Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Category: Museum Topics (page 3 of 28)

Responses for Week 6 – “Time”

The concept of time has occupied the brain of the human kind for millennia’s. The history of timekeeping  is just as ancient.  Nowadays, the passing of time can be observed through the changed in the environment, therefore it can be related to the concept of space but it can not be fully studied, for example in a lab. Therefore there is no universal explanation of time. Contrary to the highly concrete understanding of time, Cambridge professor Huw Price, argued that the basics of time stem from the inter world of an individual rather than the physical world. The fundamentals of time and its perception are related with the unique sense of a moments, its passage and the direction.

Despite the critical debates on the subject of time, I believe that the outbreak of the Pandemic and the global lockdowns is on the track of reevaluating certain, previously rigid concept of it. For this reason, I wanted to challenge the readers of the blog to find material representations of such complex concept as time without leaving their living environments. I am happy to share with the responses of the readers below:

Zahra Mammadova
Baku, Azerbaijan 
Curatorial/educational assistant at YARAT Contemporary Art Space

I would like to share my object relating to the topic of “Time” as a part of online exhibition. 

Although there should be nothing difficult about sharing this object, still I felt a little bit uneasy, even mysterious while preparing myself to it, which leads to an obvious thought – it matters to me very much. 

This little angel, that you see from the photos below, was bought by friend of mine, more specifically by our family friend in London, UK, in one of his trips. This person was a professional mountain climber, who was lost in mountains 3 years ago with his fellows and then was found dead thereafter a year. 
The last time I had any connection with him, was 10+ years ago, when I was still a little child, and barely remember everything.  I had very much sympathy and respect for this intelligent person, but sadly then our families stopped communicating for a while. After roughly 10 years, we reconciled and I was planning to meet him one day after such a long time, when I grew up to into an adult, and he was successfully doing his career in industrial alpinism. I still has this words sounding in my mind  how his mother would tell me several times  “come visit us, Namin have a lot of books to share with you, you will find so many topics to talk, it will be exciting”  And every time I would respond “I will come in recent days definitely , but unfortunately now I do not have TIME”. I was thinking in my mind, “yeah there is no reason to rush, hopefully we will meet soon” After he went missing, and then found dead his mother shared his belongings with people. And this little angel she gifted to me. She said that he bought 2 of such angels, one of them is his sister’s the other was kept untouched. She explained the reason: the two angels were bought for individuals who he considered special to him, one of them is the sister, as for the other – he was waiting for right person to give it to them. And, ironically this one was forgotten in its package for a lot of years. Now it is placed in the shelve above my bed. This is strange, how life can turn events in unimaginable ways, I still find it mystic why and how this little angel which was meant to be given to a special person ended up in my hands.

 
The lesson that I learned from this story and what this object symbolizes to me was the following: never, ever postpone meetings with friends, family, significant people in your life that you plan. Always be in touch with them and share your kindness, care, and time with them – do not be greedy in this regard. By doing this, you double good emotions and gift them to your loved ones. And now, sometimes I feel like this object angel is with me for a reason, I feel a spiritual connection with it. 

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Week 6 – “Time”

I have been thinking about the passage of time recently. I find it amusing how sometimes this passage is unnoticeable while other times even a second takes forever to go by. Personally for me, the moments associated with positive emotions tend to disappear quickly. In comparison, certain unpleasant times have the power to leave deep emotional scars. By selecting “Time” as the theme for this week, I want to encourage everyone to be a bit more aware and appreciative of the small positive aspects of your lives. I believe everyone can find objects in our living environments which bring them joy, inspire and motivate. 

Let me remind you how to respond.

  • Choose an object what fits the theme
  • Take 1-3 pictures of the object
  • How does the object exemplify what matters to you?
  • What experience in your life made this object matter to you?

Please include the answers to the following information when submitting your entry:

  • What it your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • What do you do?

Email your stories to Sayyara.huseynli@tufts.edu

P.S. Please note that by submitting your response to this project you agree to its public display.

