Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 32)

Living Collections and COVID-19

Museums across the country have felt the impact of the COVID-19 and the mandatory stay-at-home orders. Thousands of employees have been laid off and furloughed as these institutions try to stay afloat without revenue from visitors. Zoos and aquariums have an extra element to juggle: live animals. Without reliable income to buy food or pay staff, zoos and aquariums are having to find new ways to cope.

Tierpark Neumünster in Germany has expressed panic at its dwindling budget. With no money coming in, the zoo announced that it may have to start sacrificing certain animals to feed the others. The park’s beloved polar bear, Vitus, would be the last animal standing. While Tierpark Neumünster is only suggesting this as an absolute last resort, it does shine light on some scary scenarios. What would happen if zoos and aquariums run out of money? What if they shut down? What would happen to the animals? These institutions are in uncharted territory. There’s no protocol for handling a pandemic and months of closure.  

Vitus, the polar bear

The animals themselves have been feeling the impact of the pandemic. COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from animals to humans. Snakes, pangolins, and bats are all feasible culprits. Furthermore, we do not know which animals in our zoos could potentially carry the disease or succumb to infection. Tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, likely infected by an asymptomatic zookeeper. Thankfully, all of the cats are doing well and recovering, but there’s little knowledge on how other species will react. Ultimately, COVID-19 is an unknown entity. We know it can infect animals, we know it can pass between humans and animals, but we do not know the full ramifications.

Nadia, one of the Bronx Zoo’s tigers who tested positive for COVID-19.

Massachusetts started its four phase reopening on May 18th. As of May 25th, outdoor zoos are allowed to reopen, with strict guidelines. Aquariums and other museums will not be allowed to open until Phase 3. With such limited information about the interspecies spread of COVID-19, it’s risky to allow visitors back into proximity with these animals. Reopening could put both the visitors and the animals at an increased risk of infection.

It’s a tricky balance to find enough money to operate while prioritizing the health of the animals, the visitors, and the staff. In the U.S., museums received aid from the $2 trillion distributed from the CARES Act on March 27th, designed to protect American workers and small businesses. For animal care, zoos and aquariums need more. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has collaborated with the American Alliance of Museums to request an additional $4 billion in relief funding from Congress. Here is the AZA’s form to request aid for zoos and aquariums. Hopefully, with additional funding, zoos and aquariums won’t have to choose between reopening prematurely or feeding their animals to each other.

Memorial Day and Museums Reopenings

I suppose for myself, as a History major, museums signify places of remembrance that offer more vivid understandings of the past. Of course, this is the purpose of Memorial Day as well, as we remember our service members and oftentimes hear their stories. It is only fitting, therefore, that museums should play a significant role in remembering those members of our nation’s military who died serving our country.

But what does Memorial Day in a museum look like in the midst of a pandemic?

Many museums around the country have already begun to reopen in some capacity. For example, the National World War II Museum reopened yesterday in a limited capacity, in terms of both a limited staff and a limited crowd. 25% of the museum’s normal capacity was allowed to enter and 82 of its approximately 300 member staff were laid off. The museum’s reopening required careful planning to maintain the proper safety measures: guests had the option to purchase tickets online in advance, social distancing was maintained, and cleanings happened with more frequency.

Other museums that were not in a position to reopen, even in a limited capacity, resorted to other measures to commemorate the holiday. For example, volunteers at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, California painted the American flag on the back lawn of the property. The flag took 45 gallons of paint to complete and measures 137 feet long and 78 feet tall. Once it was completed, trumpeter Fred Ashman performed “God Bless America” and “Taps” as a tribute.

Wisconsin Virtual Commemoration

Finally, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison held a virtual Memorial Day ceremony. Many local politicians appeared in a video to commemorate Memorial Day: Governor Tony Evers held a moment of silence and Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Mary Kolar suggested that viewers pay their respects by flying a flag or lighting a candle at their homes.

A recruitment poster for the Coast Guard SPARs program. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Many other museums have made their exhibits available online, as was mentioned in a previous post on this blog. Some virtual exhibits that are relevant to Memorial Day include the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s World War I-focused exhibit, “We Return Fighting.” The National Air & Space Museum offers an exhibit focused on Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II, while the National Women’s History Museum offers content on women who served in the Coast Guard during World War II in the SPARS program.

These are just a few of the exhibits and content that I found particularly interesting (I had never heard of the SPARS before!). Many museum exhibits have become available online during this unprecedented time for museums — and for us all — and this has already shaped the manner in which we commemorate holidays such as Memorial Day. So while it was definitely an unusual holiday, at least we are still able to keep learning and remembering and honoring the past.

Job Roundup

Northeast:

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)

Research Associate, Mary Baker Eddy Library (Boston, MA)

Collections Assistant, Haffenreffer Museum (Providence, RI)

Curatorial Assistant, Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY)

South:

Development Manager, Tryon Palace (New Bern, NC)

Chief Curator, International African American Museum (Charleston, SC)

Chief Curator, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, AL)

Deputy Director for Advancement, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (Miami, FL)

Mid-Atlantic:

SAMA Altoona Site Coordinator, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (Altoona, PA)

Director of Exhibitions, Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, PA)

Midwest:

Pleasant Rowland Textile Specialist & Research Director, Center for Design & Material Culture, University of Wisconsin – Madison (Madison, WI)

Community Outreach Coordinator (African American History Initiative), Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO)

West:

Associate Director, Foundation and Government Giving, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)

Job Opportunity

We understand that the job hunt has become much more difficult in this uncertain time. However, we recently received a job announcement from the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT, which is posted below. Best of luck!

The Mattatuck Museum seeks a full-time museum educator to oversee all school and family programs for the museum. The immediate focus for the new position will be to undertake digitization of the museum’s school tour program for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders as well as developing curriculum-based content to share with partner schools for distance learning with their students. Ultimately, the educator will help to develop new art- and history-based tours for the museum in a newly renovated space opening in spring 2021. 

We would like the educator to begin work as soon as possible, so we will give priority to CT residents and candidates willing to relocate to CT in the next few weeks. Please send cover letter, resume and 3 professional references to janice@mattmuseum.org. Interviews will begin immediately.

The Mattatuck Museum is an art and history museum located in Waterbury, CT. It is currently operating in a temporary location while undergoing construction at its main building. The Museum serves approximately 7,500 area students per year through curriculum-based school tours and has developed a wide range of partnerships with area schools.

Full job description at: https://www.mattmuseum.org/visit/about/job-opportunities/

Virtual Town Hall with NEMA

We hope that our readers are staying healthy and safe at home! With that in mind, there is a virtual town hall that NEMA has organized through Zoom for museum studies students and recent graduates on May 11 at 2pm

Presenting will be MaryKate Smolenski (at Tufts University), Lindsey Bauler (formerly at Tufts, now at George Washington University), and Sydney Sheehan (at Columbia University). 

Zoom link for the event: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEqd-iupjMpH9SzYMlWXYhxFir1HEDYkFRQ

Link to all NEMA’s webinars: https://nemanet.org/conference-events/workshops/

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