Brown Bags

Evaluating Interactivity: Experience Design at the Franklin Institute

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Presented by Keeley Briggs, Master’s student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Museums increasingly weave interactivity into their exhibits as a vehicle to facilitate learning and shape visitor experience. Although museums of all kinds make use of interactivity, none are more strongly associated with the idea of an interactive experience, billed as both fun and educational, than science museums. The Franklin Institute Science Museum (TFI) is no exception, with exhibits composed largely of interactives built to present scientific principles and phenomena.

As an intern at TFI, I observed interactives at many stages, from planning to prototyping and beyond, and created several of my own staff-led demonstrations. This talk will investigate the following questions: How are interactives evaluated during development? What makes an interactive effective in the context of TFI? When is the line between interactive and art piece or educational and entertaining blurred?

Reproducing the Authentic at the Walters Art Museum

Friday, September 14, 2012

Presented by Jenny Kreiger, PhD student, IPCAA

In my practicum at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, I worked closely with the Curator of Ancient Art on Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, an upcoming exhibition built around an ancient Egyptian text on papyrus. Some of the objects in the show—including the title object—have lost parts of their authentic selves to the ravages of time and the antiquities trade, but reconstructions (digital or otherwise) offer opportunities to see the objects in new ways. This presentation will address the following questions: How do curators determine which part of an object’s story represents its most authentic self? How do museums display multiple authenticities? Are authentic objects necessary for authentic experiences?

Navigating the Objective and Subjective at the Adler Planetarium

Friday, October 26, 2012

Presented by Shannon Schmoll, PhD candidate, Astronomy and Science Education

Museums are increasingly becoming important institutions for science learning. People learn subjectively by processing new information through their individual prior knowledge and experiences. This means museum staff need to create exhibits and experiences that can attract and support a variety of different learners. To do this, the museum needs to be as objective as possible in presenting information to allow visitors a better chance of finding their personal “hook”. Yet, museum staff are humans prone to subjectivity as well, meaning there is an inescapable tension between the objective and subjective. During this talk, I will explore the various projects I worked on during my practicum at the Adler Planetarium and how I attempted to ameliorate the tensions between the objective and subjective along the way.

Community Remembered/Reconstructed/Reassessed: Detroit’s Chene Street Archives

Friday, November 30, 2012

Presented by Anna Topolska, PhD student, History

The Chene Street History Project aims at preservation of the intangible heritage of Chene Street’s neighborhood, once one of Detroit’s “most vibrant commercial corridors,” today one of its most devastated and depopulated areas. This presentation shows how re-constructing individual stories from members of this community and building a digital archive/exhibition contributes to preserving Chene Street’s heritage.

During my internship at the Chene Street History Project, I focused on Chene Street’s Polish and Jewish legacy. I developed content for an on-line presentation concerning life stories of two Polish and Polish-Jewish immigrants — Zofia Legowska and Jennie Levenson. I will show how the Archives provide not only insight into the community life and immigrant experiences on Chene Street, but also its role as a resource for researching World War II memories.

Voices of the Living: Memory in Romanian History and Archaeology Museums

Friday, November 16, 2012

Presented by Luciana Aenasoaie, PhD candidate, Anthropology and History

Since the first attempts to theorize museum practice, many scholars in the museum studies field have approached these institutions as repositories for memory; places where the past is fixed and encapsulated in objects that have the power to trigger recollection. Over the past decade, technology has made it possible to redefine what is displayed in museum space: recorded videos and audio interviews have revolutionized the way in which collected memories enter museum space. In this talk I will revisit the role memory plays in museum history writing processes and the consequences of museum work and recollection in politically unstable environments.

