DiscoverMuseum Archipelago
Museum Archipelago

Museum Archipelago

Author: Ian Elsner

Subscribed: 552Played: 1,347
Share

Description

A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral.
Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.
75 Episodes
Reverse
Proprietary technology that runs museum interactives—everything from buttons to proximity sensors—tends to be expensive to purchase and maintain. But Rianne Trujillo (http://www.riannetrujillo.com), lead developer of the Cultural Technology Development Lab (http://www.cctnewmexico.org/ctdl/) at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU), realized that one way museums can avoid expensive, proprietary solutions to their technology needs is by choosing open source alternatives. She is part of the team behind Museduino (https://museduino.org), an open-source system for exhibits and installations. On this episode, Rianne Trujillo and fellow NMHU instructor of Software Systems Design Jonathan Lee (https://www.nmhu.edu/department-of-media-arts-technology/) describe the huge potential to applying the open source model to museum hardware. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 Proprietary Technology in Museums 01:04 Rianne Trujillo (http://www.riannetrujillo.com) 01:24 The Cultural Technology Development Lab (http://www.cctnewmexico.org/ctdl/) 02:04 Museduino (https://museduino.org) 02:35 Jonathan Lee (https://www.nmhu.edu/department-of-media-arts-technology/) 02:50 Open Source Software and Hardware 04:09 Arduino 06:35 Hardware Lock-In 07:02 Where Museduino is Already Installed 07:24 Museduino Workshops 08:55 Archipelago At the Movies 🎟️: Lisa the Iconoclast (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) 09:44 Outro/Join Club Archipelago (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://museum.substack.com/) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 75. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript On Museum Archipelago, we focus on power in museums. On how cultural institutions have a tremendous amount of unchecked power. But power takes many forms and one of these forms is control over the technology that delivers museum content to visitors. From a button that plays a bird call when you touch it, to a projection screen that plays a story about the Battle of Gettysburg when you get close to it, every museum interactive requires a technological solution. Rianne Trujillo: Oftentimes, museums will purchase proprietary solutions. Oftentimes they're very expensive, especially to maintain them, and if they break you are sort of forced to rehire the same company or rebuy new equipment, and that can be fairly costly really quickly. This is Rianne Trujillo, lead developer of the Cultural Technology Development Lab at New Mexico Highlands University. Rianne Trujillo: My name is Rianne Trujillo. I'm the lead developer of the Cultural Technology Development Lab at New Mexico Highlands University, and I’m also an instructor of Software Systems Design. The Cultural Technology Development Lab is an R&D program where university faculty and students, museum professionals, and other partners work together on technology and design solutions for cultural institutions. Through working these institutions across New Mexico and the U.S., Trujillo realized that one way museums can avoid expensive, proprietary solutions to their technology needs is by choosing open source alternatives. Rianne Trujillo: So by using open source hardware, we can basically solve that issue of cost by using fairly inexpensive, off-the-shelf components from various electronic suppliers. And that’s how Museduino came to be. Museduino is an open source hardware controller designed specifically to be used in museums. Using this hardware controller, which is about the size of an altoids tin, and a little bit of technical knowledge, museums can create and control their own interactives instead of always hiring an outside company. Rianne Trujillo: We built Museduino to solve our own needs when building exhibits. Jonathan Lee: It's all open source, and if we want to put it out there, we can show anyone else how to build that and they can implement it in their museum. This is Jonathan Lee. Jonathan Lee: My name is Jonathan Lee. I'm a professor of Software Systems Design at New Mexico Highlands University. Either they can implement it by buying the same parts or just downloading our code if it's off-the-shelf components and then inserting their content into it as well. Both Lee and Trujillo see a huge potential to appling the open source model to museum hardware. The phrase open source comes from the software world: open source software is a development model where the source code of a piece of software is freely available to anyone who wants it. We all use open source software every day, whether we realize it or not. Most ATMs, web servers, and cash registers rely on open source software simply because it’s the cheapest and most secure -- the source code is freely available so bugs are identified and fixed quickly. Open source hardware projects, like Museduino, borrow from the software world by making the instructions of how to build and program them freely available. Yes, you still need to pay for someone to manufacture the physical components, but they are commodities -- there’s multiple vendors that can make you the exact same thing. Jonathan Lee: We have used an open source program to create the printed circuit board design and so if you wanted to, anyone could download that circuit board design and they could actually have however many they needed printed. This together makes for a radical way to approach exhibit hardware -- where the technical solutions that a museum comes up with aren’t confined to just one museum. Jonathan Lee: One of the originators of the project said they liked the Linux model of put it out there, let other people make it better, make it, fix it, build something for the platform that we make and then set it free. In fact, that’s exactly what happened with Museduino: it was built upon another piece of open source hardware, a single-board controller called Arduino. Rianne Trujillo: What Museduino is, is essentially a Arduino shield that extends the footprint of the Arduino via four RJ45 or standard Cat-5 cable cabling in four different directions. We've tested it with up to 200 feet away. So if you're building a very large scale museum exhibit and you need a sensor in one location and an output maybe 10 feet away, you can control all of that with the one Arduino, using our system. Exhibits components tend to be far away from each other, even in small museums, because the gallery is designed for the visitor moving through the space. The specific problem is that, unlike wireless devices like internet of things or IOT -- light bulbs or buttons, museum hardware needs to work 100% of the time, and right now, the best way to do that is with wires like the standard cat-5 cable. Rianne Trujillo: We're from New Mexico where we work with a lot of cultural institutions, where the walls are adobe, and there's always not great internet connection in the space, or also remote sites where there might not be internet connection, so we try to stay away from IOT boards and we use our system to have solid hardwired connections because those other systems could be a point of failure for the exhibit. From the outside, or even from the inside if you’re focusing on the museum from purely a visitor experience perspective, exactly what tools museums use to create interactives might not seem like that big a deal. But it is a big deal for the museum itself to own its means of production. Rianne Trujillo: We primarily work with institutions who don't have a lot of funding to be able to purchase these proprietary systems. So open source hardware allows us to build relatively inexpensive exhibits. We've heard instances where maybe they purchased a piece of software from a company and then like a month later they didn't exist anymore. So that can happen to people, especially if you're putting thousands of dollars into it. Hardware lock-in mirrors software lock in: many museums use a video player called a Brightsign. These are little closed-source purple boxes that allow museum staff to play and schedule videos. They are designed to solve a problem: to help museums not have to worry about playing videos for their visitors. But they also remove the ability of museum staff to fix the system if something goes wrong. Museduino is already installed at many museums and cultural institutions around the U.S., like Acadia National Park’s nature center, the Carlsbad Museum, and the Bradbury Science Museum at Los Alamos National Labs. From the beginning, Trujillo and the other members of the Museduino team have been sharing their knowledge with the wider museum world. Rianne Trujillo: We go to conferences and share Museduino and just also a general Arduino tutorials and things like that. We do workshops at these museum related conferences to get people interested in open source hardware in hopes that they can start thinking of ways to incorporate it into their museum exhibits. Museduino represents a radical approach to exhibit technology design. By allowing museums big and small more control over the installation and maintenance of the technology in their galleries, the Museduino team shows how the principles of the open source movement fit within the museum landscape. Rianne Trujillo: Since we've presented at these different conferences, people got to take home Museduino, so we know that it's in institutions in several places. The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in California, they just recently did a project with it, where they actually made a pneumatic tube system with the Museduino for donations. They said their donations went up 10 times the amount that they normally had before. Of course, it was probably somebody with a bin or it was a drop box where you can donate. And now when you donate a dollar, you see this whole theatric thing happen where you get to watch your money go up in some twos and some lights flicker. You can find more about Museduino at https://museduino.org, and keep an eye out for a workshop near you.
