Brown Bags

Uninterpreted Access: Museums’ Endeavors to Provide Visitor-Generated Learning Experiences

Friday, September 19, 2014

Presented by Sanam Arab, Access Services Librarian, Circulation Supervisor and Exhibit Support, University Libraries

For centuries museums have served as guardians of their collections. Traditionally museum staff decided what to show to the public, how to interpret it, and determined learning objectives for visitors. Today, museums are evolving in their approach to visitors and their museum experiences. Moving from an object-centered to a visitor-centered approach, museums are adapting to the changes brought about by the needs and desires of the communities they serve, assisted by the technological advances of recent time. This presentation will explore the issues of access in the museums, the approach to visitor-centered learning, and the application of technologies to foster both access and learning.

Instagram in the Gallery and New Dilemmas for Museum Practice and Theory: #captureParklandia at the Portland Art Museum

Friday, October 17, 2014

Presented by Justin Meyer, PhD candidate, Urban Planning

Between April and June of 2014, I helped lead a daring new project at the Portland Art Museum for my museum studies practicum requirement. The project, entitled #captureParklandia, was a companion project to the Louvre’s Art of the Tuileries Garden exhibition and is the first time social media had been used in a Portland Art Museum exhibition. The #captureParklandia project attracted quite a bit of attention, including a post on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s webpage, a spot on one of Portland’s local news stations, and sharp criticism from the Arts Journal blogger and New York Times contributor, Judith Dobrzynski. In this presentation, I will share stories of my experience working behind the scenes on #captureParklandia and discuss the controversies and new challenges the project poses for museum practice and theory.

World By Charlie: Charlie Engelman’s Museum Adventure, from iPhone Cinematographer to National Geographic Explorer

Friday, November 14, 2014

Presented by Charles Engelman, Undergraduate (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Major / Museum Studies Minor)

In May 2013 Charlie Engelman arrived at the historic DuPont family estate in Winterthur, Delaware to begin his summer as a horticultural intern. Exploring the grounds on his first day, he found a frog. This was a spectacular frog. Charlie didn’t know it at the time, but this frog would change everything. It would star in his first YouTube video, which blossomed into a YouTube series. More videos about honeybees and pond slime balls evolved into an honors thesis. Then came videos on birding, flesh eating beetles, squirrels, and an offer for a sponsored YouTube show. Next came deadlines, subscribers, news articles, an application, and a $50,000 grant from National Geographic Television.

Charlie is a U of M senior, passionate about integrating all of his interests into spectacularly fun projects. His story is a mash-up of science, performing arts, production, and museums. During this event, you will hear how it all happened. He’ll share his experiences with video editing, science writing, pitching YouTube shows, the world’s largest tic-tac-toe board, and how this all relates to museums. You will also get a sneak peek into his upcoming film series with National Geographic Television, and learn how to make some pretty epically creative pancakes. Please join us. It’s going to be an absolute blast.

The Importance of Objects, Technology and Space within the Museum Context: Reflections on Working at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Friday, December 5, 2014

Presented by Marisa Szpytman, Assistant Registrar, Detroit Institute of Arts

Working at the Detroit Institute of Arts, first as an intern and currently as the Assistant Registrar in the Registrar Department, has given me the opportunity to continually observe the way that objects, visitors, and exhibition space interact as a whole to create the experience of the museum both for those who visit and those who work there.

During my museum studies internship, my main project was redefining the data entry standards for objects in the museum’s collections database, The Museum System (TMS). The goal was to develop an updated manual that could be used for museum wide data entry and to implement the new standards with the existing object records.

During my stay, much attention was focused on the monetary value of the works held in the museum. In a very real sense, the question ‘what is the real value of museums in society?’ was the topic being debated.

Through a discussion of the upgrade of the collections database and the bankruptcy proceedings, this presentation examines the DIA’s ongoing attempts to underscore the societal value of its collection.