Who Is “We”? Exhibiting Race through Local Voices

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Presented by Abigail Celis, PhD student, Romance Languages & Literatures

In my Arts of Citizenship summer internship at the U-M Museum of Natural History, I developed a theme semester exhibit that addressed the question: “What does understanding race mean here, in the local community?” The intent of the exhibit was to understand and represent how race participates in, and has consequences for, varying experiences in our daily lives. The exhibit development process entailed a whole subset of questions, such as who is “the local community,” how can a museum collaborate with a local community, and what can an exhibit space offer said community in this effort of understanding and representation? This talk maps out my attempts at responding to these questions through the maze of practical and ethical considerations that many museums face when engaging with community members in the representation of cultural, social, and racial identities.

Digital/Material Dilemmas in Exhibition Planning

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Presented by Margaret Root, Professor, Department of History of Art; Curator, U-M Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

In this workshop session a curator describes her vision for a special exhibition at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, with the working title Ancient Animations: Social Networking in the Persian Empire. She throws out some challenges (intellectual, technical, political, institutional, and financial) that she faces partway through the multi-year planning process. The ambition is to create something that will inspire imaginations and invite discovery about the ancient Persian empire through the mixed use of selected material things coupled with a variety of digital experiences, including video games.

The substantive core of the exhibition content emerges from the seals ratifying thousands of administrative documents that offer windows (through image and text) into personalities and social interactions of real people, their self-presentations, and their networks/networking in about 500 BCE. The subject is ideally suited to digital presentations because of its non-linear data complexities and its frankly beautiful images, that lend themselves to imaginative play; but how will we make it work out? How will we mediate between the traditionally object-based emphasis at the Kelsey Museum and the urgencies of the technologically-driven visions?

About Margaret Root

Margaret Cool Root is Professor of Near Eastern and Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Michigan, holding teaching appointments in History of Art and in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology. She is also Curator of Near Eastern and Greek collections at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, where she has mounted many exhibitions on a wide range of topics (with accompanying publications). Her many awards include a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her research focuses on issues of art, social history, and historiography particularly involving studies of iconography, style, and identity politics. Specialist realms of analysis are the Achaemenid Persian empire and its complex interactions with ancient Greece. More broadly, she pursues studies both in traditions of monumental art, in traditions of seals as vehicles of stylistic and symbolic agency, all with special attention to problems of understanding intersecting circles of cultural engagement across time, place, and historiographically-charged perception.

“El Museo del Norte”: Re-imagining the Meanings of the “Museum” on the Streets of Detroit

Friday, March 29, 2013

Presented by Maria Cotera, Associate Professor, Program in American Culture, UM

Detroit, Michigan has become an emblematic symbol for multiple narratives about the “decline” of post-industrial society as well as possible avenues for the revival of urban culture. These narratives all too frequently center on the drama of Black/White relations; a tendency that invisibilizes the complexity of Detroit’s multiethnic history and misrepresents the role that ethnic communities—particularly Latina/o and Arab American communities—have played (and continue to play) in the life of Detroit. In 2009 the Latina/o Studies Program at the University of Michigan formed a partnership with Fronteras Norteñas, a public history organization in southwest Detroit to explore the possibility of creating a grass roots museum and cultural center that could document the historical presence of Latina/os in Detroit and thereby establish their key role in the life of the city. In this presentation, I’ll outline the work we’ve done over the first three years of the project and our goals for the future. I’ll also highlight the tensions and contradictions of doing “public history” in the high stakes environment of a city that has become ground zero for multiple public and private initiatives that seek to “save” it.

About Maria Cotera

Maria Cotera has held her current position as an Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies Program & Program in American Culture (Latina/o Studies) at the University of Michigan since 2001. From 2008 – 2011 she held the position of Director, Latina/o Studies Program. Her research/teaching interests include Chicana Feminism, US-Third World Feminisms, Latina/o Studies, Comparative Race and Ethnicity, and twentieth century writing of U.S. women of color. In 2008 she published the book, “Native Speakers: Ella Cara Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, Jovita Gonzalez Mireles and the Poetics of Culture.” She has edited other books and contributed numerous articles to journals and edited volumes. She is currently working on a book titled “Chicana por Me Raza: The Hidden History of Chicanas in the Second Wave.”