Every time an Apollo astronaut said the word Houston, they were referring not just to a city, but a specific room in that city: Mission Control. In that room on July 20, 1969, NASA engineers answered radio calls from the surface of the moon. Sitting in front of rows of green consoles, cigarettes in hand, they guided humans safely back to earth, channeling the efforts of the thousands and thousands of people who worked on the program through one room. But until recently, that room was kind of a mess. After hosting Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle missions through 1992, the room hosted retirement parties, movie screenings, and the crumbs that came with them. Spurred by the deadline of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019, the room was carefully restored with a new visitor experience. The restoration project focused on accurately portraying how the area looked at key moments during that mission, right down to the ashtrays and soda cans. In this episode, Sandra Tetley, Historic Preservation Officer at the Johnson Space Center, describes the process of restoring “one of the most significant places on earth.” Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:14 Apollo Mission Control Center (https://spacecenter.org/exhibits-and-experiences/nasa-tram-tour/apollo-mission-control/) 00:49 Sandra Tetley 02:00 “History Keeps Going” 02:35 Becoming a National Historic Landmark 04:00 Starting the Restoration 04:40 Gene Kranz Steps In (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Kranz) 05:15 Mission Control Visitor’s Galley 06:30 The Visitor Experience 08:10 The Drama of the Room 09:37 Independence Hall (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall) 10:10 Coffee Cups and Cigarettes 11:15 Apollo Flight Controllers Get to Celebrate 13:04 Archipelago At the Movies 🎟️: Lisa the Iconoclast (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) 13:50 Outro/Join Club Archipelago (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://museum.substack.com/) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 74. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript Every time an Apollo astronaut said the word Houston, they were referring not just to a city, but a specific room in that city -- mission control. In that room, NASA engineers -- average age: 26 -- answered radio calls from the darkness of space. Sitting in front rows of green consoles, cigarettes and cigars in hand, they guided humans to the moon and back, channeling the efforts of the half a million people who worked on the program through one room. Sandra Tetley: I realized the value of this room to American history and to the world history. It's one of the most significant sites on earth. But up until a few years ago, that room was kind of a mess. Sandra Tetley: It was open to anyone who could get into the building. You could actually go into that room, you could sit in the chairs, you could dial the phones, press the buttons. They would have the co-ops come in their first day and they could have coffee and breakfast at the consoles. The Department of Defense used to have their retirement celebrations in there. It was looking pretty ragged when we first started restoring it. This is Sandra Tetley, historic preservation officer at the Johnson Space Center. Sandra Tetley: Hi, my name is Sandra Tetley. I am the historic preservation officer and real property officer at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Tetley and her team at the Johnson Space Center or JSC just compleated a restoration of the Apollo Mission Control Center, also known as MOCR-2 or -- because space programs are built on acronyms -- simply, “moker.” Putting aside the room being used for retirement parties and breakfasts, the real challenge of the restoration was simply the fact that history keeps going. MOCR-2 served as mission control before and after the Apollo missions to the moon. Sandra Tetley: So it started out with Gemini. It flew all the manned Apollo missions. Then it did the Apollo Soyuz test project, Skylab and then began into Shuttle. And we actually lost the Shuttle Challenger out of this same room. So if the goal is to restore the room, how do you know which is the most significant mission? How do you know which era to restore it to? Well, in this case, it’s clearly Apollo. Sometimes history is messy as its layers overlap, but here it’s pretty clear. And this is a widely held-view. In 1985, the room became a National Historic Landmark or NHL, specifically because of its role in Apollo. Sandra Tetley: The building is a National Historic Landmark based on the man in space survey, which was a survey done of all the NASA centers. When the building was designated that they have a series of performance, which was from Apollo 11 and then through Apollo 17, which is when man landed on the moon. Of course except for 13. But that was the period of significance of the room, meaning that in this designation of an NHL, this is what the big focus would have been about. By 1992, the room was no longer being used for any missions and this gave way to the era of retirement parties and breakfasts. Sandra Tetley: That's where the Texas historic commission stepped in. And they really fought to keep that room from being completely gutted and modernized. You know, we were in the throws of Shuttle and Space Station and so we did not have the budget or you know, really the interest to do an actual restoration of that room. And because it was a National Historic Landmark, and what happened is the Texas state historic commission made an agreement with NASA and with JSC to leave that room alone. To basically preserve it or restore it for posterity because that is where we landed men on the moon. The restoration really got underway around 2014 when Tetley started applying for grants with the national park service. The interest was there, but it wasn’t obvious what the next steps were. Sandra Tetley: We began to try to get buy-in and support to do the restoration. And there was a lot of consternation because that room is so visible and it is so important. Various organizations on site wanted to control it and they wanted to control the restoration. So there was a big battle on who would do that and how it would work and how it would go. Tetley pushed for a restoration rather than a simple renovation. Gene Kranz, who served as chief Flight Director of the Apollo missions, decided to leverage the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 to get it done right. Sandra Tetley: Only after Mr Kranz wrote what I call his nuclear letter and got the, an article in the newspaper, Houston Chronicle, and he wrote the Park Service, the advisory council, both our senators, the NASA Administrator. I mean, everyone got a letter saying it is time to restore this room. You're running out of time. It needs to be ready for the 50th anniversary. And that finally got everybody kind of on, you know, off dead center to get going. That’s when the restoration really started to take shape. During the missions, the room featured a visitors gallery behind it. The idea was that media and family could watch what was going on without disturbing the engineers on the floor. Since they were making life-and-death decisions, the engineers couldn’t be interrupted. Today, that same visitors gallery serves the same purpose -- to keep visitors off the floor. Sandra Tetley: One of our biggest battles that we had, was to begin to lock it down and prevent people who go into the consoles and going into the room. And that continues to be our biggest battle is to keep a limited number of people off the floor of the MOCR. This is not a unique problem to human heritage on earth. And once we create a museum at the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon, it won't be a unique problem to human heritage off of the earth either. There’s only so many people can visit the cave before the cave paintings are ruined. Sandra Tetley: Now that it's restored, the best vantage point is from the viewing room because all the consoles are lit up and there's furnishings and documents and so forth all over the console. That’s the best view because noone goes into the console room at all except for the retired flight controllers. The restored room looks exactly like it did in 1969. As visitors enter the gallery above, t he room comes alive in a 14 minute experience that portrays five different parts of of the Apollo 11 mission with historical accuracy: the descent and landing, the first step, the reading of the plaque on the lunar module, President Nixon calling the astronauts, and finally, the recovery after splashdown. The lights on the consoles, the projected graphs and maps, the buttons, and even the clocks change to display how they would have at those moments. Sandra Tetley: Space Center Houston, who's our visitor experience, wanted more of a Disney-esque type experience. Where you heard the, the chatter about the main landing, but that you saw it at a computer generated imagery on the screen of the moon, of the, the LM landing on the moon. What a restoration is that you try to make it be historically accurate. And that wasn't historical accurate. They never had any film or any imagery of them landing on the moon until they returned. So the only thing that was showing on the screen was data, whatever was showing from a console, they would project up there. They showed the map where they were expected to land. The lunar map and information like that, that they were making these decisions. So we have to go through all of the film that was ever filmed in mission control. We had to go through all that and then we had to recreate every single thing that was on all five of the summery display screens and all the clocks and then sync it all up to the actual audio. What I like about this approach is that it lets the drama of the historical events play out because there is a lot of drama in the room itself. Having all the real-time information come through maps and numbers and the astronauts own voices -- particularly as a decision-maker -- is an incredibly intense experience on its own. Sandra Tetley: We wanted people to really understand what the flight controllers were doing and what decisions they were having to make. You hear backroom loops of people saying, we've got, you know, another 1201 alarm. No, keep going, keep going. You know, and you've got the, you're hearing these decisions and you can feel the stress, and what they're having to do. And then even when they land, you continue to hear, okay, we've got a stay and no stay, you know, and then they begin to make that. And so it's very intense. And that is what we want to portray to people. We want them to understand that these men whose average age was 26 years old, we're having to make these, these real time decisions based on these numbers. And if you look at the screens on the consoles are crazy. I don't know how anyone can make heads or tails out of them and they're having to sit there and make these decisions for these men's lives. And you know, what will happen and what do I do and how do I do this? And, and they, you know, they did it. And that's what we really want people to, to get in there and just go, Oh my gosh, this is so cool. This is great. And I think it really comes across very well. When you visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed, you see that the desks in the Assembly Room are staged with quill pens and spare parchment as if the signers just had to step out for a moment. The restorers did the same thing here, but instead of quill pens, the studied the binders, cigarettes, ashtrays, bottles of coke, the engineers Han in hand from old film and video. Sandra Tetley: When you go into to and view the MOCR, everything there is place for a reason, based on films and still photography. And we placed them all there during the mission for the flight controllers. And it is a little bit of a blend of flight controllers. For example, one may drink coffee and we'd have this coffee cup that we may have the RC Cola can there as well. So we didn't try to just isolate it to one particular, there were different shifts during that time. And there was also lots of people in the room. It wasn't just the one flight control. I mean there was four or five people around each flight controller. So there was stuff everywhere. We have briefcases, we have sports coats that were their jackets and, and sack lunches that they brought in and ashtrays. We realized that we didn’t quite get it without ashtrays. Our cigarettes are ashtrays or are full of cigarettes and, and if anything about the ashtray we have, they have those big amber ashtrays because they're cigar ashtray. And the reason why they got the big cigar ass tradings cause they smoke so much that they would fill up the smaller ashtrays too fast. The restoration opened on July 20th, 2019, exactly 50 years after the room guided humans to the lunar surface for the first time. In attendance were Gene Kranz and other flight controllers and engineers. This time, though, they didn’t have life-or-death decisions to make. They could simply enjoy the room. Sandra Tetley: So on the 50th anniversary, the flight controller said, we really want to have that list to ourselves. We don't want a big crowd. We'd like to take our wives in there too because I very rarely I will to the family and their wives on the floor during missions. And that never happened during missions. One of the things the flight controllers said is that when they landed man on the moon, we did not set to celebrate. So the 50th anniversary came around, stay really celebrated. And we had them all come in and we showed them all the visceral experience because a lot of them, that was the first time they've seen it. And then we brought them on the floor and all of them could just go and look at all the consoles and you know, they told us, they told us so much, no it didn't look like this, you know, is this look like this? And Oh my gosh, how did you find my coffee cup? That's just wild, you know, a lot of comradery and then we took their pictures. So we took each flight team pictures at their console. So we have these really great photographs. A lot of them were very emotional and, and, uh, you know, just sort of were able to really relive it and realize what they've done at this point. And so that was very special. That kind of topped it all off. This has been Museum Archipelago. Get instant access to this, and other great perks by joining Club Archipelago on Patreon.