Community-Centered Science: Redisplaying Natural History at the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Presented by Caitlin Townsend, MPhil, Early Modern History

This event was canceled. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland will redisplay its largest natural history gallery, the West Court, in 2016. As a community-centered museum, the Kelvingrove has developed a system of visitor studies research and evaluation that guide such redisplay projects, as well as sophisticated programs for reaching community members who cannot visit the museum. From July to October 2014, I assisted the Collections Research team by developing a set of interpretation plans as a foundation for the redisplay. My presentation will analyze the impact of the Kelvingrove’s community-centered vision and practices on the gallery redisplay process. I will explore how Glasgow Museums’ approach to defining and engaging its community challenges the assumptions of visitor studies, de-centering the museum building. The Kelvingrove Museum is part of a 13-museum network known as Glasgow Museums, which all share a common open storage facility and resource center. This centralized structure, combined with Glasgow Museums’ status as part of the Glasgow City Council, create opportunities for redefining the visitor and the visit in subtle and meaningful ways. I will also examine how the gallery’s natural sciences theme impacted evaluation strategies, visitor expectations, and the visual and spatial design of the gallery.

Art, Culture, and Community at Spain’s Juan March Foundation

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Presented by Anna Wieck, PhD, History of Art

The Fundación Juan March was founded in Madrid, Spain in 1955 to provide support for various initiatives within the sciences and humanities. In 1973 the Foundation established a Department of Exhibitions that through the decades has organized pioneering exhibits within the field of modern art, and has built up an impressive permanent collection of 20th-century Spanish painting, sculpture, and works on paper. In addition to its Madrid headquarters, the Foundation maintains museums in Cuenca and Palma de Mallorca, located respectively in the 15th-century “hanging houses” and a 17th-century palace. This presentation will focus on the Foundation’s history and its multiple roles as a traditional museum, an innovative cultural center, and a place of community building.

Rediscovering Sephardic Catalonia: The Museum of Jewish History and Heritage in Girona, Spain

Friday, March 27, 2015

Presented by James Nadel, BA History, Museum Studies Minor

In 2003, the Museum of Jewish History in Girona officially opened. The opening culminated a 15 year planning process conducted by the city government of Girona, a medium-sized city in the Catalonian region of Spain. The museum’s objective is to promote “cultural activities related to the city of Girona, the Girona region of Catalonia and the cultural contributions of the Jewish community throughout its history.” Despite the fact that few Jews have lived and practiced their religion openly in Girona since the Expulsion of 1492, this constitution gave and continues to give the museum a local prerogative and motivation. The museums concentrates not on the Jews throughout medieval Spain, only on those that lived in Catalonia. Why did the local government take such an interest in the city’s Sephardic past?

The museum, in part, is dedicated to the story of the Sephardim who lived in Girona during the middle ages, including their arrival to Girona, their cultural production, and their eventual expulsion. The objective of this presentation is to determine how much of that history is used to discuss the local identity of those actually living in Girona today. The Museum of Jewish History in Girona equates the preservation of the symbols and stories that constitute “Sephardic heritage” with the protection and proliferation of Catalan existence.

“Homosexualität:” Exhibiting a Contested History in Germany in 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

Presented by Andrea Rottmann, PhD, Germanic Languages and Literatures

In June 2015, the exhibition “Homosexualität_en,” a collaboration of the Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum) and the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) in Berlin, will open its doors to visitors. The show presents an overview of homosexuality in Germany since the late 19th century, focusing on the histories of repression, emancipation, and sexual science, as well as queer representations in art. In this presentation, I reflect on my internship experience with the exhibition project in the fall of 2014. What national and sexual identities do the museums and the exhibition represent and perpetuate? What problems connected with the ethical, affective, and epistemic nature of objects come up in exhibiting the history of sexual science? And what strategies do queer collectors and the exhibition team employ to trace the history of same-sex affections, a history seemingly non-existent in the German historical profession and museums?

