Brown Bags

Museums in Transition

Friday, September 17, 2004

Presented by Carole McNamara, Assistant Director for Collections and Exhibitions, U-M Museum of Art

Exhibiting ‘Hellenism’ in an Olympic Era or The ‘Otherness’ of Prehistoric Objects and How to ‘Tame’ Them

Friday, October 8, 2004

Presented by Despina Margomenou, PhD, Anthropology

Museums and Intangible Heritage: Reflections on the Recent ICOM Triennial Conference in Seoul (Korea)

Friday, November 5, 2004

Presented by Raymond Silverman, Director, Museum Studies Program; Professor History of Art and Afroamerican & African Studies

About Raymond Silverman

In 2002, Raymond Silverman joined the faculty at the University of Michigan where he is Professor of History of Art and Afroamerican & African Studies, and serves as Director of the Museum Studies Program. In addition to teaching courses dealing with the visual cultures of Africa and Museum Studies, he has curated a number of exhibitions dealing with various aspects of African visual culture. Silverman’s research and writing has examined the interaction between West Africa and the cultures of the Middle East and Europe, the history of metal technologies in Ethiopia and Ghana, the social values associated with creativity in Ethiopia, the visual culture of religion in 20th-century Ethiopia, and the commodification of art in Ethiopia and Ghana. Among his many writings, Silverman is the author of Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity (1999) and Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw (2005). Most recently he has been exploring “museum culture” in Africa, specifically how local knowledge is translated in national and community-based cultural institutions.

Visibility, Movement and Preferences in Open Plan Museums: An Observational Descriptive Study of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Presented by Ipek Kaynar Rohloff, PhD Candidate, Architecture and Museum Studies

About Ipek Kaynar Rohloff

Ipek Kaynar Rohloff recently earned a Certificate in Museum Studies and a Ph.D. in Architecture at the University of Michigan. She teaches at the Boston Architecture College and the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. She also applies her insight and experience as part of her consulting practice (www.kaynar-rohloff.com) with museums and architecture design firms. Dr. Rohloff regularly publishes and speaks at architectural and space-planning conferences.

The Home & Self Representation for Tourism in Jordan

Friday, March 25, 2005

Presented by Louna Khirfan, PhD student, Urban Planning and Museum Studies

Museum Collecting in the Mediterranean: The Case of the Kelsey Expeditions, 1919-1926

Friday, March 18, 2005

Presented by Artemis Leontis, Associate Professor, Classical Studies

So what is the big idea anyway? Reinventing classical art at the DIA

Friday, January 14, 2005

Presented by Cat Lyon, PhD, Interdisciplinary Program in Classical Art and Archaeology

Museums in Hong Kong

Friday, February 25, 2005

Presented by Jennifer Zee, MFA, Art & Design

Digital Visitor Studies: How Data Mining Can Improve Software-Based Exhibits in Museums

Friday, February 18, 2005

Presented by Leilah Lyons, PhD, Electrical Engineering

Treasures, Trials, and Triumphs: Designing the New Wing of the Kelsey Museum

Friday, April 1, 2005

Presented by Lauren Talalay, Associate Director and Curator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Conferences and Symposia

Ownership, Appropriation, Repatriation: Museum Collections in a Changing World

The Parthenon Divided

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Presented by Anthony Snodgrass, Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

It is not widely known (nor does the British Museum exactly advertise the fact) that, quite apart from the Parthenon as a building, about half of the surviving Parthenon sculptures are already in Athens. The implications of this division, for the Greeks, for the world public and for scholars, are investigated in this lecture.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Classical Studies, the Modern Greek Program, the Kelsey Museum, the Hellenic Student Association, and the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art & Archaeology (IPCAA).

Ownership, Appropriation & Restitution The Effect of War on the Cultural Heritage of Iraq as a Case Study

Thursday, September 30, 2004

A lecture by Patty Gerstenblith, the first presentation in the 2004-2005 lecture series, Ownership, Appropriation, Repatriation:Museum Collections in a Changing World.

The fate of cultural heritage, particularly cultural objects, has become a subject of increasing interest and debate. Embodied in the questions of who owns these objects, whether they should be returned to prior owners, cultures and nations, and who is entitled to acquire such objects is the deeper question of who can control the past. Through study of the past, we learn about ourselves, our identity and our future.

This lecture will look at the development of the national and international legal regime that attempts to regulate the movement of cultural objects by deciding ownership, acquisition and restitution of such objects. An overview of the legal regime as applied to cultural objects, particularly archaeological artifacts, and the policy debates that center on these objects will be followed by an examination of the impact of the recent war on the cultural heritage of Iraq. The fate of cultural objects and sites in Iraq serves as a microcosm of these issues. From these experiences, we can perhaps learn how the legal system and the public need to change in order to respond to such crises in a manner that will be more effective in preserving cultural heritage for future generations.