Science and the Sacred: The Preservation of Sacred Art

Friday, January 18, 2013

Presented by Ann Shaftel, visiting conservator

Ann Shaftel works with, and teaches, the preservation of sacred art around the world – to museum directors, curators, conservators, to university faculty and students as well as to groups of private collectors, dharma students and artists. In this talk Ann addresses the challenges and issues in preserving sacred art. Whether sacred art is defined by its location and existence in a Himalayan monastery, or hooked rugs that are sacred to the history of a small American community historical society, the scientific principles for its preservation remain the same, and the best explanation is a practical explanation.

About Ann Shaftel

Ann Shaftel serves as a Preservation Educator and Conservation Consultant for international clients. She has an MA degree in History of Art from the University of Michigan, where she also participated in the Museum Practice Program, MS degree in Art Conservation from Winterthur/University of Delaware, and worked and studied at the ICCROM Center in Rome. Ann is a Fellow of the International Institute of Conservation, a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators and member of ICOM. Ann conducts education workshops in conservation, especially in the preservation of tangible culture, and she performs museum site assessments around the world. Ann has trained in thangka painting and enjoys working with the media for conservation outreach. Her numerous published articles appear in professional journals including Journal of Art Crime, and she has lectured internationally on this topic.

Negotiating the Power of the Polka Dot: Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project and Its Detroit Communities

Friday, February 15, 2013

Presented by Bradley L. Taylor, Associate Director

Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art installation covering several city blocks in the heart of Detroit, has evoked strong reaction from local populations in the 25 years it has stood at the heart of one of the most beleaguered neighborhoods in the city. Envisioned by the artist as a means of engaging local children in positive alternatives to prevailing economic and social conditions, the project has nonetheless found strong opposition within its immediate neighborhood, among Detroit’s powerful church community, and in the corridors of the Detroit City Council and the offices of two powerful city mayors. Over the years the project has been variously celebrated and vilified, often within the same communities.

This presentation examines the relationship of Tyree Guyton and the Heidelberg Project with the multiplicity of communities within which the project exists and points to a unique model of community engagement that has long anticipated much of the current dialogue about the role of the museum in society.

About Brad Taylor

Brad Taylor became the Associate Director of the Museum Studies Program in 2004. He teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate programs, coordinates student internships, and actively supports the Museum Studies Program’s varied public programs. His research interests include the effect of surrogation on the museum experience and the evolving role of the museum in society. Brad is a graduate of an earlier iteration of Michigan’s museum program and holds his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan’s School of Information. In his years of travel throughout the museums of the world, he has found no object more intriguing than Thomas Edison’s last breath (in a bottle!), displayed at the Henry Ford.

Conferences and Symposia

Necessary or Accessory? Perspectives on the Object in Today’s Museums

The Biological Object in Today’s Museums: Phenotype and Genotype

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Presented by Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Director and Curator, Museum of Zoology; Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

Natural history museum collections are in the midst of a digitization revolution that will result in their catalogued holdings being networked through online, searchable, georeferenced databases with associated images and sampling data. This will greatly increase scholarly access to time-calibrated biodiversity data worldwide. Digitization will act to augment, rather than diminish, the research value of the curated specimens themselves due to the ever-expanding scope of scientific enquiry and to the latent phenotypic and genotypic data these natural history objects embody.

About Diarmaid O’Foighil

Diarmaid O’Foighil is the Director and Curator of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He received his Bachelor of Science from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and his PhD from the University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada. He began his career at the University of Michigan in 1995 as an Assistant Professor/Curator and prior to that held a position as Research Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina. He has been active with outside organizations including a position as council member within the American Melacological Society, a panel member of NSF DEB, and is currently the Associate Editor for the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. He has numerous publications to his credit including contributions to journals such as Science, NSF News, Current Biology, Journal of Molluscan Studies, and Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

From Eyesore and Epiphany to Elegance and Elegy: Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals

Thursday, October 11, 2012

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

In this presentation, Graham Beal addresses the multiple purposes behind the creation of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as its changes in meaning within a city that went from being “the arsenal of democracy” to a poster child for urban decay. Beal will also discuss how individual works of art, conceived as being rare and singular, retain their power as visual objects when contextualized and confronted with increasingly sophisticated reproduction techniques.

