Holiday greetings and annual update
Dear MSP colleagues, students, and friends,
As the year comes to a close and we prepare for yet another holiday season in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am writing to you to share my continued excitement about Museum Studies at Michigan and everything our small but potent Program has offered throughout the year: to its students, to its faculty, to museum professionals and interested publics near and far. And I want to extend my thanks to all who contribute to our ongoing success with their dedication, involvement, and sheer intellectual curiosity: we could not do it without you.
In the Fall term, we welcomed twelve new graduate students from ten different disciplines into the program. The diverse group quickly bonded over spirited discussions of the history of museums and its implications in colonialism and nationalism. Together, we have explored the power of artifacts and collections to address this history and to move towards community based, reparative museum practices. In many societies, including the US, museums remain highly trusted institutions that provide vital common ground in a time of political, environmental, and global health crises. In a welcome contrast to last year, we enjoyed the opportunity to visit museums in person again and were grateful to be guided by museum curators and professionals on campus and in Southeast Michigan, including Jim Johnson at The Henry Ford, David Michener at our own Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Laura de Becker at UMMA, Ben Secunda and Veronica Pasfield (NAGPRA officers), and Greg Schneider at the UMMZ. And we were just so thrilled to be able to welcome back MSP founding director Ray Silverman into the Proseminar, where he joined us to discuss his newest co-edited volume on National Museums in Africa.
Our Museums@Noon Fall series featured two advanced MSP graduate students, Zoe Ortiz and Zach Kopin, who presented about their work as international interns at the Louvre in Paris and Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill, respectively. We concluded the series with Cody Thompson (UMMZ) and Kendra Phelps (EcoHealth Alliance), who shared their far-reaching insights into the timely topic of “Natural History Collections and Pandemic Preparedness.” This Fall, MSP Associate Director Deirdre Hennebury also launched a new Museums in Practice series with a panel entitled “Accessibility and Museums: Creating Inclusive Experiences.” The topic emerged from past student feedback which noted their desire to see accessibility concerns more actively foregrounded within our graduate program. With this impulse in mind, we plan to host a series each Fall focused on different facets of Museum Accessibility. Our inaugural event was a success, and we are grateful to our three panelists – Caroline Braden (The Henry Ford), Susan Dine (Vanderbilt University), and Ashley Grady (Smithsonian Institution) who each brought their thoughtful and informed perspectives to the topic of inclusive museum practice. In case you missed any of our Fall events, recordings are available for you to watch via our MSP YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/umichmsp).
News from our growing alumni base reflects their professional success and the vitality and impact of our field. Here are only a few highlights: Based on research at UM’s Clements Library, Veronica Williamson (MSP20) co-curated an exhibition for the Saginaw Art Museum “No, Not Even For a Picture: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography;” the show is still on view until February 26, 2022. Together with other colleagues at East Carolina University, Helen Dixon (MSP07) has been awarded an NSF grant for the project “Gone and Newly Forgotten: Reclaiming African American Heritage in Rural Southern Cemeteries.” Caitlin Clerkin (MSP14) accepted a curatorial fellowship in Ancient Art with the Harvard Art Museums, and Craig Harvey (MSP14) has begun his position as Postdoctoral Associate in Classical Studies at Western University in London. Last but not least, fabulous news reached us from Montreal where Erica Lehrer’s (MSP04 & 2021 MSP Visiting Scholar) Curating and Public Scholarship Lab at Concordia University received a $2.5 million partnership grant for the project “Thinking Through the Museum: A Partnership Approach to Curating Difficult Knowledge in Public.”
The success of our activities depends on support from the museum community, our alumni, and other generous donors. We cannot thank you enough for the time you have invested in hosting and mentoring our students on site visits, capstone projects, internships, and research in the field. If you can also make a financial gift this year to help us strengthen MSP’s multi-faceted program of teaching, research, practice, and public engagement, I’d be very grateful. Your gift will go directly to supporting activities that provide an outstanding educational experience to our students, help to build capacity in museums, and bridge the gaps between scholarship, the profession, and public understanding of museums.
To donate to the Museum Studies Program, please complete and return the enclosed card or go online to http://ummsp.rackham.umich.edu/about/support-msp/.
Finally, I encourage you to keep in touch. Please visit our website for our latest events, alumni news, friend us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/umichmsp) or follow us on Twitter (@umichmsp). Deirdre, Amy, and I love to hear from you!
Thank you for your continued support and best wishes for a peaceful, happy, and healthy holiday season.
Director, Museum Studies Program
Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Michigan