Opening the Doors for All Visitors: Reflections on an Accessibility Project at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Friday, February 13, 2015

Presented by Caroline Braden, MA, Educational Studies

Many people today still face widespread barriers to museum resources and learning opportunities. Such barriers may be caused by physical and cognitive disabilities, which can hinder individuals’ full participation in museum visits and programs. In order to create an inclusive environment for all audiences, museums should ensure that their spaces, exhibitions, and programs are physically, intellectually, and emotionally engaging and accessible to all.

My Museum Studies Program internship project at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology focused on creating a plan for the museum to address existing barriers to visitor accessibility and to guide related program development, implementation, and evaluation. My project also involved identifying community resources and potential partners to advise on future planning and evaluation.

While this presentation will focus on my project at the Kelsey Museum, it will also include a broader discussion of the impact of visitor accessibility and inclusion on learning in museums as well as the social value of museums.

Considering the Online Visitor: Website Usability Evaluation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Friday, April 17, 2015

Presented by Nicholas Malzahn, MSI, Information

Through my practicum at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), I learned how museums address the responsibility of maintaining an online presence that is reflective of their audiences’ goals, needs, and desires. In order to continue to be important institutions of society, museums must care for not only their physical visitors, but their online visitors as well, and this requires understanding them and how they use the Web. Working within the Media and Technology Office at SAAM, I utilized some of the tools to accomplish this task: methodologies of user experience design that allowed me to evaluate the usability of the museum’s websites. The results of these efforts provided data that the SAAM staff will use to help create better online experiences for its audiences. This talk will summarize my work at SAAM and reveal its positive implications for establishing comparable techniques at other museums.

Conferences and Symposia

The Museum Experienced: Exploring the Role(s) of the Senses in Museums

The Smelly Museum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Presented by Andreas Keller, Research Associate, The Rockefeller University

Using odorants in a museum setting is challenging both conceptually and practically. The foremost problem of working with olfaction is that it is very difficult to arrange odors in space and time. Visual objects have spatial boundaries and auditory events have beginnings and ends. Odors, in contrast, may linger for longer than desired or dissipate immediately. A further difference between olfaction and other modalities that complicates integrating odors into museum exhibits is the enormous variability in olfactory sensitivity between individuals. For every odor, there are those that cannot perceive it and those that complain about the overpowering smell. In addition to the seemingly uncontrollable stimulus and the variability of the responses to it, olfaction also differs in the ways in which it affects the audience. Olfaction has a privileged connection to emotions and memories and the effect of odors is therefore mediated differently than the effect of visual displays. In my talk, I will discuss the peculiarities of olfaction and suggest that they should not only be considered as obstacles, but also recognized as opportunities to alter and improve the museum experience.

About Andreas Keller

Andreas Keller received his PhD in Biology from the Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg, Germany with a focus on genetic intervention in sensory systems. Currently enrolled in another doctoral program, this time in Philosophy at City University New York, Dr. Keller’s current research emphasizes the relationship between human sensory olfaction and perceptual philosophy. Alongside his PhD, he has worked at The Rockefeller University as both a postdoctoral associate and research fellow since 2002. As the recipient of the Branco Weiss Fellowship of the Society in Science Foundation, Dr. Keller studied the cultural, psychological, and biological causes of variability in human odor perception. In addition, Dr. Keller has published numerous articles on related topics, including conscious olfactory processing, the relationship between olfaction and schizophrenia, and the general implications of the psychological interactions of smell and consciousness. He has presented his research across many locations in Europe and North America.

Multisensory Museums: Current International Museum Practices and Future Trends

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Presented by Nina Levent, Founder, Inclusive Center

October 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm – UM Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium

Over the past decade there has been a lot of innovation in museums’ curatorial and artistic practices focused on sound art, olfactory art, perfume, and interactive touch. Some exhibits and curators explore the materiality of objects and connect visitors with the sensory properties of historic artifacts and artworks. Other museums use technology to create immersive and virtual experiences. Many of these new multi-sensory museum practices emerged from cross-disciplinary collaborations between curators and cognitive scientists, sound artists, perfumers, dancers, interaction designers, and chefs.