Discussing the “D-Word” of Museums: Deaccessioning

For many years, issues of the deaccessioning of works in museums’ permanent collections have garnered much attention. Since the pandemic, these concerns have only increased as museums struggle to stay open. In recognition of these struggles, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) – an organization which offers guidance on museum best-practices to its members – decided to make changes to their regulations regarding museums’ usage of restricted funds. According to Olga Symeonoglou – an attorney in the Washington D.C. office of Cultural Heritage Partners – in her article, “Will AAMD’s New Guidelines on Deaccessioning and the Use of Restricted Funds Change the Way Museums Handle Their Collections?,” these purportedly temporary changes were made in order “to give museums flexibility to withstand the financial distress caused by closures and continuing uncertainty.” Such a decision begs the question: how temporary will this change turn out to be and what precedent will it set for future concerns regarding deaccessioning?

According to Azmina Jasani – a partner in Constantine Cannon’s Art and Cultural Property Law Group – in her article, “The Art of Deaccessioning by Museums,” deaccessioning means “the removal of an object via sale or otherwise, from a museum’s collection.” Jasani goes on, explaining that “it’s a practical way for museums to manage their collections, as it affords them the opportunity to purchase newer or more relevant works and change directions.” One of the concerns regarding deaccessioning is often a question of ethics. In order to help museums conduct themselves appropriately, specific guidelines have been put in place. This includes the AAMD’s Code of Ethics. This code stated, according to Jasani’s article, that “a museum director shall not dispose of accessioned works of art in order to provide funds for purposes other than acquisitions of works of art for the museum’s collection” (1).

Despite such regulations, there have been some instances where museums have had to rely on funds garnered from deaccessioning in order to survive economic hardships. One such case involved the sale of a Norman Rockwell painting by the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. According to an article published for The Boston Globe, “Berkshire Museum sells Norman Rockwell painting to George Lucas’s museum,” the Berkshire Museum was facing closure without an increase in funds. In order to avoid closing, the museum selected forty pieces to sell, including Norman Rockwell’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop.” The article states that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art claimed to have purchased the Rockwell piece. It goes on, articulating that the museum announced its goal “to raise $55 million so it could stay open and refocus its mission.”

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 31″ x 33″. Cover illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” April 29, 1950. Collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Norman Rockwell Museum Digital Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

The Berkshire Museum succeed in deaccessioning some of its works, however, it also stirred up controversy and concerns regarding the museum’s stewardship of its collection. In fact, the very mention of the word “deaccession” tends to harbor negative connotations. There are those who would argue that this generally negative perspective on deaccessioning needs to be reevaluated in order to allow museums to evolve. For example, Andrew McClellan – a professor of art history at Tufts University – argues that “the selective deaccessioning of objects no longer deemed essential to a museum’s mission, in order to acquire new objects that are, may make good sense,” in his article, “Museums need to move with the times – that’s why deaccessioning isn’t always bad news.” McClellan goes on, arguing that such changes could help increase diversity within museums, making them more reflective of their respective communities (2). However, this usage of funds from deaccessioning which McClellan describes would still function within the original guidelines established by the AAMD.

The recent change in the AAMD’s guidelines which allows museums to utilize funds garnered from deaccessioning for operational costs seems to have punctured a hole in the ethical standards which previously shadowed cases such as that of the Berkshire Museum. Not only will this change in code make it difficult, if not impossible, to pass judgement on museums’ actions against future threats, it also raises questions as to what other uses such funds may be applied. Mark Gold – a partner in the law firm of Smith, Green, and Gold – and Stefanie Jandl – a former curator – discuss these concerns in their article, “Why the Association of Art Museum Directors’s move on deaccessioning matters so much.” They explain that “according to the AAMD’s statement, the new resolutions ‘were proposed in recognition of the extensive negative effects of the current crisis on the operations and balance sheets of many art museums.” Afterwards, the authors cannot help but refer to the case of the Berkshire Museum, described above, and recall that the situation described by the AAMD is exactly what occurred at the Berkshire Museum. In response, they ask the question: “Should it matter what is causing the existential threat? [..] Should it matter if the cause of the crisis is a pandemic or the loss of major employers in the region, a declining demographic and donor base, or a series of unfortunate decision by staff or board?”