The field of conservation was created to fight change: to prevent objects from becoming dusty, broken, or rusted. But fighting to keep cultural objects preserved creates a certain mindset — a mindset where it’s too easy to imagine objects and cultures in a state of stasis. Sanchita Balachandran, Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, founded Untold Stories to change that mindset in the conservation profession. Through events at the annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation, Untold Stories expands cultural heritage beyond preserving the objects we might find in a museum. In this episode, Balachandran talks about Untold Story’s 2019 event: Indigenous Futures and Collaborative Conservation, avoiding the savior mentality, and how the profession has changed since she was in school. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:14 The Conservation Profession 01:12 Sanchita Balachandran (http://www.objectsconservationstudio.com/) 01:35 Untold Stories (https://www.untoldstories.live/) 03:30 Mohegan Sun 2019: Indigenous Futures and Collaborative Conservation (https://www.untoldstories.live/mohegan-sun-2019) 04:58 endawnis Spears and the Akomawt Educational Initiative (episode 68) (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/68) 06:09 Savior Mentality in Conservation 07:37 Changing Working Practices 09:03 Changing Technical Practices 10:30 Changing Social Practices 11:25 Activating Cultural Heritage 12:15 Salt Lake City 2020: Preserving Cultural Landscapes (https://www.untoldstories.live/aic-2020) 12:30 Learn More About Untold Stories and Watch Recordings of Past Events (https://www.untoldstories.live/mohegan-sun-2019) 12:40 SPONSOR: StoriesHere Podcast (https://storieshere.com/) 13:40 Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️: National Treasure (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) 14:34 Outro Photo credit: Jay T. Van Rensselear Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://museum.substack.com/) to never miss an episode. Sponsor: StoriesHere Podcast This episode is brought to you by a new museum podcast, StoriesHere! The latest episode is an excellent two-part series about the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It includes the story of a family secret being hidden from a daughter, revealed after talking at the site with a former incarcerated person. If you like Museum Archipelago, check out StoriesHere! Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 73. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript The field of conservation was created to fight change: to prevent objects from becoming dusty, broken, or rusted. But fighting to keep cultural objects preserved creates a certain mindset -- the mindset of protector. A mindset where it’s too easy to imagine objects and cultures in a state of stasis -- that this is how it always was and will be forever. Sanchita Balachandran: Often, I mean, just given the Colonial and Imperial histories of museums, it was because people were going to be gone forever. That culture was gone. And so this is the last trace, but in fact, that's not how cultural heritage works. It's transformed. It's changed. It continues on in different forms. And a lot of the way that conservators think about cultural heritage is, is about mitigating that change, which makes it a little bit fossilized. But to me, that changes where things are really vibrant and exciting and people are so closely connected to cultural heritage, that it really feels alive. This is Sanchita Balachandran, Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum. Sanchita Balachandran: Hello, my name is Sanchita Balachandran. I’m a conservator and I’m trained in the conservation of archaeological materials in particular. And my day job is the Associate Director at the Archaeological Museum at Johns Hopkins University. Balachandran founded Untold Stories, a project that pursues a conservation profession that represents and preserves a fuller spectrum of human cultural heritage. For the past few years, the project has been hosting public events at the annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation. Untold Stories emerged out of Balachandran’s frustration with how narrowly conservation has been defined. Sanchita Balachandran: I felt that there were, literally, too many untold stories in the field of conservation. I wanted to find ways to actually start to think about what else cultural heritage could mean other than, say, the things we typically think of as belonging in a museum. For many of us, cultural heritage means going to this, you know, important-looking building that has paintings and sculpture and has labels next to it. And I think we've kind of decided in some ways that that's cultural heritage and preservation means taking care of those things. And really, I've become more and more aware and curious about the fact that cultural heritage is a much more complicated and diverse set of practices. It's often not necessarily about a single object or a thing, but rather how that thing might function within a community or communities as part of a series of practices and exchanges and storytelling. And I just wanted to have a way to work with people who are really doing that work outside the museum and doing it in ways that, I think preserve, but also change cultural practices. Since Untold Stories takes place at the annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation, a lot of professionals in the field are already gathered there -- the meetings attract over 1000 conservators. Like many professional conferences, the meetings are often held in a nondescript hotel setting. But Untold Stories makes it a practice to contextualize where attendees are sitting and the history that preceded them. An example of this is the 2019 Untold Stories event, titled Indigenous Futures and Collaborative Conservation. Sanchita Balachandran: How many times have you been to a conference and you could be anywhere. Right? I mean, you're in this big room and you never leave the hotel or the conference center. And part of what I was interested in was trying to actually place us somewhere. So in 2019 since we were actually meeting at the Mohegan Sun, which is a Mohegan owned casino. We were on native land. It seemed like a really important opportunity to talk about Native sovereignty and the kind of history of genocide in our own country. The fact that anyone who's non-indigenous in this country is a settler-colonialist. But to really think about what this means in terms of how we take care of collections that have come to us, as a result of historical happenstance, but also a very violent past and to acknowledge the fact that museums, which for most of us who work in museums are very safe, welcoming, and, you know, joyful places are evidence of this history of pain and removal. So, the opportunity to work with, the Akomawt Educational Initiative was really exciting because it's a partly Native cofounded and they do a lot of educational work around questions of how we even think about the history of this country. And to me that was really important to be able to say in native space as opposed to, you know, in a place somewhere else. Part of Balachandran’s point is that there isn’t such a thing as a contextless cultural material: the intentionally non-descript conference ballroom has a lot in common with a deliberately sterile museum environment. Episode 68 of this show features an interview with endawnis Spears, Director of Programming & Outreach at the Akomawt Educational Initiative and one of the conveners of 2019 Untold Stories event. In the episode, she discusses her presentation about how Native narratives are violently presented through a white lens in museums. Sanchita Balachandran: It was in endawnis Spears of Akomawt who suggested the title. She had worked in museums, she's very familiar with these questions and she's the one who suggested Indigenous Futures, which forces you to recognize that this is not something of the past. We really wanted to do something that felt like we were going to push. This had to be uncomfortable, but it also had to be aspirational. Where do we go now? And how can as conservators we actually be part of this very kind of collaborative, supportive mission to ensure futures? We can't make it happen by ourselves. It's not like we're saving anybody. And that's another big concern of mine. There's a real sort of savior mentality that I think conservation has to, we save objects. And I certainly came out of graduate school thinking that I was going to save everything. Um, and to me that's a very problematic way to think about it because frankly, if the object still survives, it didn't need me. Right? It made it thousands of years without me. Somehow we've kind of decided that we're the ones that making the, that make these things live forever, which is pure arrogance. So part of this event was really to think about how as conservators can we come up with action items and by action items it was practices, but more than anything a kind of shift in a mental framework for working much more equitably and more humbly, you know, to really have a sense of respect for this notion that there has already been a history before you. And so when you enter into this hopefully collaborative relationship, you need to acknowledge that things have survived for a long time without your intervention and they don't need you, but you could actually provide some sort of service, some sort of benefit that could actually help. The Untold Stories team, true to their mission, is careful not to present the workshop as a single solution, or even a set of solutions. The team wants to counter the assumption within the profession that all you need to do is go to one workshop and you're all done. Sanchita Balachandran: Unfortunately this doesn't change the working practices. It doesn't change the mindset. It doesn't change the way an organization functions. And what happens is, you know, then marginalized people are called upon again and again to kind of keep performing this vulnerability and this discomfort for themselves in order to educate people who are unwilling to do the work, the consistent -- like, every single day for the rest of their lives work -- that will be required to make transformative change possible. So part of what, in the 2019 conversation we, we felt very strongly we had to say is if, if you really believe in equality, if you really want to do something that is truly collaborative, that does not assume some sort of hierarchy it means being really uncomfortable the entire time. And maybe at the end of it things will change, but you still have to kind of follow through