About Graham W. J. Beal

Graham W. J. Beal has been the director, president and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts since 1999. Since joining the DIA’s leadership, Beal has overseen two major capital campaigns, guided the reinstallation of the museum’s world-renowned collection, and overseen the museum’s renovation and expansion. Beal has built upon the museum’s outstanding reputation and has strengthened relationships with some of the world’s most well-regarded institutions through loans and programming supported by the museum’s collection. Under Beal’s leadership the DIA has co-organized outstanding exhibitions such as Van Gogh: Face to Face in 2000 and Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and Art of the Late Renaissance Florence in 2003. Prior to his tenure at the DIA, Beal served as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996 to 1999. He held the position of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1989 to 1996 and served as chief curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1984 to 1989.

The Archaeology of “The Object” in Archaeological Museums

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Presented by Carla Sinopoli, Curator, Museum of Anthropology; Professor, Anthropology; Director, Museum Studies Program

Objects constitute core evidence for archaeological research and interpretation. Over the last few centuries, through a variety of noble and ignoble routes, countless objects from the human past have come to reside in museums, filling over-stuffed cabinets and cramped storerooms. Typically, only a small portion are ever exhibited. Through presenting the biographies of several archaeological objects in the U-M Museum of Anthropology’s Asia collections, this lecture asks: what is the significance of the authentic object in the digital age? How do we think about singular objects and the larger assemblages of which those objects were a part? And, looking beyond the ancient past in which archaeological objects were made and used, how might archaeological museums better acknowledge and address more recent pasts, and ethical concerns over the routes through which many archaeological materials were removed from their original contexts and communities and brought into the museum?

About Carla Sinopoli

Carla Sinopoli became director of the Museum Studies Program in 2012. She has been at U-M since 1993 and is also Professor of Anthropology and Curator of Asian Archaeology and Ethnology in the Museum of Anthropology. Sinopoli served as Director of the Museum of Anthropology from 2005-2011. An anthropological archaeologist, her research focuses on the emergence and structures of social inequalities and political economies of South India, spanning from the first millennium BCE Iron Age through the mid second millennium CE Vijayanagara empire, with particular interests in craft production and material culture. As curator in the Museum of Anthropology, she has conducted research, published, and organized virtual and physical exhibitions of the Museum’s rich archaeological and ethnographic collections.

The Object, the Objective: Reconsidering the Role of Collections at the Chicago History Museum

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Presented by John Russick, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Chicago History Museum

With a collection of millions of objects, images, and documents, the Chicago History Museum is in the midst of a multi-part effort to reinvest in the Museum’s collection. This new focus is taking shape in three primary forms – a commitment to address significant backlog collections; the development of a new institutional plan to guide future collecting; and, an unprecedented multi-phase research project to discover the potential values of objects for visitors. This presentation will explore how these three projects have forced the Museum to reconsider some old assumptions about the power of objects, the role of material culture in attracting and holding the attention of visitors, the nature of collecting in future decades, and the very future of history exhibitions.