This lecture will focus on current international practices that effectively use touch, sound, smell, taste, and movement, or a combination of these senses, as well as whole body experiences. It will cover the challenges faced by art and science museums, historic sites, and botanical gardens when incorporating multi-sensory experiences into exhibitions and strategies for successfully doing so. Also highlighted will be multi-sensory educational programs that keep audiences engaged through tactile exploration, olfactory experiences, re-enactment, period music, and audio interpretation. While these programs appeal to all audiences, some of them are of particular benefit for children and adults with sensory and cognitive disabilities, such as blindness, dementia, and autism. Emerging technologies, such as robotics and virtual reality, present creative possibilities for museums. The ways in which technology might enhance visitor experiences in museums of the future will also be discussed.

About Nina Levant

Nina Levent, Ph.D. is the Founder of Inclusive Culture Project. For 15 years she served as Executive Director at Art Beyond Sight. She is an art historian who taught graduate seminars at the New York Academy of Art. Levent is a co-editor of Art Beyond Sight Resource Guide, Handbook for Museums and Educatorsand a recently released volume Multisensory Museum. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory, and Space. Her research interests and expertise include multisensory museums, sensory design and learning, cultural inclusion, accessible museums, universal design, representation of disability and difference, representation of the body, sensory and perceptual normality. She is currently working on a publication about food and museums and an edited volume on design for all.

Levent has lectured on accessibility and multi-sensory learning at museums around the world. She has trained museum staff in the US, Korea, Japan, France, Italy, Puerto Rico and Mexico. She is one of the principal organizers of the international conference on Multimodal Approaches to Learning that has been taking place every two years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2005. Recently she worked as a lead investigator on the Multi-Site Museum Accessibility Study, a research project that involved major museums such as SFMOMA, Guggenheim, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery, DC; Brooklyn Museum, Indianapolis Museum of Art, as well as 15 smaller museums. She has worked with Georgetown University, Arizona State University, University of Washington, University of the Arts, and Cooperstown Graduate School on the Disability and Inclusion Curriculum for Museum Studies, a university curriculum project.

She received her Ph.D. from the Humboldt Universität in Berlin.

The Sensory Regime of the Museum: Early History and Breaking Developments

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Presented by David Howes, Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Concordia Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal

In the modern museum, visitors are normally expected to check their senses (along with their overcoats and bags) at the entrance – all except for sight. What if we were to let the senses free in the museum?

Until quite recently, most scholars and curators have tended to think of the museum as a site of pure spectatorship, with objects in glass cases and visitors warned to keep their hands off. While this situation was generally true of twentieth-century museums, research into the sensory history of the early museum has uncovered a different scenario. The first museums of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were hands-on sites in which visitors expected and were permitted to handle artefacts, and sometimes even chew them. This presentation will trace the transformation in museum etiquette which turned visitors from handlers into spectators. It will then leap ahead to explore (and evaluate) how, in quite a few twenty-first century museums, the senses are making a comeback.

Didactic instruction has increasingly come to be supplemented by multimodal approaches to learning, disinterested contemplation has been offset by affective participation, and the authority to interpret objects has been redistributed (e.g. indigenous communities now challenge the privileged status and access to artefacts of the all-knowing curator, artists who create “relational art”). From a site for “single sense epiphanies” the museum, in at least some cases, is becoming a kind of sensory gymnasium. What can museum studies scholars learn from studying public reaction to these breaking developments? How far will the sensory turn in contemporary museology be allowed to go?

About David Howes

David Howes is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He has carried out field research in Papua New Guinea, Northwestern Argentina and the Southwestern United States. His research interests include sensory anthropology, the consumer society, and the anthropology of law. His publications include Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (with Constance Classen) and the edited collection A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000.