on it when it gets really uncomfortable. And the fact is most marginalized communities, people have done this their entire lives.So it just feels like it's time for, you know, I think in general, the museum community to say we're willing to engage in these kinds of difficult ongoing, perpetual conversations. It’s really interesting to approach these issues from the framework of such a technical profession. What is different, what has changed in the field of conservation since you were in school? Sanchita Balachandran: I was in grad school two decades ago, so it's, you know... I guess I would break it down into technical practices, which I think most conservators would, would think of themselves as doing sort of things with their hands, changing a surface in some way and then more social practices. How do you be in this world? Uh, in terms of technical practices, some of the things that we do on a regular basis are certainly did to me raise a lot of questions about how do we even come up with this. So, you know, one of the things that I was trained on, and I think a lot of conservators still do, is something like spit cleaning, right? For a long time, uh, it was known that something like human saliva has really amazing cleaning properties. And, you know, it's the reason why your mom might've like licked her thumb and you know, rubbed a mark off your face. But, but it works really well and it's, you know, there have been attempts to make this much more scientific as to like, what are the enzymes, for example, in saliva that work. But you know, now thinking about it and my gosh, to spit on someone else's things, it's this really strange concept. And yet it was something that was really suggested as a very efficacious way of doing a treatment. For me, this has meant that I really have to be extremely aware of the choices I'm making and at least be aware of the discomfort that they raise in me when I start thinking about what I'm actually doing. So that's the kind of technological discomfort and awareness. And then there's how, how does one work with anybody else? Certainly in academia, and I would say also in museums are very hierarchical spaces where, you know, in the museum the sort of curator often has had the privilege of storytelling. And often when people who are not within the museum are consulted, they're consulted either after most of the work has been done or that that information is kind of extracted from them and presented as part of this larger narrative rather than allowing people to simply say what they believe these objects are, or how, you know, the story needs to be presented. For those in an established field, like museum professionals or conservators, it is easy to go with the language and practice that exists before you arrive. Projects like Untold Stories challenge those assumptions and help create a new model. Sanchita Balachandran: For me, it's really about kind of activating cultural heritage and, in very kind of living ways. Underlying all of this work with Untold Stories was to really think about what is possible, in terms of preserving cultural heritage. I think if you think of cultural heritage as being something that's preserved by people in, you know, conservation labs only, to me that's really limiting. And it also is untrue because we have millennia of, you know, people caring for their things and their stories and passing this knowledge on, um, through oral traditions and other kinds of traditions. So to somehow claim that we are the only ones capable of doing this kind of preservation work is fundamentally untrue. And so to me, kind of bringing up this resilience, but also just this joy of doing this incredible connected, human work was something that I wanted to be around. The next Untold Stories event will be held during the American Institute of Conservation’s annual conference in Salt Lake City from the 19th to the 23rd of MAY 2020. The title of the event will be PRESERVING CULTURAL LANDSCAPES. You can learn more about The Untold Stories Project, and watch recordings of past events, at Untold Stories dot live.
Museums tend to be verbal spaces: there’s usually a lot of words. Galleries open with walls of text, visitors are presented with rules of do and don'ts, and audio guides lead headphone-ed users from one piece to the next, paragraph by paragraph. But Speechless: Different by Design, a new exhibit at the Dallas Art Museum and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, guides visitors as far away as possible from words with six custom art installations. In this episode, curator Sarah Schleuning and graphic designer Laurie Haycock Makela discuss how their personal experiences lead them to Speechless, and describe the process and considerations of putting it all together. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:14 Museums as Verbal Spaces 00:52 Speechless: Different by Design (https://dma.org/speechless) 01:05 Sarah Schleuning 01:30 Schleuning’s Personal Experience 02:45 Picture Exchange System 03:40 Planning Speechless 05:00 Yuri Suzuki’s ‘Sound of the Earth Chapter 2’ (https://earthsounds.dma.org/) 05:17 Misha Kahn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misha_Kahn) 05:38 Laurie Haycock Makela 06:08 Makela’s Personal Experience 06:55 The Exhibition's Ground Rules 07:11 The Exhibition's Design 09:26 Museum Fatigue (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/2) 11:30 What Keeps Schleuning Up at Night 12:16 Museum Selfies (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/9) 13:29 Introducing Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️! (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago/posts?tag=Archipelago%20at%20The%20Movies) 14:16 Outro | Join Club Archipelago (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://museum.substack.com/) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 72. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript Museums tend to be verbal spaces: there’s usually a lot of words. Galleries open with walls of text, visitors are presented with rules of do and don'ts, and artists guide headphone-ed users from one piece to the next paragraph by paragraph. But there’s a new series ot exhibits designed to be different, to guide visitors as far away as possible from words. One of those is a collaboration of the Dallas Art Museum and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. It’s called Speechless, and to underline the point, it is subtitled: different by design. Sarah Schleuning: Speechless has been an exhibition that merges research and aesthetics and innovative new design to explore accessibility and modes of communication in the museum setting. This is Sarah Schleuning, curator of Speechless. Sarah Schleuning: Hello, my name is Sarah Schleuning and I am The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design and the interim Chief curator at the Dallas Museum of Art. And I love to focus on projects that really explore ideas of how design and art can transform our everyday lives. The roots of Speechless come from Schleuning’s own rethinking of how to communicate without language. Sarah Schleuning: The idea really germinated out of something very personal for me which is that one of my children has motor planning disability, a neurological issue that rendered him, when he was younger, fairly speechless and I had to sort of rethink how I communicated with him and how we as a family interacted with somebody where language wasn't the primary avenue. So it started in that idea, but I was also in my curatorial work had been really interested in issues of playscapes and interactivity and how the exposure to aesthetics and design are really great gateways to get people to really think about how that impacts their everyday life. And so this project was a merger of these ideas. Even museums that specialize in the visual arts have a tendency to communicate verbally with their visitors. Sarah Schleuning: I think that that was the thing that I realized even for myself here. I deal in visual culture. But the way I communicate about it is through words or through, you know talking about it and and that I myself am hyper sort of hyper-verbal. All of a sudden, I had this very close proximity to somebody who wasn't interested in learning from me through language and what I started to realize really because we started using the Picture Exchange system communication system, which is a series of images that you use to communicate. So you'd say what do you want to eat? And on the sheet would be a picture of a series of different foods and then they could point and so it's very sort of prescriptive. And it would be apple. And then what I started thinking was we at museums are sitting on this vast repository of images is I mean, you could use Magritte's Apple, there are so many different looks and feels and kind of different nuances to what an apple could be or these images and in essence that communication is kind of a two way thing. The project is made up of six art installations intended to foster “participatory environments” within a museum context, and in particular, engage the senese. Sarah Schleuning: We had the opportunity about a year ago to invite 6 design teams to come to Dallas and work on this project. And we invited six specialist from the Dallas community that were scientists, but kind of both theoreticians and practitioners who specialized in fields like neuroscience and autism, dementia, communication disorders, physical therapy related to sensory issues and really to think about the broader spectrum of what disability looks like and how to broaden our own perceptions of how to design for that and think through those ideas. Sarah Schleuning: But I think the biggest underpinning of the exhibition for me and for the institutions were that it was an experience that ultimately was positive and joyful so that these fully immersive interactive spaces that each design team was creating was really something that was positive and felt like it offered an opportunity to see the greatness in the difference between us, instead of seeing it as a negative. One of the pieces, by Yuri Suzuki is called ‘Sound of the Earth Chapter 2’ and features a giant, unmarked black globe. Without the context of the familiar outlines of continents, visitors instead hear sounds recorded at the part of the earth while they place their ear against the surface of the globe. Sounds from more southern regions are accessed by crouching down. Another, by Misha Kahn, features a garden of colorful sculptures that inflate and deflate throughout the day. The task of bringing all of these tinstallationals together fell on designer and educator Laurie Haycock Makela. Maklela was