About John Russick

John Russick directs all curatorial initiatives for the Chicago History Museum. He has twenty-four years of museum experience including positions at Chicago’s Field Museum and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Northern Illinois University (1987) and a Master of Science in Architectural Studies and Historic Preservation from the University of Texas at Austin (1996). Over the past 15 years, Russick has led the development of a dozen exhibitions at CHM, including the family exhibition, Magic (2012), the children’s exhibition, Sensing Chicago (2006); and the costume exhibition, Fashion, Flappers ‘n All That Jazz (2001). His most recent publication, Connecting Kids to History with Museum Exhibitions (Left Coast Press, 2010) was co-edited with D. Lynn McRainey. Russick served as a consultant on the 2011 Florentine Films documentary, Prohibition, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Since 2009 he has organized the American Association of Museum’s annual Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing Competition. He served as Vice Chair of the Chicago History Museum‘s Visioning Committee, an initiative that culminated with the publication of Claiming Chicago: Shaping Our Future (2007). He has won awards for both his preservation work and his exhibition label writing.

Museum Voices: Representing Race/Presenting Identities

Museum Utopias, Museum Dystopias: The Dawning of the Age of Hybridity

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Presented by Ruth Phillips, Professor, Art History and Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa

This lecture reviews the transformational changes that have occurred in the representation of indigenous peoples and ‘multicultural’ communities in North America during the past twenty-five years. These transformations have involved both process– most importantly power transfers and power-sharing arrangements– and product– the forceful presence of minority voices and perspectives in exhibitions.

The result of these transformations has been a hybridization that takes three forms in contemporary museums: new kinds of content in exhibitions, collaborative processes for the development of exhibits and programs, and a deliberate blurring of the disciplinary typology that has structured the modern museum system. Although these three modes of hybridity are interrelated, it is useful to distinguish them as a way to assess the gains and potential losses that have occurred. The subtitle of the lecture invokes the lyrics from the 1960s song, “The Age of Aquarius” in order to point to the parallel millenarian ethos that informs these museological transformations. I argue that we can omit the original question mark because the ‘dawning’ of the age of hybridity has already occurred in museums. We must now confront the question — particularly urgent in Canada in light of the radical changes the Conservative government has recently announced for our national museums– of whether we will succeed in seeing the new day of its unfolding.

About Ruth B. Phillips

Ruth B. Phillips holds a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture and is Professor of Art History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. After doctoral research on Mende women’s masks from West Africa, she focused her research and teaching on Native North American art and critical museology. Her most recent book, Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums (2011), was shortlisted for the Donner Prize in Canadian Public Policy and won the Ottawa Book Award for non-fiction. Other books include Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Art from the Northeast, 1700-1900 (1998), Native North American Art (with Janet Catherine Berlo, 1998), and Unpacking Culture: Arts and Commodities in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds (co-edited with Christopher Steiner, 1999). She served as director of the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology from 1997-2003 and as president of CIHA, UNESCO’s world association of art historians, from 2004-8. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Telling Our Own Story: The Complexity of Arab American Identity Representation

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Presented by Anan Ameri, Director, Arab American National Museum

The rise of ethnic museums over the last few decades mimics the rise in ethnic studies, as ethnic groups have not only claimed their existence within mainstream institutions but have created their own. This rise in ethnic museums is also pivotal in the changing perspective of what museums are or are not. Historically, museums were founded, for the most part, to house expensive artifacts and collections of royalty and nobility or to house historical antiquities (most of the time stolen from colonies). Ethnic museums, however, were mostly founded by community members to tell their own story. Through exhibits and public programming, these institutions preserve their history and collective memories as well as generate public awareness about their experiences. Using narratives of ordinary people to connect with visitors on a personal level, ethnic museums transform the relationship between the institution and the community it claims to represent. In this role, ethnic museums complement and support ethnic studies. As Arab American continue building their own scholarly voice, the Arab American National Museum (AANM) mediates between scholars and community members in ways that give ordinary people the space to tell their own stories.