Sacred Visions and Competing Voices: Who Speaks for Native Peoples When Repatriation Claims Are Made?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

John O’Shea, Curator, Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology, UM

Whether ancestral remains and sacred objects should be repatriated to Native peoples, the question of who represents Native groups and who should decide on the disposition of repatriated remains, has emerged as a surprisingly thorny and contentious problem. Such questions affect not only Museums and Government Agencies that respond to repatriation claims, but have produced often-acrimonious disagreement between and within Native communities. The NAGPRA review committee, a federal advisory committee established expressly to assist in the resolution of such disputes, provides unique vantage point from which to observe how these disputes come into being and to suggest ways they might be resolved in the future.

Ethics and the Display of Human Embryo Specimens

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Lynn Morgan, Professor of Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College

Questions about the appropriateness of displaying human anatomical material have resurfaced recently with new technologies of preservation (such as the digital Visible Human project and the BodyWorlds exhibit of plastinated cadavers). Less noticed but no less important are changes in the appropriate means of displaying human embryo and fetal specimens. Pathological and natural science museums (such as the Mütter Museum , the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine) have been under pressure to de-accession wet-tissue collections in favor of sanitized (digital, photographic, and computer-enhanced) forms of display. This paper draws on the history of the famed Carnegie Collection of Human Embryos to show why wet-tissue specimens have become unpopular, focusing on the changing meanings attached to human embryo and fetal specimens over the past 100 years.

Enabling Hawaiian Hula Performance: Tradition and the Repatriation of Cultural Patrimony

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Presented by Amy Stillman, Associate Professor, School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Program in American Culture

My research on the history of Hawaiian hula, in particular the westernized form that emerged in the mid-19 th century, has taken me on odysseys into libraries and archives across the United States, where I have been privileged to see many items not in Hawai’i repositories. The advent of online auction sites such as eBay has brought yet more materials into view, and has dramatically reduced the necessity of physically rummaging all over the country. My excitement, however, is tempered by the sobering realization that the musicians and choreographers would could make these resources live again have, in fact, been cut off from them instead.

Through my archival research on hula, issues of cultural rights surrounding the reunification of performers and institutionalized resources for performance traditions come into stark relief, out of the deep shadow cast by intense focus to date on repatriation of human remains and sacred paraphernalia. In indigenous communities, performance traditions reenergized in the context of revitalization movements have been strengthened through the languages of disciplinary ethics, intellectual property law, copyright, and indigenous patrimony. Archives hold reams of information sources and even materials that can be used by performers, such as poetic songtexts, notated scores, and audio and moving-image recordings. And herein lies the potential for tragedy: what kinds of understandings can a community achieve of its patrimony if the pieces are scattered? Drawing on my own experience, my presentation will consider the rights of indigenous communities to reunite with archival resources that have been scattered across the globe. What can be done to bring dispersed resources back into community hands””or view? What responsibilities do institutions have with respect to items of performance-related cultural patrimony in their care? And what are the civic obligations of an engaged citizenry in triangulating indigenous communities, performance-related cultural patrimony, and the institutions that now stand in between?

The Struggle over Indigenous Knowledge: Museums, Ethnobotany, and the Fate of Botanical Heritage

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Presented by Michael F. Brown, Lambert Professor of Anthropology, Williams College

The past decade has seen advocacy for indigenous rights shift strongly toward assertions of ownership of all forms of knowledge arising in the world’s aboriginal societies. This social movement has focused particular attention on ethnobotany, a discipline now viewed by many indigenous leaders as little more than an agent of biopiracy. This lecture reviews the current state of ethnobotanical and museum ethics, assesses some widely held but erroneous beliefs about the uses to which ethnobotanical information has been put, and considers practical solutions for honoring the legitimate economic rights of local knowledge-holders without closing or repatriating databases and plant collections held by the world’s repositories.


Issues in Museum Studies

What’s the Big Idea? Permanent Collections for the Non-Specialist Visitor

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Presented by Graham W. J. Beal, Director, The Detroit Institute of Arts

Join us for a progress report on the DIA’s multi-year reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collections. This undertaking marks a significant shift from a purely art historical framework to one that draws upon concepts rooted in general life experience. Beal’s presentation will explore the processes used to construct the “big ideas” within which art historical concepts and individual works of art will be presented to the museum’s audiences.

Singing and Dancing at Night: Spirituality in Museums, Its Opportunities and Limits

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Elaine Heumann Gurian, Senior Museum Consultant, presenting in the Issues in Museum Studies lecture series, Winter 2005.

Recent history in the museum field has seen previously disenfranchised groups playing a larger role in how their culture is represented in museum displays. This move has led to a broader interpretation of cultural artifacts in museums, one often based on spiritual considerations. Such interpretations differ sharply from traditional approaches but have fostered diverse understandings in institutions as wide-ranging as the National Museum of the American Indian, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Museum of Church History and Art.