responsible for the overall graphic identity and the corresponding exhibition publication. Laurie Haycock Makela: Hi. My name is Laurie Haycock Makela. I'm a graphic designer and an educator and I'm working on the book and some of the kind of related exhibition kind of graphic identity issues for Speechless. As a book designer I deal with words also, so there's a certain irony and working on this project, but it made me really attentive to you know, I'm a typographer, you know, kind of. You know from the bottom of my heart, you know, I look at language as image also, Like Schleuning, Makela understands what it is like to communicate non-verbally. Laurie Haycock Makela: I've been a book designer and an educator and all that for years and years and then I had two brain hemorrhages and brain surgery which really made my everything stopped, you know, that was but… So yeah, I think that Sarah brought many of us in here because of certain personal experiences that make it so we really understand in some pretty deep way or experiential way what our options are when we. You know are left with maybe for a while. I couldn't I didn't speak or write or read or anything like that. So I had to rethink all that. So I really identified with the content or the concept of this project from the very beginning, you know. The six installations only thematically relate to one another, and are introduced by the ground rules “Be curious, be thoughtful, be gentle.” -- one of the few instances of text in the gallery. Visitors can experience the installations in any order they choose by going into rooms off the main area, which Schleuning explains by evoking a sea creature. Sarah Schleuning: The exhibition itself will be designed kind of like an octopus is I guess the best way I can think to describe it and when you go in the room if you think of the octopus's sort of head, it is actually going to be an empty room. Sarah Schleuning: And that room will have some furniture and we'll have some things and they'll be these kind of videos that are really going to be sort of short Boomerang videos of each artist in their space kind of showing people what to expect what they would use their and so that then you could understand. Yes, they're six spaces. Sarah Schleuning: Then the place like Lori's doing is really. We wanted to make a space. That was what we called kind of a de-escalation Zone and you know those spaces typically a museum like sensory spaces and others which are becoming more commonplace in institutions, like Museum often are off of the sort of educational space or in other places, and we wanted to put it primary in the exhibition it we wanted it to be sort of fully accessible and not, stigmatized is probably too hard of a word but making it feel like it was accessible to everyone that everybody may need it the opportunity to just have a moment to take a to sort of reboot and refresh. In that space there will be rockers and weighted blankets and one of our Specialists deals primarily with that. So we vetted that project and what we wanted to use in there in that. And then Lori the book that Lori is done, which really shows the whole creative process of each of the different designers will be wheat pasted on one of the walls and and so we'll both be a place for reflection for people to look at these but also a kind of stabilizing line for people if they need to sort of combat calm down or recenter. Even though the museum world has a term for visitors needing a break from galleries -- it’s called museum fatigue and you can listen to a brief overview of it on episode 2 of Museum Archipelago -- the causes of museum fatigue and a best practice approach remain speculative. Researcher Beverly Serrell found that visitors typically spent less than 20 minutes in exhibitions regardless of topic and size before becoming much more selective about what they explore. Her research supports the notion that visitors have a limited time frame after which their interest towards exhibits diminishes. And this is the reason why you can usually find at least a bench 20 minutes into a linear exhibition -- but it’s clear that museums can do much more. The designers of Speechless hope that their approach can contribute. Sarah Schleuning: The other thing that I really wanted to make sure happened in the exhibition was that you never walked from one project to another you always go into a space and then you come back into this central, sort of emptier, zone so that you always have a chance to it's almost like a palate cleanser, right? You always kind of go from one experience and then you're able to reflect a decompress and then you can move into another. Sarah Schleuning: We don't know how it's going to go. I mean part of the idea of being experimental, and I applaud both institutions for encouraging us to go really go for it is that you don't know what's going to be successful or not. And so we are investing in doing evaluations during the project and it's our intention to then publish those findings at the end because we want to. So much of the planning for this exhibit comes from making visitors comfortable enough to have a non-museum-like interaction with the art, but visitors are used to a museum context with clear text instructions. So how soon into the visit do they start playing and lose some level of inhibition, loose some of the exhibit context. Sarah Schleuning: I stay up at night thinking about that. I think it's been really interesting because even with you know, the designers themselves, you know, it's that balance between they want to make something that's really spectacular and it's in an art museum and they want it to really have, you know be elevated at that level and at the same time, how would you interact with this as a child? You know and and how would you change that to be more responsive to that or to think through these things? And trying to work through, you know the best you can but you never know. And and that's what makes it both, you know, exciting and anxiety-producing. Laurie Haycock Makela: Yeah, I just started biting my nails. Yeah. Speechless, with its visually-striking rooms is opening into a world more comfortable than ever about expressing itself non-verbally. Audio and images and animations of images are just as easy to create, modify, and share as words. Episode 14 of this show, which was an entire discussion of museum selfies from 2015 feels hopelessly outdated in 2019 -- images are how many visitors “talk” about the galleries they visit. Like any language, there’s a continually evolving grammar in images and selfie, and one strategy is for a museum to give visitors the tools of that grammar: a dictionary and a thesaurus in the form of strange shapes and a colorful backgrounds. Exhibits like Speechless give visitors the tools to center non-verbal expression within a museum frame. Speechless: different by design is now open at the Dallas Museum of Art, and will be until March 22, 2020. After that, the same exhibit will be on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
Museums are seen as trustworthy, but what if that trust is misplaced? Chicago-based independent curator Elena Gonzales provides a solid jumping off point for thinking critically about museums in her new book, Exhibitions for Social Justice. The book is a whirlwind tour of different museums, examining how they approach social justice. It’s also a guide map for anyone interested in a way forward. In this episode, Gonzales takes us on a tour of some of the main themes of the book, examining the strategies of museum institutions from the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 Trust in Museum Institutions 01:00 Elena Gonzales Website (http://www.elenagonzales.org) Twitter (https://twitter.com/curatoriologist) 01:45 Exhibitions for Social Justice (https://www.routledge.com/Exhibitions-for-Social-Justice-1st-Edition/Gonzales/p/book/9781138292598) 03:05 What is an Exhibition for Social Justice? 04:20 National Museum of Mexican Art (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Mexican_Art) 07:12 “Questioning the Visitor” 07:50 Anne Frank House Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Frank_House) 08:25 Eastern State Penitentiary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_State_Penitentiary) 11:23 Buy Exhibitions for Social Justice On Routledge (https://www.routledge.com/Exhibitions-for-Social-Justice-1st-Edition/Gonzales/p/book/9781138292598) (Use Promo Code ADS19 for 30% Off) On IndieBound (https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Exhibitions+for+Social+Justice) On Amazon (https://amzn.to/2BQxb2s) 12:30 Introducing Archipelago at the Movies (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago)! Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 71. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript The American Alliance of Museums often says that museums are the most trustworthy institutions in modern American life. And the statistics are remarkable: some surveys indicate that museums are the second most trusted news source after friends and family. As rates of trust in other institutions plummet: the news media, etc, museums still enjoy a privileged position in collective consciousness. It’s something I’ve noticed over the past few years: even non-museum spaces try to adopt museum-like presentations to apply the veneer of trustworthiness. But it’s an uneasy set of statistics. Is it possible that the reason museums are so trustworthy is because they've been excellent at toeing the status quo, the party line? And whose public consciousness are museums enjoying a privileged position inside of anyway? That’s why I was thrilled to come across Exhibitions for Social Justice by Elena Gonzales during a recent museum binge. The book presents the current state of museum practice as it relates to the work of social justice, but also a guide map for anyone interested in a way forward. Elena Gonzales: I think if a lot of people fully understood how museum work is done, they might actually not trust us so much because they would understand the subjectivity. But I think the more that we are transparent about museums, content, who creates it, how, what the goals of an exhibition are, et cetera, the more people can trust us authentically and rightfully. I’m joined today by Elena Gonzales, author of Exhibitions for Social Justice. Elena Gonzales: Hello, my name is Elena Gonzales and I’m the author of Exhibitions for Social Justice which is newly out from Museum Meanings and Routledge. I’m an independent curator and scholar in the Chicago area, and I’m also the co-chair of the exhibitions committee at the Evanston Art Center where we curate 20 to 30 exhibitions per year. In