This presentation will explore how ethnic museums can foster scholar/community collaborations, particularly in the area of interactive exhibits. Using examples from the Arab American National Museum I will show how ethnic museums can combine scholarly work and the individual narratives of community members into exhibits that animate these experiences and make the information accessible to a wide audience. Using the power of multimedia technologies and the web, exhibits can allow visitors to contribute their own stories, thus adding another dimension to the scholar/community collaboration. For example, the AANM’s online exhibit Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes (2011) was created with collaboration from ethnic studies scholars and community members and attempts to translate a complex topic, stereotyping, into a series of community-driven histories that are accessible to the public. The AANM permanent exhibit was the outcome of tens of focus groups around the country with diverse Arab American communities to find common themes that the community felt the Museum should reflect. Of course, the ethnic museum must mediate its multiple communities (for no community has a single perspective) as well as its multiple audiences. The AANM has balanced being a community repository, a space for public representation, and a site for scholarly conversation about the many issues that affect the community. Where ethnic studies can comfortably claim the academy as its home base, ethnic museums are in many ways more public, which is both an enviable position and a volatile one.

About Anan Ameri

Dr. Anan Ameri holds a PhD in sociology from Wayne State University and is the Director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It is the only museum in the United States dedicated to telling the story of Arab Americans. Dr. Ameri is a Palestinian American who emigrated to the U.S. from Amman, Jordan. She is a widely respected sociologist, scholar and author on Arab and Arab-American arts and humanities programs with several publications to her credit, including The Arab American Encyclopedia (2000) and Telling Our Story: The Arab American National Museum (2007). She is also a contributing author and co-editor of Daily Life of Arab Americans (2012). Among the many honors she has received are The Detroit News 2005 Michiganian of the Year and the Arab American Business of the Year Award.

Using Objects of Intolerance to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice: The Case of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Presented by David Pilgrim, Curator, The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia and Professor, Ferris State University

The Jim Crow Museum (JCM) began as the personal project of then-Sociology Professor David Pilgrim, and grew out of his collection of more than 3,000 segregation-related artifacts. After using items from the collection with the students in his Race Relations course and seeing the learning it produced, Professor Pilgrim sought to make his collection publically accessible by donating it to Ferris State University. Since its inception in 1996 and the creation of its website in 2000, the JCM has become a national and internationally recognized resource for students, teachers, researchers, scholars, human rights workers, the national media, and other seeking a deeper understanding of race relations. The museum enables visitors to understand that we “learn” racism through the common, ordinary objects that both shaped and reflected attitudes about race, race relations, and racism—and continue to do so today. By presenting these objects within a historical framework, the JCM promotes intelligent and open discussions. The museum’s dual commitment to academic rigor and social justice are reflected in its mission, “to use objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote social justice.”

About David Pilgrim

Professor Pilgrim, the museum’s founder and current curator, will discuss the museum’s mission and vision, and its strategy of using historical and contemporary race-based artifacts to teach about race, race relations, and racism. Participants are warned that this presentation contains images that some people find offensive.

Dr. Pilgrim is an applied sociologist with a doctorate from The Ohio State University and one of this country’s leading experts on issues relating to multiculturalism, diversity, and race relations. He has been interviewed by National Public Radio, Time magazine, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and dozens of newspapers. Dr. Pilgrim is best known as the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum – a 9,000 piece collection of racist artifacts located at Ferris State University. The museum uses objects of intolerance to teach tolerance. Dr. Pilgrim’s writings, many found on the museum’s web site (www.ferris.edu/jimcrow), are used by scholars, students, and civil rights workers to better understand historical and contemporary expressions of racism. The web site has been linked to hundreds of sites and has resulted in Dr. Pilgrim being invited to deliver public lectures at many institutions, including Colby College, Stanford University, Spring Arbor College, the University of Michigan, Smith College, and the University of North Carolina. In 2004, he produced with Clayton Rye the documentary Jim Crow’s Museum to explain his approach to battling racism. The film won several awards including Best Documentary at the 2004 Flint Film Festival and is shown nationally on affiliates of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). In 2012, Dr. Pilgrim received the Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award (The Ohio State University), given to an alumnus who has “exemplified education for citizenship.”