Renowned museum consultant Elaine Heumann Gurian visits the University of Michigan to share her insights into this phenomenon and to consider the tension that results as two widely varying orientations to the object (one rational, one spiritual) seek their place on the museum floor.

Is this the end of the age of enlightenment? Is rational thinking at odds with spiritual life? Is the current political mood mirrored in the museum community? What are the tensions created between objective evidence-based interpretation and more spiritual and emotional understandings?

Elaine Gurian’s appearance on our campus provides a unique opportunity to explore possible answers to these questions with someone who has addressed them directly in her varied career. Join us for a unique opportunity to examine an important new phenomenon as interpreted by one of the field’s most respected thinkers.

Interesting Objects, Fabulous Stories: Reflections on Collecting African Art

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Presented by Dan Mato, Professor Emeritus of Art History, University of Calgary

I didn’t start out to be an Africanist. But one rainy day I stepped into a small gallery in Zurich and after an hour came out with an African sculpture. I knew nothing about it, nor who made it, nor how it was used, but it captured my imagination then and continues to do so nearly forty years later. It was different than anything I had known or studied and it piqued my curiosity. Within a short period this experience led to a redirection of my studies from classics to African art history and the beginnings of building a collection. My early studies were explorations of objects that literally had no history and that were looked upon with bemusement by most other art historians. At that time there were few books published on African Art and those available offered opinion but little information. To a great extent it was a discipline that was being created by teachers who generously shared their field notes, showed us their collections, and encouraged us in our own research. Enthusiastic curators led me to the back rooms of museums where I spent hours handling the sculptures, taking photos and making notes.

African art first arrived in my Midwest world in the late 1960s and early 1970s, brought to me by African art traders commonly known as “runners.” These African traders came in a rush, traveling across the country to situate themselves in hotel rooms filled with an extraordinary variety of objects about which they knew little but which were described for us nonetheless in creative and fabulous ways. We “played” with the pieces, made friends with the traders, bargained for sculptures and learned about Africa from warmly human sources.

In addition to the runners, fellow collectors themselves brought an enthusiasm for African art to our lives, which led to interesting interpretations, marvelous stories and long evenings of conversation. We learned from these objects, looking and comparing, arguing and developing our own tastes. I was often challenged to make a case for an object or to identify it and through the process of looking closely at a piece I came to appreciate the skill of the artist and an extraordinary underlying sense of aesthetics.

Although we know a lot more about African art today, fanciful stories created for us by African traders nearly forty years ago still ring with a special fondness in my mind. My talk this evening will center around my life as a student, collector, and scholar in a field that has held my imagination ever since I first stepped into that gallery in Zurich and, of course, on the wonderful richness of the world of African art.

Co-sponsored by the U-M Museum Studies Program, U-M Museum of Art, Department of the History of Art, and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies.

Animal Showboat to Animal Lifeboat? New Directions at the Detroit Zoo

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Presented by Ron Kagan, Director, The Detroit Zoological Institute

Zoos entertain millions of people each year. Is this experience equally entertaining for zoo animals? A fundamental requirement for keeping animals in captivity should be that they experience an excellent quality of life. To provide a good environment we must meet both species and individual level physical, social, and psychological needs. The more we learn about animals, the more our values and practices change.

Recently the Detroit Zoo decided it could neither provide nor create an environment that allows elephants to thrive. What about other animals at zoos, circuses and other entertainment venues? What should we do about our relationship with the animal kingdom? Should these decisions be made by experts or by communities? While the answers to these questions have caused some controversy, they also point the way to exciting new directions for the Detroit Zoo and offer a model for zoos that might assure an experience for animals that is as good as it is for visitors.

Skeletons in the Closet: Museums and the Collection and Display of Human Beings

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Presented by Richard I. Ford, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Director, Museum of Anthropology, U-M

The first museums were referred to as “closets of curiosities.” They developed in a world under exploration and the gleanings of these adventurers found their place in the estates of wealthy patrons and, later, public places. Among the oddities were the people encountered outside Europe and later the United States . The displays took the form of skeletal parts””crania, shrunken heads, scalps, etc.””or the people themselves, live or dead. As museums developed to educate the masses, fascination with “the other” continued in biological forms. Skeletons were compared to accentuate human differences or to stress anatomical similarities. Museum quests for skeletal parts to display were part and parcel of colonialism, racism, and ethnocentrism. The reformation of the modern museum has been a long, arduous, and contentious process. Even the imposition of professional ethics and federal legislation (NAGPRA), did not end the keeping of skeletons by museums. During this lecture examples will be drawn from museums at the University of Michigan . . . since no museum has been immune from keeping skeletons in its closet.