Exhibitions for Social Justice, Gonzales lays out the ways that institutions can use the overwhelming and uneasy trust capital built up over centuries. Elena Gonzales: Museums have a centuries-long history of supporting white supremacist, colonialist, racist, bigoted ideologies and helping them flourish, and providing the evidence for them and undergirding them. And it is museums' ethical and moral obligation now to not only dismantle that through de-colonial practices, but also to make themselves into pro-social inclusive institutions that are actively working for social justice. Gonzales believes that museums have the power to help our society become more hospitable, equitable, and sustainable, and the book presents a survey of specific museums and exhibitions that have made their goals clear. Elena Gonzales: People often ask me what counts as an exhibition for social justice? And I think people, they immediately snap to museums and exhibitions that deal with mass violence, that deal with redress of major wrongs like genocides. Your Holocaust museums, your Memorial museums, that type of thing. And when they ask this question, I say what I think is the most readily accessible definition for social justice, which is that social justice is the equitable distribution of risks and rewards in society. And then I say that there are so many different areas that this touches in terms of content beyond Memorial museums, beyond Holocaust museums. And that's not to minimize the work of those institutions. Those are critical institutions and holding those memories is very, very important. And sites of conscience are very important to my work in general. Elena Gonzales: But I think there are many topics anywhere ranging from equity in education, equity in health care, environmental justice, gender equity. Any kind of moment where a culturally specific group is gaining access to historical voice or contemporary voice in the public sphere. There are just many different entry points to this topic. One of the main ideas of the book is that the work of social justice must be institution-wide, not just the work of one curator. Gonzales writes about the experience of her first curatorial effort at the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) in Chicago. NMMA is a culturally-specific first-voice museum dedicated to serving its local Mexican community. Elena Gonzales: It was a really big project for us. It's called The African Presence in Mexico. And the main exhibition was called The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present. I curated a second exhibition. It was about the relationships between African Americans and Mexicans in the United States and the relationships between African Americans and the country of Mexico, and that was called Who Are We Now? Roots, Resistance, and Recognition. At an all-staff meeting shortly before the opening of the project, Carlos Tortolero, the president and one of the founders of the museum, reiterated the goal of solidary to the entire staff of the museum. If the museum did everything right, the museum would have a large number of new African-American visitors in particular. He said that if any staff members felt prejudices towards the museum’s Black visitors or doubted the history being presented, then they should look for another job now. Elena Gonzales: The President of the museum, Carlos Tortolero, who's still the President now, said that he wanted everyone in the museum to feel that we had found long lost members of our family. Cousins, brothers and sisters, however you want to think of it. And he was saying he wanted us to feel this way and he wanted us to make all of our visitors feel that level of celebration as we welcomed them to the museum. And in particular, he wanted our African American visitors to feel extremely welcome, extremely celebratory about the nature of this relationship that we were eager to share at a level that it really hadn't been told in an educational way before, or even in a history capacity. Exhibitions for Social Justice makes the point that the exhibition was successful because the whole museum -- every person in the building -- was behind the mission. Elena Gonzales: I've studied museums like the NMMA where the entire institution is headed in the same direction, and everyone is committed to the goal of this exhibition for social justice in question, in this case, the African Presence. And then I've studied museums where that that's not the case. Where the curators may have this idea that they're working for social justice, but the institution is not behind them in that way. The institution does not believe that that is an inappropriate goal. And that just hampers the work of those curators in that are. Gonzales discusses the various ways that museums can inspire action inside and outside the museum, and the states involved in how museums envision visitors as social actors. One of these strategies is questioning the visitor -- like the traveling exhibit Free2Choose developed by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam. Elena Gonzales: But I think that what is a strategy that I talk about in the book and that I've discovered in other places that I think is really effective is questioning the visitor. Questioning the visitor in a way that involves the visitor in this dialogue with him or herself, once again. This conversation that is going to create memories about the experience and produce rehearsal of the experience, like an ongoing thinking about the experience after the fact and possibly talking about it with others. For example, the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam had an exhibition for a number of years, it's since closed, that had you think about the tensions between freedom of speech and protection from hate speech, and you got to think about some examples where these things come into conflict and then you voted on which right should win out, which was more important, and you voted in such a way that people could see the responses going up in real time. The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia features another example of the visitor questioning technique. The museum address the American crisis of mass incarceration directly by making visitors answer the question, “Have You Ever Broken the Law” by the two pathways into the Prisons Today gallery. Elena Gonzales: the Eastern State presentation is not confrontational. It's, I think, thought-provoking and inviting. They simply say, "Have you ever broken the law? Yes, no," and there are two pathways that you can take. And you're going to see the same material or you're free to see the same material after that, either way. You're not actually separated from the other content. This works because 70% of American adults admit to committing a crime that could have put them in prison, but most of them never go. The exhibit goes on to explore some of the systematic reasons why, as well as what life is like for those who go to prison and the families they leave behind. But the path you walked down to get in is always on your mind. And the museum also has strategies to reconnect the visitor with the content even after the visit -- sometimes even years later. Elena Gonzales: So at the end of the Prisons Today show, you can do an activity that that allows the museum to send you postcards to yourself after the fact, after the visit. So they send it at a couple of different intervals. It's like a month, a year and two years or something like that. It's a few different intervals of time. And it's very clever because you don't just fill out a postcard and put it in a box, it's a digital thing. You answer some questions and they create the postcard. So you haven't seen the postcard in advance. You don't see it until you actually check your email and then you receive a postcard based on the responses that you answered to the questions. So I think that is a very effective way to create ongoing engagement because when you consider the way in which the position that museums have in our informational environment, and then you consider the position of the museum experience in the life of the visitor, this content might actually become more relevant over years or even decades. So I think that ongoing contact that takes place not soon after the visit is really valuable. But Eastern State Penitentiary also sits in a unique place: the social justice aspect of the exhibition is far from the primary draw of the institution. Elena Gonzales: It's a very interesting spot to visit. Most people think they're going to visit there because they want to see Al Capone's cell. They're passing through, it's this historic penitentiary and there's all kinds of draws that have nothing, so they think, to do with social justice. And for Eastern State, they have an opportunity with a huge number of this middle majority for them, of this body of visitors that is not necessarily apathetic about criminal justice and mass incarceration. Not necessarily experts in criminal justice or mass incarceration. They're tourists and they're visiting for that purpose. Elena Gonzales: So Eastern State has an opportunity by not advertising the social justice content that they do indeed provide in their exhibition presence today, and in other ways throughout the prison. They have an opportunity to explore the topic with visitors who aren't seeking it out, which is very special because as you say, the minute you say the words social justice, or justice, or activism or a variety of other keywords, you do start to get a self-selecting audience. Eastern State offers this opportunity to talk to people that you might not otherwise get to talk to if you say that your topic is social justice. And I think that actually works really well for visitors, and visitors have very important experiences there that they might not otherwise have. The book is excellent -- for me it was helpful just to see the way the book categorized different types of museums and introduced vocabulary and models I’m unfamiliar with. Gonzales provides a whirlwind tour of various museums, each presenting different strategies, buttressed by academic studies. If you’re looking for a jumping off point to think more critically about museums, take a look. Elena Gonzales: This is a moment when we need all of our institutions and all of our people in different areas to help work for social justice. And museums are a huge part of that. But it's not just for museum professionals. People who are activists in other areas, people who are educators, people who work in environmental justice, people who are community organizers, I think are going to love translating the tactics and strategies to their own work.
