Morphology (description by the artist). 

Note 2: Morphology installation is not currently on display however the video documentation of it can be seen below:

Stay tuned on Flor’s upcoming projects, exhibitions, pop-ups follow her account on social media.  

Instagram  – https://www.instagram.com/florsshow_arte/  

Information on former projects and be found from the website.  https://arte-flor-delgadillo.myportfolio.com/performance  

The interview was conducted by Sayyara Huseynli, 2nd year master’s student in the Museum Education program at Tufts University. Sayyara establishes connections between individual experiences and objects through engaging and interactive programing. 

 

My Home is a Museum: Balance

Layla Gabulova

Baku, Azerbaijan

For me one form of balance, is depicted on the Strength card which is the highest arcana of the tarot deck. It shows a woman who is taming a lion with her bare hands. The image stands for the balance of strength, wisdom and kindness. One needs to have inner strength to avoid break downs in sight of challenges. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a healthy balance of forces, otherwise one will turn into a victim or a tyrant.

The characters and their actions also serve as symbolical representation of balance. The lion stands for human passions and fears, while the woman symbolizes awareness and the higher self. If the woman treats the animal with cruelty, the latter can cause unpredictable destructions. Thus, taming the lion needs strength and understanding, power of will and goodness. The infinity sign above the woman’s head, informs of her connection to supernatural. There needs to be a harmony of consciousness and subconscious.

 

Prashant Mishra

Pune, Maharashtra, India

“Mirror on the wall, here we are again through my rise and fall you’ve been my only friend”
When Li’ll Wayne says that in a song, I am reminded of this piece of balance hanging on my wall. Every day I wake up and right before I walk out into the world, it makes me stop and look for a second, doing away with any doubts about myself, assuring to walk out with confidence.

Then once you are through our day, it is the same you reflected in the mirror there. Knowing this brings me back to myself, overlooking the scars on the surface and bringing the focus back to myself. After all, when I look back at the reflection, I hear Wayne’s voice.


“I see the truth in your lies
I see nobody by your side
But I’m with you when you’re all alone
And you correct me when I’m looking wrong”

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