For further details on his publications and research activities see www.david.howes.com

Beyond the Senses: The Magical, the Mystical, and the Numinous in Museums

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Presented by KF Latham, Assistant Professor and MuseLab Curator, School of Library & Information Science, Kent State University

When people talk about the “sixth sense,” they are often referring to communicating with the dead, predicting the future, or simply having strong intuitive abilities. The sixth sense is a collective term for all things that are unexplainable empirically, referring to that which exists beyond the senses. In addition to being rational and behavioral, humans are sensual, emotional, and spiritual beings. It is part of what makes us human. Therefore, why shouldn’t we expect that many museum visitors will have deeply felt experiences with museum objects and exhibits? Is there a sixth sense in the museum context?

This presentation will take us beyond the traditional five senses and center on the notion of the numinous experience in the museum — the deeply affective, transcendental, almost spiritual encounter one may have in the presence of a museum object. The numinous, introduced into the literature on religion in 1917 by Rudolf Otto contains a “moment” that is almost inexpressible in normal terms and concepts. It is a state of mind, or a state of consciousness, and is in the same category as one’s reaction to “the beautiful.” Recent work seeks to further understand the essence of the numinous experience with museum objects and to help museum professionals and scholars form a deeper understanding of one kind of experience that goes beyond the senses.

About Dr. Kiersten Latham

Dr. Kiersten Latham is an Associate Professor at the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. She earned her PhD in Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, where she explored the intersections between meaning, museum objects and people. Her books include The Objects of Experience: Transforming Visitor-Object Encounters in Museums (2013), and Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge (2014). In addition, she has published numerous peer-reviewed articles that focus on the role of the object in the museum experience. In addition to her work as a scholar, Dr. Latham serves as the Director and Curator of the MuseLab at Kent State University, whose inception was made possible by the Reinberger Foundation Grant for Museology, which she was awarded in 2011. Her work as a curator has involved teaching and student coordination in a variety of exhibitions whose topics range from religion, astronomical sciences, and natural history. In 2014 Dr. Latham received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for a project that focused on public history and digital humanities for work with the Ohio Historical Society.

MSP 2014 Capstone Presentations

House of Art/House as Art: The Charles Lang Freer House
  • Rebecca Bloom, PhD, Asian Languages and Culture
  • Rachel Chamberlain, PhD, History of Art
  • Craig Harvey, PhD, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Stearns Collection: 80 Years of the Green Hornet

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

  • Calder Fong, PhD, German Languages and Literature
  • Alicia Juillet, MSI, Information
  • Amanda Respess, PhD, Anthropology and History
Teaching an Old Tour New Tricks: Engaging Contemporary Audiences at Meadow Brook Hall

Monday, April 20, 2015

  • Kelly Fabian, JD, Law
  • Katy Holihan, PhD, German Languages and Literature
  • Rachel Miller, PhD, American Culture
The Yankee Air Museum Modular Experience

Monday, April 20, 2015

  • Caitlin Clerkin, PhD, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology
  • Elspeth Geiger, PhD, Anthropology
  • Benjamin Tupper, PhD, Education


Issues in Museum Studies: What’s it Like in Museums? Exploring Career Paths in Museums

Friday, November 7, 2014

Have you wondered what it was like to work in a museum and how you could position yourself for enter this field? Come to this intensive career exploration event where you will be given a behind-the-scenes look at what it would be like to work in a museum from the perspective of different professionals in museum work. You will actively explore the roles involved in planning an exhibition, a day in the life of museum work; the type of people who are successful; what roles are trending in museums and how to position yourself to enter the field. Key members of the university community will guide the morning session, including:

  • Carla Sinopoli, Director of The Museum Studies Program and the Curator for the Museum of Anthropology
  • Ruth Slavin, UMMA’s Deputy Director, Education and Curatorial
  • David Choberka, UMMA’s Mellon Academic Coordinator and Research Area
  • Cathy Person, Educational and Academic Outreach Coordinator, Kelsey Museum

Global is Personal: A Writer’s Life

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Presented by Holland Cotter, Art Critic, New York Times

I’ve worked as a critic for almost 40 years, but my knowledge of art is in fundamental ways accidental, and my approach to it deeply personal, a product of childhood experiences, reactions to the politically charged America I grew up in, and, through time spent in Asia and Africa, a pressing awareness of the hugely expanded cultural perspectives brought by the global present. I’ll talk about that evolving history — my history, which may well have things in common with your history — and how it shaped a changing view of my role as an art critic, tilting the balance from local arbiter to globalist translator.

About Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter is co-chief art critic and a senior writer at the New York Times. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2009. In 2010, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Art Writing by the College Art Association.

In 2012, he was a Poynter Fellow in Journalism at Yale University, and the recipient of the Religion and the Arts Award from the American Academy of Religion. In April 2013, he was the Alain LeRoy Locke lecturer at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. In 2014, he received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Criticism from the International Association of Art Critics, U.S.A section.

He has an A.B. from Harvard College, where he studied poetry with Robert Lowell; an M.A. in America Modernism from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and an M.Phil. in South Asian art, with a focus on early Indian Buddhist art, from Columbia University. In 2014, he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Hunter College. He also has honorary degrees from California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore.

He was for many years a contributing editor to Art in America, and an editorial associate of Art News. He was co-editor of New York Arts Journal.


The Challenge of Building a National Museum

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Presented by Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

This talk will explore the history and struggle to create the National Museum of African American History and Culture focusing on a variety of challenges including building on the Mall, conceptual frameworks, public expectations, and contextual terrain of race. Mr. Bunch will explore the strategies used to successfully navigate these challenges and in doing so he will update the audience as to the current status and future projections for the Museum. Ultimately, Mr. Bunch will explore how the National Museum will help the Smithsonian transition from a 19th century institution to a 21st century enterprise.

About Lonnie G. Bunch, III

Lonnie G. Bunch, III is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. In this position he is working to set the museum’s mission, fundraise, develop its collections, and oversee the design and construction of the museum’s building. Bunch is also designing a high-profile program of traveling exhibitions and public events ranging from panel discussions, to seminars, to oral history and collecting workshops.

Prior to arriving at the NMAAHC, he worked as the President of the Chicago Historical Society. Bunch previously held several positions at various Smithsonians, including the National Museum of American History (NMAH) as Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs (1994-2000), where he led the curatorial team that developed the permanent exhibition “American Presidency: A Glorious Burden,” and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where he developed multi-cultural instructional programs and researched and wrote the history of African Americans in aviation.

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from slavery, the black military experience, and the American presidency. In 2010, he published the award-winning book, Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on Race, History, and Museums. Lectures and presentations to museum professionals and scholars have taken him to major U.S. cities and abroad, including Australia, China, England, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Ghana, Senegal, and Cuba.

In service to the historical and cultural community, Bunch has served on the advisory boards of many noteworthy associations, including the American Alliance of Museums, the African American Association of Museums, and others. Among his many awards, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Commission for the Preservation of the White House in 2002 and was reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. In 2005, Bunch was named one of the 100 most influential museum professionals in the 20th century by the American Alliance of Museums and in 2009, Ebony magazine named him one of the 150 most influential African Americans. In 2011, BET (Black Entertainment Television) selected Bunch to receive its BET Honors for outstanding service to American education. Finally, in 2014, BET selected Bunch as one of its ICON Men for his work mentoring young African American men.

Legible Sovereignties

Friday, February 6, 2015

The past several decades have seen a surge in the creation of Indigenous and Indigenously-oriented museums as way for Native communities and nations to reclaim and tell their histories and cultures from their own perspectives. In seeking multiple audiences with varying cultural backgrounds, however, these museums have had to reckon with making their telling legible and relevant to many groups – simply stating “we are still here” is not enough. In this presentation, King will discuss how the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Haskell Indian Nations University’s Cultural Center and Museum, and the Saginaw Chippewa Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways have had to rethink and adjust their rhetorical approach to make and to keep their exhibitions relevant to their audiences.