To the extent that there was a Communist capital of humor in the last half of the 20th century, it was Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Situated in a valley of the Balkan mountains, the city prides itself on its unique brand of self-effacing humor. In 1972, the Museum House of Humor and Satire opened here, and the city celebrated political humor with people in Soviet block countries and even some invited Western guests. Today, three decades after the collapse of Communism, the Museum House of Humor and Satire remains one of the region's most important cultural landmarks. The museum has had to reinvent itself to interpret not only a democratic Bulgaria, but a the global, meme-driven, and internet-forged culture most visitors live in. I went to Gabrovo to visit museum director Margarita Dariskova, who describes how the museum's strengths in its early years—like knowing how to present political humor without arousing the interest of the authorities—inform how the museum thinks of its role in the world today. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 Gabrovo, Bulgaria (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrovo) 01:07 Margarita Dariskova 01:44 How the Museum House of Humour and Satire Started 02:40 How to Run A Humor Museum Under Communism 04:05 1st International Biennial of Humour and Satire in the Arts in Gabrovo 05:55 The Museum in 1989 06:40 After the Collapse 07:00 Humor is Not Universal 07:30 Media Freedom in Bulgaria 07:55 Addressing Civic Space in Bulgaria: Garden Town (https://www.humorhouse.bg/engl/exhibitions/temporary.html) 09:09 The Museum and the Internet 11:00 Outro | Join Club Archipelago (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 70. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript In the middle of Bulgaria, not far from the crumbling Buzludzha monument, lays the town of Gabrovo. Situated in a valley of the Balkan mountains, the city prides itself on its unique brand of humor. Many local jokes jokes are self deprecating about the Gabrovoian obsession with frugality and entrepreneurship, and center around the comical lengths that townspeople go to save money. The mascot of the city is a black cat without a tail. It is said that Gabrovoians prefer cats without tails because they can shut the door faster when they let the cat out, saving on their hearting bills. Margarita Dariskova: That's actually typical for the Balkan mountains. This used to be the kind of humor that would exist in the region around Gabrovo, not just Gabrovo itself. But Gabrovoians were smart enough to brand it as theirs. That's the entrepreneurial side of things, of course. [laughter]. This is Margarita Dariskova. Margarita Dariskova: Hello! My name is Margarita Dariskova and I'm a curator by profession and I'm the Director of the Museum of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. The museum was founded in 1972. Before the Wall fell, this location was known as the Communist capital of humour, extending its reach across Eastern Block countries, and also to certain circles in the West. I visited Gabrovo because I wanted to find out how this political humor and satire museum could have started here during communist times, and how the museum is tackling the global, meme-driven culture of the world today. Margarita Dariskova: There are a couple of precursors that we have to go through to understand how the museum appeared. Two things. One is the Gabrovo humor jokes. So someone announced the completion in the newspaper, that the municipality is paying a certain amount for each joke that gets juried into a collection of Gabrovo jokes. They collected a lot of these jokes, made a book, and this book was an absolute bestseller. It was immediately translated of course in Russian, but also in different languages like French, English, German and it started selling very very well. The other thing that happened was the the Gabrovo carnival: this was restarted in the 60s and it is typical for being a carnival with a lot of political humor and satire. And this is the crucial theme of the museum and why it was able to exist in an age of single-party rule. The people running the carnival, and later the museum, were experts at walking up to the line, without crossing it. Margarita Dariskova: When we speak of political satire, do not imagine the general secretary of the party being satirized. It was very clear to what level the satire can reach. So satire was an instrument in the hands of good communists to fight those who abused power, but to certain level. So it extends up to maybe a local official, but never higher? Margarita Dariskova: Exactly, exactly. It was very clear where the satire can reach. As to the Gabrovo jokes, they’re not political, they deal with economy, with the mentality of the local people. Combining the two: or maybe more realistically, using the Gabrovo jokes as a Trojan Horse to present more political satire, was what led some entrepreneurial Gabrovians to open a museum. Margarita Dariskova: [In] Typical Gabrovo style, they didn't build a new building, but they refurbished an old leather factory. So the building we are in is the fromer leather factory. First it was cheaper, second it could go slightly unnoticed because you don't need the same kind of permissions to build and to refurbished. And if you wanted your out-of-the-mainstream project to succeed in communist Bulgaria, asking for permission was not the way to go. The museum started to put on biennials, festivals held every two years which featured invited Western guests. The first was in 1973. Margarita Dariskova: They immediately started with the biennials, the first edition of the biennials was dedicated to cartoons and small satirical sculpture. It was international and they brought in amazing names. How could that exist? If you think of that time, most cartoonists in the western world would be critical, would be leftists. So they would be very welcome in Bulgaria. And that would indeed be a gathering place for East and West. But there was a problem with that first biennial: the jury selected, for first prize, a cartoonist from Turkey, a country on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Margarita Dariskova: The director thought, "oh wow, what we did?" "What are you doing? How are you going to give a prize to a cartoonist from a NATO country?" And they started asking themselves, but we never asked for permission to start a biennial, to gather all of these people, that's going to be a huge problem, what are we going to do?” Then he thought, what am I going to do? The only thing he could do was go straight to the monster. So the director went straight to the daughter of the general secretary and the bBulgarian dictator, Ludmilla Zhivkova, who would later become minister of culture. Margarita Dariskova: She was good enough to listen. She was smart to perceive good ideas and to support them. So, it worked. She came, she opened the biennial. And it all went on well. And they never gave the reward anymore to a cartoonist coming from a country that would be an issue. The museum and the biennials kept growing, until communism collapsed in 1989. Margarita Dariskova: In 1989, they had more than 80 foreign guests, artists, juries coming for the biennial. So it was massive. After 1989 was the collapse indeed. At that time there were more than 100 people working in the House of Humor. Because if you think of all the different departments: cinema, literature, folklore, it was a big enterprise, with a lot of events, with amazing exhibitions. When I look at photos from the 1970s and 1980s, I'm absolutely astonished by the exhibition design you see. It's amazing, it's so well done. I don't think anywhere in Bulgaria it was so good. After the collapse, the museum's staff shrank to a skeleton crew. Dariskova joined the museum in 2016 and argued for a new direction for the museum's curation. Margarita Dariskova: As you can imagine, until 1989, my colleagues would have insisted that humor is universal. That all human beings all laugh. Humor is omnipresent and universal. The first fight that I had to have with the team when I came was to say, “I’m sorry but humor is not universal.” Humor is so culture based. It’s totally culture-based. Of course, it is safer to say that humor is universal and not to go into political humor. It’s safer. But then you don’t do your job. Our mission is to be very timely, to show things that are happening today. And if a humor and satire museum can’t do that, who else can do that? While a lot has improved over the past decade in Bulgaria, media freedom is declining. Most of the press has been purchased by oligarchs, and corruption and collusion between the media and politicians is widespread. Margarita Dariskova: You know there are issues with freedom of expression in Bulgaria. So at least a museum should be some sort of outlet. The museum addresses the civic space in Bulgaria with a new temporary children’s exhibit called Garden Town. The charming subtitle is “where mischief has a happy end.” Margarita Dariskova: We wanted to look at different examples or area of publicness, what’s public life, public debate, public media, public space and so on, and we really wanted to have this theme for children, so for the first time we are doing this children’s exhibition. It’s called Garden Town, and it’s a model of a town where the different neighborhoods address different issues, such as graffiti, you’re invited to draw, or voting, that’s the place where you go by yourself and it’s accidentally a toilet but it’s also a voting room, then we have some gorilla guarding, making bombs of seeds, etc. Finally, there’s the PensivePark where kids -- because they usually come in groups, they are invited to sit down and have a discussion and reach a decision. We give them some advice about how they can make a decision like tossing a coin, or concessions, or voting, or different options -- including anarchy! [laughter] It’s really something to see how far the museum has come from starting within the communist system, to reinventing itself to remain relevant in ways that are crucially important to a modern Bulgarian audience. Dariskova admits that the next stage of reinventing -- interpreting humor on the internet, to an audience that lives online -- hasn’t happened yet. Margarita Dariskova: That’s the first big challenge I could think of when I learned that the museum was looking for a director. I came to the museum, I looked at it, I was real impressed, and then I thought how can I change this place? How can you make it really fun when all the fun you need is on your phone. You can just scroll for hours and never stop laughing, so what can a museum do about that? Are we supposed to show the same things? No! You don’t go to the museum to go look at something you could see on your phone. Internet certainly has changed humor a lot. This is an exhibition we’ve been planning but we are trying to find the right research team to prepare that, memes, all the different funny games. It is very interesting to see how internet has been changing humor and where we are at now. The way jokes developed in Gabrovo, where people told slightly different versions to each other -- and in the process carefully distilled the most sharable essence of the joke -- mirrors the way that memes are forged in online communities. Constantly morphing to get more attention. Maybe the best chance we have of interpreting communities online and off comes from a humor museum. Thre Gabrovo Museum of Humour and Satire, which has already morphed through 20 years of communism and 30 years of democracy, is a good place to start. Just close the door quickly when you let the cat out. This has been Museum Archipelago.