Sustaining the Dream – Inspiring the Future

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Presented by Juanita Moore, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

In 1965, Dr. Charles H. Wright fulfilled his dream to establish a museum of African American history with the founding of the International Afro-American Museum. From its humble beginnings in a row house to its current 120,000 square foot home, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is currently the largest of its kind in the nation. In the past five years, the Wright has focused on five strategic areas to move the Museum forward—education, marketing, partnerships, service, and leadership. As a result, the Museum has restructured its organization, rebuilt its board, refocused its education mission, improved its service, and expanded its programs. At the same time, the nation and Detroit suffered a financial and economic crisis that has severely challenged the museum’s economic viability and our supporters’ capacity to give.

In this presentation we examine the challenges of how this people-centered, community-focused institution becomes financially sustainable and maximizes its resources to have a greater impact in this community. Our success will result in not just an African-American museum for African-Americans but a lens to understand what it means to be an American.

Juanita Moore has over 30 years of museum experience, serving at times as a curator, educator, administrator and museum planner.

About Juanita Moore

Ms. Moore is the current President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit, MI), the largest museum of its kind in the nation. Prior to assuming her current post, she served as Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum and the Gem Theater in Kansas City, MO. Ms. Moore served as founding Executive Director of the National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, TN). In that capacity, she oversaw the construction and opening of the museum located at the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ms. Moore also spent several years planning and subsequently opening the National African American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, OH. As a senior member of the planning team, she was pivotal in developing a strategy and concept for building a nationally donated collection.

The New American Museum: How We’re Reinventing the Box with Sacred Stuff

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Presented by Jack Tchen, New York University, Museum of Chinese in America

The old exhibitionary big box with grand entryways holding sacred objects and treasures still premised on a top down hierarchy of “deciders,” has run its course. They are energy sucking monsters limping along the landscape trying desperately to find young people and new migrants with money. Booming parts of the world rush to build new monstrosities mistakenly believing it will buy them distinction, cultural capital, and authority. It’s an exhausted part of the highbrow cultural complex forever striving to emulate European aristocratic culture. Yet expectations today stay fixated on that old big box.

By doing so, we’re missing the emergence of what will become the new American museum, a decolonized augmented chronotopic experience of folded time/spaces — a way to resituate and revivify place in the retelling of our collective futures. This presentation will sketch out the contours of how diverse emergent practices are actually the formation of the new American museological practice — immanent, dynamic, and yet to take formal shape.

About John Kuo Wei Tchen

John Kuo Wei Tchen is an historian, teacher, and curator. He works on understanding the multiple presents, pasts, futures of New York City, decolonizing national identity formations, promoting trans-local cross-cultural communications, and opening up pedagogical approaches. He also works on critiquing and helping our cultural organizations and institutions become more representative and inclusive, democratizing archival and historic documentation/preservation practice and conceptualization, and collaborating with communities to fight the systemic absenting of their stories and to build alternatives. He has spoken and consulted internationally. Professor Tchen is the founding director of the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute at New York University. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America in 1979-80 where he continues to serve as senior historian. In 1991, he was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of the award-winning books New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown, 1895-1905. He was a principle investigator of “Asian Americas and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight” wih the College Board (2008). Most recently, he co-curated MOCA’s core exhibition, “With a single step: stories in the making of America” in a new space designed by Maya Lin. He is now working on three projects. The first is a critical archival study of images, excerpts and essays on the history and contemporary impact of “Yellow Peril” paranoia and xenophobia (Verso, 2013). He is the senior historian for the upcoming New York Historical Society of 2014 traveling exhibit on the impact of Chinese Exclusion Laws (1882-1968) on America, grappling with the paradox of a nation innocent of its own past. And, his next book is about how Americans have systemically ‘othered’ China and Asia, called The Chinese Question: An American Mystery Never Resolved.