Co-sponsored by the Museum Studies Program, the Native American Studies Program, and the Native American/Indigenous Studies Interest Group

Inextinguishable—A Conversation with Detroit Artist Tyree Guyton

Friday, February 20, 2015

Presented by Tyree Guyton, Artist and Creator

For almost thirty years, the abandoned houses that dot Detroit’s Heidelberg Street have provided the backdrop to a kaleidoscopic display of outdoor art installations that aim to inspire and provide healing to the local community. In 2013 and 2014, a series of twelve arson fires gutted six installations on the Street, the most devastating assault on the Heidelberg Project in over twenty years. Renowned artist Tyree Guyton has used this opportunity to re-double his efforts on the Heidelberg Project. Debris and ash have been cleared away and new art emerges from the foundations of the burned out structures, working through the walls of charred basements, surfacing with creative new visions and voice.

In his first major public appearance since the fires, Tyree Guyton discusses new construction on Heidelberg Street, a forthcoming history of the site, a new museum, more work with the local community, and exciting ideas for new art resulting from the fires.

The community grounded model provided by the Heidelberg Project continues to fascinate museum professionals, providing a connection from the non-collecting museums first proposed by John Cotton Dana in the early twentieth century to the socially relevant museums advocated in our own time by Stephen Weil and Elaine Heumann Gurian.

Join us for a conversation on perseverance and the creative spirit with Tyree Guyton—an icon whose flame exceeds the twelve collective arsons that were visited upon his site.

A reception will follow along with opportunities for the audience to meet and ask questions of the artist.

Featured Participants
  • Tyree Guyton, Artist and Creator, Heidelberg Project
  • Jenenne Whitfield, COO, Heidelberg Project
  • Larry Gant, Professor, University of Michigan School of Social Work and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design
About Tyree Guyton

Primarily a painter and sculptor, Tyree Guyton has also been described as an urban environmental artist. He has waged a personal war on urban blight on Detroit’s East Side, transforming his neighborhood into a living indoor/outdoor art gallery. Through his art, Guyton has drawn attention to the plight of Detroit’s forgotten neighborhoods and spurred discussion and action.

Museums as a Site of Knowledge-Production

Friday, April 3, 2015

Panel discussion featuring: Amanda Respess (Ph.D. Student, Anthropology and History, University of Michigan), Raymond Silverman (Professor, History of Art, Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan), Carla Sinopoli (Director, Museum Studies Program; Curator of Asian Archaeology and Ethnology, Museum of Anthropology; Professor, Anthropology, University of Michigan), Michelle McClellan (panel chair; Assistant Professor, History, Residential College, University of Michigan).

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.

This event is part of the Friday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.

Tradition and Transition in the Spanish Avant-Garde – 2 day conference

Friday, April 10-11, 2015

Spain’s artistic activity during the first third of the 20th century is truly remarkable for its breadth, quality, and interdisciplinarity. Indeed, Madrid and Barcelona, both hotbeds of creativity, witnessed the nascent careers of Federico García Lorca (1898 – 1936), Luis Buñuel (1900 – 1983), and Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989), just to name a few of the era’s best known artists. However, other figures, less well known internationally, made vital contributions to the artistic panorama. This conference brings together the research of keynote speaker Jordana Mendelson (Associate Professor, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, NYU) and eight graduate students, which explores the complex artistic, political, and commercial facets of the Spanish avant-garde and its trailblazers.

“Up in Smoke: Paper, Publicity, and the Avant-garde in Barcelona”

Presented by Jordana Mendelson (Associate Professor, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, NYU)

From the teens to the thirties, Barcelona experienced a golden age of artistic and commercial expansion. Fueled by a growing interest in mass culture and serial publications, artists became immersed in an environment in which they were both fabricators and consumers of mass-market publicity. This presentation tracks some of the unexpected crossings between commercial culture and the artistic avant-garde in Barcelona during a period that was marked by urban strife and political unrest leading up to the Civil War from 1936-1939.

The conference is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literature, the Department of the History of Art, the Institute for the Humanities, the International Institute, the Museum Studies Program, the Dean’s Strategic Initiative Fund at the Rackham Graduate School, and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), with additional support from the Department of English and the University of Michigan Museum of Art.