Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

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How is the Government Shutdown Affecting Museums?

Twenty three days and counting.

On December 22, the U.S. government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Democrats (and some GOP members) refuse to approve the funding, calling the wall immoral, unnecessary, and “a giant symbol” of racism and xenophobia. Although the House of Representatives passed several spending bills aimed at reopening certain sections of the government as soon as possible, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the legislation.

Now, for twenty-three days, the government has been in a political standstill (and as of yesterday, this has become the longest shutdown ever). According to Trump, the shutdown will continue until his funding is passed, and has even considered calling a national emergency to build the wall without congress approval.

As a result of this impasse, all federal institutions, departments, and agencies are closed. Over 800,000 federal workers remain furloughed, or continue to work without pay.

How does this seemingly endless shutdown affect museums and other cultural institutions?

While the Smithsonian Institution had funding through the first day of January, on January 2nd, all nineteen of its museums and galleries, including the Cooper Hewitt, National Air and Space Museum, National Zoo, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, closed. With no federal budget, upcoming public programs, lectures, and related arts and culture events were also canceled.

For special traveling exhibitions with an upcoming closing date, visitors will unfortunately miss the opportunity to enjoy the art on view. Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes, for example, the new special exhibition at the (currently inaccessible) Hirshhorn Museum, will not be extended past its closing date of January 27th.

In response to the government shutdown, some artists and art critics are using social media to present their work through a different light. For instance, for each day the government has been closed, the New York City- based writer Phyllis Tuchman has used Instagram to post a painting from the National Gallery of Art’s collection.

Until an agreement is reached for federal funding, Smithsonian Museums and other National Mall institutions will remain closed, and tourist visits will most likely continue to decrease.

Have you been personally affected by the government shutdown? Leave a comment with your story below.



Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Hi folks, and Happy New Year! Happy job hunting!


Curator of Youth Education/Provincetown Art Association and Museum [Provincetown, MA]

Arts and Culture Fellow/Metropolitan Area Planning Council [Boston, MA]

Development Associate/Raw Art Works [Lynn, MA]

Marketing Manager/Fitchburg Art Museum [Fitchburg, MA]

Director of Programs and Education/Fairfield Museum and History Center [Fairfield, CT]


Program Manager, Public Programs and Exhibitions/Lower Manhattan Cultural Council [New York, NY]

Director of Museum Programs/Buffalo Museum of Science [Buffalo, NY]

Curator of Programming/Planet World/Museum of Language Arts [Washington, D.C.]

Public Programs and Outreach Manager/Bucknell University [Lewisburg, PA]

Collections Database Administrator/The Baltimore Museum of Art [Baltimore, MD]


Registrar Collections Manager/Museum of the Shenandoah Valley [Winchester, VA]

Director of Visitor Services/Appalachian State University [Boone, NC]

Academic Programs Manager/The Columbus Museum [Columbus, GA]

Assistant Registrar/Perez Museum of Art [Miami, FL]


Museum Educator/Skokie Park District [Skokie, IL]

General Manager/The Minnesota Historical Society [Elk River, MN]

Exhibits Manager/History Nebraska [Lincoln, NE]

Historic Site Coordinator- Villa Louis/Wisconsin Historical Society [Prairie du Chien, WI]

Museum Educator/The Dayton Art Institute [Dayton, OH]


Curatorial Registrar/Idaho State Historical Society [Boise, ID]

Auction Coordinator/Santa Fe Art Auction [Santa Fe, NM]

Development Assistant/Aspen Art Museum [Aspen, CO]

Registrar/Asian Art Museum [San Francisco, CA]

Curator/Museum of Pop Culture [Seattle, WA]


A New Conversation for a New Year

What is a museum?

There’s a lot of ways to categorize them. Educational institutions. Tourist attractions. Repositories of knowledge or art. A place to bring the kids on spring break. One way that we like to think about a museum is as a community. The membership is a museum’s community, of course, but that is just one of many ways a museum can be a site of community. A museum can be a place where people gather, a locus that brings people together for common purposes. Museums can also be a member of a larger community, working to unite people and institutions around something bigger than itself, and reaping the rewards of that work. There’s a lot of power in that sort of engagement, and it’s something we’d like to spend more time thinking about in the pages (well, page) of this blog in 2019.