MSP 2012 Capstone Presentations

Ownership and Sustainability: Engaging the Community in the Hamtramck Historical Museum

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

  • Ana Maria Silva, PhD, History
  • Justin Meyer, MUP, Urban Planning
  • Marisa Szpytman, MSI, Information

Creating a Structure and Narratives for the Display Cases at the Crisler Center

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

  • Julie Feldt, PhD, Atmospheric and Space Sciences
  • Nickolas Krabbenhoeft, MSI, Information
  • Emily Kutil, MArch, Architecture

The School of Social Work Art and Research Collection: Social Justice Education in Practice

Monday, April 15, 2013

  • Catalina Esguerra, PhD, Romance Languages & Literature
  • Naomi Herman-Aplet, MSI, Information
  • Diana Sierra Becerra, PhD, History & Women’s Studies

Personality Prints by Mary Sully

Monday, April 15, 2013

  • Katherine Carlton, JD, Law
  • Courtney Cottrell, PhD, Anthropology


Issues in Museum Studies

Shabe Roots: Three Perspectives on Heritage Conservation in the Savè Hills, Bénin

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Presented by Andrew W. Gurstelle, PhD, Anthropology

Sacred groves have become cornerstones of biological conservation programs throughout Africa over the past 20 years. Groves provide critical habitats for plants and animals in landscapes that are becoming increasingly agricultural. As envisioned by governments and international NGOs, biological heritage goes hand in hand with cultural heritage, as sacred trees are often protected from encroaching agriculture at the community level through their prominence in local religious and social practices. However, these trees are also part of the historical and archaeological heritage of Africa. I present the results of my study of sacred trees and archaeological sites in the Savè hills area of the Republic of Bénin which demonstrates the close association between biological, cultural, and archaeological heritage. I also reflect on how a changing demography in the Savè hills is likely to impact heritage conservation. Emphasizing history as a shared value can help mitigate the future destruction of heritage sites.

About Andrew W. Gurstelle

Andrew is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan. Andrew is interested in the interplay between analytical and curatorial practices in studies of material culture and how heritage is defined in global contexts. He currently directs the Savè Hills Archaeological Research Project — a collaborative research program with the Shabe Royal Court, a coalition of local heritage institutions, and the University of Abomey-Calavi that is documenting the archaeology and history of central Bénin.

Learning from Museum Collections: The Creation of New Knowledge from Old Data

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Presented by Morgan Daniels, MSI, Information

Museums hold vast amounts of research data including physical specimens, historical artifacts, and analog and digital data about collections. Increasingly, they are also making digital representations of their collections publicly available. An understanding of the research processes surrounding the use of museum objects and data is needed to guide the representation of collections in a way that facilitates future research use. This presentation focuses on the reuse of museum data by botanists and archaeologists, addressing how these users learn from both museum objects and their representations. It will also discuss the impact on researchers of museum practices for the representation of data.

About Morgan Daniels

Morgan Daniels is a doctoral candidate in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. Her research focuses on people’s experiences with information reuse, a theme she has explored in the context of user interactions with archival collections, the data practices of a small materials science lab group, and the management of three data repositories. Combining her focus on information reuse with interests developed through participation in the Museum Studies Program, her dissertation work addresses the research use of museum materials, including artifacts, their representations, and research data collections held by museums.

Enclosed Exhibitions and Conspicuous Display: Transnational Wardrobes in Detroit

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Presented by Kelly Kirby, PhD, Anthropology

This presentation frames the closet as an untapped exhibitionary space which fosters museum engagement in unexpected places. The display of everyday dress in this curated environment intermingles with special occasion attire, encouraging stories about ways in which individuals carry out beliefs and practices in daily life, and how they self identify. Drawing from research with members of African Diaspora communities in Michigan on transnational wardrobes, this talk situates the closet not only as an alternative form of display in an architectural sense, but also in a metaphorical sense where displays of self emerge through stories about clothing.

About Kelly Kirby

Kelly Kirby is a member of the 2005 cohort in the U-M Museum Studies Program and a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. This presentation is the product of research supported by a U-M Museum Studies Fellowship for Doctoral Research in Museums.