Deeper into the article, the answer to the above question begins to unfold as the authors return to the question of ethics. Gold and Jandl state that “ethics inform behavior not just when it’s easy or convenient, but when it’s hard. And if it’s ethical to use income from the proceeds of deaccessioning for operating expenses, why not the proceeds themselves?” They go on, arguing that museum professionals should seize this moment as an opportunity to reevaluate previous sentiments regarding best-practices. They also add that these professionals “can be more openminded about what can be removed from the collection without affecting a museum’s mission and be advocates for converting those objects into resources to keep the museum open and to support and advance the mission by treating museum employees and programmes as assets worthy of investment-pandemic or not.” Doing so could reshape individuals’ perceptions of collections and how they can function in a reciprocal relationship of support with their museums.


References:

  1. Jasani, Azmina. “The Art of Deaccessioning by Museums.” Wealth Management (February 23, 2018). https://global-factiva-com.ezproxy.library.tufts.edu/ha/default.aspx#./!?&_suid=159761333945104543291629816466
  2. McClellan, Andrew. “Museums need to move with the times — That’s why deaccessioning isn’t always bad news.” Apollo (March, 14, 2019).

“Pivotal life events” – responses

Last week’s theme was slightly challenging. A lot has happened in the lives of all of us especially in the last past 4-5 months. So I think it might have been hard to cherry pick one particular event from that myriad. Nevertheless, I am glad to share the following submission.

Fatima Huseynli

Student

Budapest, Hungary

An mage of an electric piano on a stand against a wall. 

“The object that fits the theme perfectly for me, is definitely my piano. I remember back in March, when the pandemic was just picking up and the lockdowns and preventative measures were partly in place, I purchased an electric piano from Amazon. Boy, oh Boy, was that an incredibly important, dare I say, perfectly timed an extremely impactful event in my life. I would be lying if I said what to expect from the following few months. What I did know for sure, was the pure joy, sweet, nostalgic melancholy that I felt while practicing my scales for the first time in over 5 years.

I never picked my piano before. During and after music school I only played my mom’s old, “BELARUS” that was perhaps 35 years old at the moment I took my first piano classes. It was and still is (it’s back at home in my hometown in Azerbaijan) a very reliable instrument (except for the C5 key that often got stuck to my frustration). It was also very large and hard to move due to its fully wooden carcass and mighty inner mechanism and stringing that made it overall a tad intimidating for little me. The grand and imposing silhouette of “BELARUS” seemed to judge me and longed to be played by a better, more experienced and skillful musician. I cannot say I never enjoyed my companionship with it, but I cannot say it inspired me and supported me-we lacked a deeper connection. Certainly, I am not blaming the old soviet piano for discontinuing my musical education on an academic or professional level, no there were many factors at fault there. However, it did play a role in my eventually deliberately emotionally distancing myself from music. 

How incredible is it, that when a few years ago having grown up to appreciate a lot of my prior experiences, I have gotten a newly formed passion and ecstatic almost feverish interest in music theory. I found myself on a quest to understand music, any music classical, baroque, contemporary, eastern, western, folk, techno, psytrance; you name it, I wondered what goes on within it. This time around I was taking a completely different approach that strangely does not have much to do with performing an elaborate repertoire. So I started using different online tools, got a few materials of the internet and started to learn about harmonics, tonics, modes, genres, compositional elements and structures, that composers and songwriters alike use in the magical process of creating a musical piece or song. 

Not long after I decided I simply cannot do without a piano. My piano to be more precise. A companion and friend who will help me further analyze the intricate weaving of the fabric of the nature of music itself.

Ana Perez 

Boston, Massachusetts 

Looking for a job and teaching art online. I paint almost every day. 

 

My painting: “Opportunities” is a response to the theme “Pivotal Life Events”.