There’s a lot of ways to think about museums and community and we’re going to look at some of these in the next few months. Whether it is how Mass MOCA’s birth inside the shell of a former manufacturing plant is affecting its community in rural Berkshire County, MA, or following the progress of the Field Museum as it partners with local indigenous groups to re-envision its Native American exhibit halls, we are going to take some time to evaluate what museums are doing to create, strengthen, or expand their communities. We will also look at how arts organizations and other public spaces take on this work in ways that can be applied to museums. In taking these close looks, we hope to stimulate deeper conversations about what it means to be a museum and inspire people to look at their own organizations for ways to create new bonds with people and other organizations. Always, we hope to challenge assumptions about what and who an institution is for, who it speaks to, and what it can accomplish.

So together, let’s start thinking creatively about what it means to engage a community as a museum or as museum people. And let’s not forget that we’re a community, too, of readers and writers, and of museum students, alums, and workers! Please take a moment in the comments or send us an email at to let us know your thoughts about community and museums or to let us know about a great museum doing community engagement in a novel or successful way so we can write about it!

Job Roundup!

New year, new gig. Happy hunting!


Curator of Collections / Plimoth Plantation [Plymouth, MA]

Curatorial Assistant / Williams College [Williamstown, MA]

Associate Registrar / Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum [Boston, MA]

Education Specialist / Berkshire Museum [Pittsfield, MA]

Executive Director / Berkshire County Historical Society [Pittsfield, MA]


Visitor Services and Public Programs Manager / Geneva Historical Society [Geneva, NY]

Exhibition Designer / Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum [Washington DC]

Museum Curator / Cumberland County Historical Society [Carlisle, PA]

Project Manager / Smithsonian National Museum of American History [Washington DC]

Curatorial Fellowship / Philadelphia Museum of Art [Philadelphia, PA]


Associate Curator / Reginald F. Lewis Museum [Baltimore, MD]

Associate Director / North Carolina Museum of History [Raleigh, NC]

Academic Programs Manager / The Columbus Museum [Columbus, GA]

Heritage Center Archivist / Loretto Heritage Center [Nerinx, KY]

Director of Marketing & Public Relations / Gunston Hall [Lorton, VA]


Mellon Fellow in Photography Conservation / Art Institute [Chicago, IL]

Curator / Luxembourg American Cultural Society [Belgium, WI]

Director of Visitor Services and Accessibility / Missouri Historical Society [St. Louis, MO] 

Museum Educator / National Museum of Toys & Miniatures [Kansas City, MO]

Executive Director / Winona County Historical Society [Winona, MN]


Executive Director / Poudre Landmarks Foundation [Fort Collins, CO]

Collections Manager / El Paso Museum of History [El Paso, TX]

Exhibitions Designer / Idaho State Museum [Boise, ID]

Assistant Editor / The Getty [Los Angeles, CA]

Curatorial Practices Specialist / Anchorage Museum Association [Anchorage, AK]

On Climate Change and Museums

This weekend, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) met in Katowice, Poland with the aim of reaching a global climate agreement. Almost 200 hundred nations’ diplomats were in attendance, and all agreed to track their annual greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. With steadily increasing climate-related natural disasters and CO2 emissions that continue to rise, global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed not just internationally, but locally too. How can museums contribute to this conversation? Or, better yet, how can museums practice and promote climate activism?

With their frequent public programs focused on sustainability and climate change, the Hammer Museum is an excellent role model for other museums to follow in seeking to create more educational opportunities related to climate conversations. In the past year alone, the Museum hosted (free) monthly panel discussions concerning water usage, environmental equity, renewable energy sources, and ecosystems.

Similarly, many museums across the country feature rotating exhibitions that address conservation. The Museum of Science in Boston, for instance, currently displays three exhibits about wind power and other green energy alternatives. However, visitors should sometimes take these exhibits with a grain of salt: I’ll never forget the experience of visiting the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX and encountering an entire hall dedicated to “the benefits of fracking.” As it turns out, the exhibit was funded by Exxon.

While hosting programs about environmental conservation methods and creating platforms for discussing climate change is crucial, institutions must also consider clean energy and sustainable practices before the design and construction process for a new museum or remodeling project even begins. Both Boston Children’s Museum and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco have green roofs covered in native plants (and therefore bees), mechanisms for catching rain water, and other organic materials. “Living,” or green roofs such as these not only help reduce overall air pollution, but also function as natural insulators for buildings.

Finally, the American Alliance for Museums (AAM) is a great source for museums that wish to ground theirselves in green practices. The 2018 AAM annual meeting, for example, promoted the Environment and Climate Network to “establish museums as leaders in environmental stewardship and sustainability, and climate action.” Although COP24 is a strong start in the fight against further climate change, the issue can’t be modified without support from local institutions around the globe. I think museums are a wonderful place to begin.


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