Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Brooklyn Museum Receives Community Pushback for Curatorial Hire

The Brooklyn Museum recently announced a new curator of African Art, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, a Princeton- and Yale-educated specialist in the field. This elicited some outrage in the museum community and the local Brooklyn community, especially in light of the recent depiction of the condescending white African Art curator in the recent film, Black Panther. Common questions include: “How can it be that the Brooklyn Museum could not find a qualified Black scholar for the position”, and “how hard did they look?”

In reporting on this issue, The New York Times found several museum professionals in the field of African Art who confirmed that it can be difficult to source appropriately diverse candidate pools for these positions.

Steven Nelson, the director of U.C.L.A.’s African Studies Center, agreed, saying on Friday that he was “one of a very small number of African-American specialists in the field.” Art history as a whole has done “a very poor job of recruiting a diverse pool,” he said, adding that “African art history in the U.S. is primarily white and female.”

This matches much of what is already understood about the museum world and indeed college and graduate school candidate pools generally skew white. It is worth noting that Windmuller-Luna’s position was announced in tandem with another curatorial hire in Photography, Drew Sawyer, a white man.

Of course, it is not wrong for a white person to work in a subject that is about non-white art or other issues, but any opportunity to examine hiring practices and candidate pipelines is useful, and the Brooklyn Museum has been the subject of protests by Decolonize This Place and other anti-gentrification groups concerned about the Brooklyn Museum’s transition to catering to a whiter, wealthier visitorship, which corresponds to changes in the neighborhoods around the museum in the past 20 years. There are further concerns in the community about museum director, Anne Pasternak, who headed up a 2015 Halloween Party at the museum with the theme “The Bronx is Burning”, a reference to a rash of fires in the Bronx due to severe underfunding of critical services in the borough in the mid1970s.

In a neighborhood with its own history of racial strife and struggles with gentrification, with neighborhood organizations asking for the Brooklyn Museum to engage with them on these issues, it seems that the Brooklyn Museum could minimize public blow back when making announcements like this by taking actions to demonstrate their intentions to be a good community actor for all, not just the white sections of Crown Heights and surrounds. Community advisory panels, creating opportunities specifically for scholars of color, and good faith engagement when problems arise are only a few of the ways to build a better relationship with the Brooklyn community. However, the real issue at hand here is a structural one: Educational, economic, and hiring bias work together at every level of the process, reducing the pipeline of available students of color bound for higher education, reducing the amount of students of color accepted to elite organizations, and reducing the amount of people of color who make it through the resume review and interview processes. For the Brooklyn Museum to fail to acknowledge these structural issues means they are choosing complicity in a broken system rather than engaged action to create a better museum.

Within these Walls: My Summer Experience in the Revitalizing Historic House Museums Course

This post comes to us from Emma Cook, a student in the History and Museum Studies program. She reflects on her experience in the program’s summer course Revitalizing Historic House Museums. For anyone interested in taking the course, go to http://ase.tufts.edu/summer – registration opens Monday, April 9.

Historic house museums are the largest category of museums in the US. As future museum professionals, we are likely to work with a historic house site sometime in our careers. I found the Revitalizing Historic House Museums course to be an integral component of my graduate education and future career. What makes the course unique is the first-hand experiences provided throughout the class. Case studies, guest speakers, blog posts, and field trips in correlation with our class assignments provided practical skills and knowledge.

What I most enjoyed was visiting historic houses in the area. The first site we visited was the Eustis Estate in Milton, MA. The Eustis Estate was built in 1878 and is the only example of William Ralph Emerson’s significant contribution to American architecture. This historic house was recently opened to the public by Historic New England in May 2017. The Eustis Estate provided a model of new technological approaches being introduced to historic house museums. In-gallery media provided interpretation of the Eustis Estate and a full-scale mobile guide created greater access of the content to visitors. Discussions with staff taught us how the historic house was cared for and updated. The Mementos jewelry exhibition, presented by
Historic New England, demonstrated what new exhibition techniques are used in historic house museums today. I found this experience fascinating, as we were learning first-hand how the Eustis Estate was transformed from a home into a house museum.

The highlight of my course experience was visiting the Kennedy Family Cape House in Hyannis, MA. Our final project of the course was to prepare a report describing the best and highest uses for the property. Kennedy family members gave the home to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute (EMK) to preserve and open to the public. The home itself is nearly completely intact. Photographs of the family line the walls of the home along with artwork by Jackie and Edward “Ted” Kennedy. A table with coffee ring stains in the sunroom marks the place where Ted Kennedy did his work. From JFK’s bedroom (untouched since his death) to the Kennedy grandchildren’s measurements written on the wall in one of the halls, the family
home breathes life and represents a story that wants to be shared. As the only graduate class allowed to visit the site, having the opportunity to not only walk through the Kennedy home, but also create a project that would be viewed and considered by the EMK in their future planning for the site, was a once in a lifetime experience. The responsibility of creating new plans for the house and doing it well, has earned Tufts students the opportunity to continue visiting.

This course was the best part of my summer! What you learn from this class is both inspiring and rewarding. This course prepares you for a role in historic house museums and gives you tools you can apply in many areas of professional practice.

To register go to: http://ase.tufts.edu/summer. You do not need to attend Tufts to register. Those wishing to audit the course are welcome. The first summer session begins on May 24 and ends on June 30. Class is from 6-9:30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.

 

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s your weekly roundup of new jobs! Happy Hunting!

New England

Mid-Atlantic

Midwest

South

West

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s your weekly roundup of new jobs! Happy Hunting!

New England

Mid-Atlantic

Midwest

South

West

Free tickets to commissioning of newest US Navy destroyer, USS Thomas Hudner

Since 2015 a committee has been working to plan the commissioning ceremony for the newest destroyer for the US Navy, USS THOMAS HUDNER (DDG 116), an ARLEIGH BURKE-class destroyer that has been under construction at Bath Iron Works since November 2012.

The Ship is named for Captain Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., US Navy (Retired), a former naval aviator and Medal of Honor recipient. Hudner grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1946. As a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in December 1950, he attempted to rescue his element leader, Ensign Jesse Brown, the first African American naval combat aviator, who crash landed as a result of enemy fire behind enemy lines near Chosin Reservoir in sub-zero weather. For his selfless action he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in April 1951. Captain Hudner remained in the Navy for another 22 years before retiring in 1973 with the rank of Captain. He went on to work as a management consultant, served as president of the regional USO, and served as the Commissioner of Veteran Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1991-1999. As you may have seen in the news last November, Captain Hudner passed away.

The Commissioning Committee is sponsoring the receptions and events around the Commissioning, planning activities for the crew and their families during the week that the Ship is in Boston, and establishing a scholarship fund in Captain Hudner’s memory for the Ship’s crew members and their families. They are also responsible for raising awareness about the commissioning and coordinating the public guest list in collaboration with the Navy.

The commissioning ceremony is FREE and open to the public. If you would like to receive an invitation to attend the ceremony in early-December, please visit the commissioning committee’s website to request an invitation:

http://www.usshudnerddg116.org/commissioning-tickets

Requesting an invitation online now is not a commitment to attend the ceremony in December. If you fill out the online form, an invitations will be mailed directly to you by the Department of the Navy in late-summer or early-fall, at which time you can decide whether you would like to attend and respond to request tickets. Please feel free to browse the Commissioning Committee’s website and learn more about Captain Hudner as well as the crew of the Ship and the Committee’s plans and efforts in support of the Ship.

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