Art matters to me, I can express there what I am feeling at the moment. Also, beauty in general is not the same to have a print (what used to be in the same frame) than a real painting on the wall.

A friend moved away to New York and I made the painting for her room one week before she left, I thought it was an opportunity to show her how much fun we have had these 2 years and even if she would see it just for a week I thought it was worth doing it. It will give the opportunity to a new roommate to enjoy it when she comes into that room. 

    

An abstract painting in a gold color frame.

Reflections on Reopening from Nick Pioppi, Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium, along with many of Boston’s other cultural institutions, reopened on July 16th with pandemic-specific precautions. The Aquarium now has a one way path throughout the building, reduced capacity, additional sanitation stations, and requires visitors to wear masks. Now that the Aquarium has been open for almost a month, I checked in with Nick Pioppi, Supervisor and Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium, about the process of reopening.

Nick Pioppi conducting a virtual visit to the New England Aquarium.

How have things been at the Aquarium since reopening?

“Things have been very good. We feel very confident that we have established a safe, fun, and engaging experience for visitors. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some things that we’ve worked on or refined in terms of our process. We always come up with ways to become more efficient or make the process run a little bit more smoothly so we’ve definitely tweaked things as we’ve gone along.”

When the aquarium was closed, what were some strategies you used to reach your audience?

“We took a look at what we offered virtually and came up with some strategies to create new virtual content that was fun and engaging and kept people feeling connected to the aquarium, but also continued to foster and promote our mission. I think that was really important because we wanted people to understand that there were a lot of things that were still going on, like animal care and research efforts. We wanted to work hard to put those out front and use those as a way of connecting with visitors.”

With reopening, what are some challenges you’ve found with running educational programming?

A California sea lion reminds visitors to social distance.

“We are not leading any of our normal presentations on microphone. We are trying to avoid elements of an experience that might cause people to crowd and have difficulty maintaining physical distance from each other. Any sort of educational content or interpretation is happening on a one-on-one basis. We have staff that are stationed throughout the building with the primary goal of providing a logistically smooth and safe experience for visitors, but we’re slowly starting to integrate points of interpretation.”

“We’ve really had to just be a little bit more selective about that and focus more on safety and logistics and making sure the one way path is being followed. We’ve even had to close down elements of the aquarium, like the touch tanks or one particular exhibit called “The Science of Sharks” that is very interactive, just out of an abundance of caution.”

Speaking to the animals, how are they adjusting to having visitors again?

“For the most part, we are not noticing significant differences in behavior of the animals. Most of their daily routines were still going on during the closure. They were still getting fed regularly and the life support systems that keep them comfortable were being maintained. If they aren’t particularly reactive to our presence outside of their tank, then things are the same for them. There are a few exhibits that we’re noticing some subtle differences. To prepare the penguins, a week ahead of time we placed speakers around the exhibit and played crowd noise to get them accustomed to visitors again.”

Do you have any advice for museum educators during the pandemic?

“From my own experience, now is the time where it’s important to remember a lot of the basics of education, such as the customer service element and providing a nice alternate experience for visitors than what they’re having any given day. But this is also a time where innovation and trying new things out can be really beneficial. Trying to think of new ways to connect to people.”

“I think for institutions, it’s probably really scary to innovate and experiment because you’re worried about losing what little you have right now. But I think now is just a good a time as any to be innovative and stand out. Provide something that other museums and institutions aren’t necessarily providing.”

The New England Aquarium highlighted the work of the aquarists and researchers during the closure.

Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

“I think the community of educators is so important right now. I think it’s important right now to think about ways to connect. Connect with teachers that are struggling with virtual learning in the fall. Connect with people who may have been laid off from an institution because of budget cuts. Connect with people who might be educators but are doing a type of interpretation that’s really different from you. We can all learn from each other and support each other.”

Thank you so much, Nick, for meeting with me to chat about the Aquarium’s reopening. Follow the New England Aquarium’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for tons virtual content and updates. Also, the Aquarium is still fighting for COVID-19 relief funding, so use this link to contact your representative about providing crucial funding for both animal care and operating costs.

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