From Apollo Mission Control in Houston, Texas, to the field in southeastern Russia where Yuri Gargarin finished his first orbit, there are many sites on earth that played a role in space exploration. But Hutchinson, Kansas isn’t one of them. And yet, Hutchinson—a town of 40,000 people—is home to the Cosmosphere, a massive space museum. The Cosmosphere boasts an enormous collection of spacecraft, including the largest collection of Soviet space hardware anywhere outside Russia. How did all of these space artifacts end up in the middle of Kansas? To find out, I visited Hutchinson to talk to Cosmosphere curator Shannon Whetzel. In this episode, Whetzel describes the story of the Cosmosphere as “being in the right place at the right time,” why the museum’s collection includes “destroyed” artifacts, and how she interprets Soviet hardware for a new generation. Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 The Cosmosphere (https://cosmo.org) 01:20 Why Not Kansas? 01:35 Shannon Whetzel (https://cosmo.org/about/team) 01:45 Patty Carey (https://www.hutchgov.com/1912/Cosmosphere---Patty-Carey) 02:18 Starting the Collection 04:10 Apollo 13 Command Module (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13) 05:02 Successes and Failures 05:50 Soviet Hardware 06:50 Space Race Gallery 07:58 Lunasphere (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_2) 08:35 Teaching the Political Context of the Space Race 09:30 Leaving Trash on the Moon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_artificial_objects_on_the_Moon) 09:58 Site-Specific Museums 10:51 Join Club Archipelago (https://www.patreon.com/museumarchipelago) Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 69. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] There are many sites on earth that played a role in human spaceflight: the mission control building in Houston, Texas where flight engineers communicated with the Apollo astronauts on the moon, or even the grassy field in southeastern Russia where Yuri Gargarin landed to end his mission as the first person in space. But Hutchinson, Kansas isn’t one of these sites. No spacecraft engineering happened here, like in Huntsville, Alabama. No rocket testing happened here, like in Perlington, Mississippi. There’s not even a historic, exploration-related radio telescope here, like in Parkes, Australia. Despite this, Hutchinson -- a town of 40,000 people -- is home to the Cosmosphere, a massive space museum. The Cosmosphere boasts an enormous collection of spacecraft, including the largest collection of Soviet space hardware anywhere outside Russia. How did all of these space artifacts end up in the middle of Kansas? To find out, I visited Hutchinson to talk to Cosmosphere curator Shannon Whetzel. Shannon Whetzel: I think some of our brochures say, “why not Kansas”, right? The story of the Cosmosphere is more or less the right place at the right time. Whetzel says that the museum has had many decades to be in the right place at the right time. Shannon Whetzel: Hello, my name is Shannon Whetzel, and I am the curator here at the Cosmosphere. The Cosmosphere’s first iteration was a star projector and folding chairs set up at the Kansas State Fair Grounds in 1962 by a woman named Patty Carey. She was inspired by the launch of Sputnik and ultimately wanted to set up a space science center in the Midwest. Shannon Whetzel: The volunteers we have who have who knew her personally, I did not know her personally, have basically said she’s a very nice arm-twister. You didn’t say no to Patty Carey. And that planetarium grew to what you see now. By the late 1970s, Patty Carey was making plans to transform the planetarium into the Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center. Shannon Whetzel: The collection as we know it started in the late 1970s. NASA is looking to… I hate to say “unload,” but looking to get some hardware out there for the public to see, and the Cosmosphere was beginning its first expansion, so we had the space and the connections, and that’s how we started collecting space hardware. The Cosmosphere was the right place — a big building in the midwest— and the right time — the late 1970s. The era was a strange time for space exploration: it was after the Apollo program, but before the Space Shuttle. The Smithsonian Air and Space museum opened in Washington, DC in 1976, and I get the sense that a whole bunch of space artifacts that didn’t make the cut for that museum ended up in Hutchinson. Shannon Whetzel: The Smithsonian and NASA… they want to get stuff… I say stuff… artifacts, priceless artifacts out for the public to see everywhere. Maybe also that’s a sign of their success, that they’ve gotten into the Midwest and it’s been a priority. And we are so grateful to the Smithsonian I don’t know if you noticed how many of our exhibits have Smithsonian labels. I believe we are the only Smithsonian affiliate in Kansas. Looking carefully at the collection, you also see another pattern: hardware from missions that didn’t go exactly as planned. There’s a heavily damaged Mercury boilerplate capsule from the Mercury-Atlas 1 mission. There’s Liberty Bell 7, another Mercury Capsule that was the US’s second human spaceflight mission in 1961 -- the Astronaut survived, but the capsule sank into the ocean and wasn’t recovered until 1999. And then there’s the Apollo 13 Command Module, Odyssey, which was restored and added to the museum in 1995. Shannon Whetzel: I think at the end of the Apollo 13 mission, the astronauts were home safe, it was fantastic, but I think it was viewed more as a failure than a success. So yes, Apollo 13 was display in France for a while, it wasn’t viewed as something that should be in the States as much. And then our guys restored it. I can’t imagine any museum turning away the Apollo 13 Command Module today. But it is the Cosmosphere’s ethos to say yes to an unwanted, unrestored artifact -- even if that artifact is sitting under water, or somewhere in France. They see the investment in recovery and restoration as well worth the effort to add to their collection. And that’s what makes the museum so notable today. But there’s also a point that the museum is making with the collection as a whole: space exploration is as much about the failures as about the successes. Shannon Whetzel: I believe Apollo 13 had come up with that contingency plan before, it wasn’t on the fly. And in a way it was testing their contingency plan. And it went wonderfully. They got home safely. Shannon Whetzel: We discuss a lot now about how it seems in our culture that there’s a fear of failure. We are afraid to fail. Or if something doesn’t work the first time, that means that that idea should be discarded. And I think that that’s not what got us to the moon. That’s not what made our space program successful. Without meaning to, that’s become one of our catch phrases around here. We don’t want our campers, our students to be afraid to fail. But the collection isn’t just made up of American space hardware. The Cosmosphere also boasts the largest collection of Sovet space artifacts anywhere outside of Russia. And this fills in the sizeable gaps of how most other space museums present the Space Race. The Cosmosphere team, which included Patty Carey, started obtaining Sovet Space hardware in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Shannon Whetzel: Again, right place at the right time. The Sovet Union was crumbling, they were looking to get rid of their artifacts, we worked through a broker, and we were able to obtain them. And they are part of our collection. They are loaned pieces. Why the decision to try to collect them? Why didn’t other museums try to, in the same way that you did? Shannon Whetzel: I think that our early leaders were very visionary in what we could become and realized in a sense that we were only telling half the story. Half of the Space Race gallery is colored red and filled with Soviet space objects and text about the Soviet human spaceflight program, and the other half is blue, telling the American story. Shannon Whetzel: I think that our gallery is set up particularly well in the sense that you get the comparison. We split the gallery so you can get the sense of this is what’s going on in the Sovet Union at the time, this is what the Americans were doing. So I think our gallery does a very good job of comparing the two-- Mercury and Vostok are right beside each other. The effect is striking -- the Cosmosphere is not a design museum, but by putting the artifacts from two different superpowers close to one another, you get an appreciation for the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the industrial design -- compare the design language of the Lunokhod Moon Rover, on display at the museum, with Amercian Mars rovers that Americans might be more familiar with, and you can see the different ways each program approached the problems of surviving in space, even without the color coordination. Whetzel’s favorite Soviet artifact is the Lunasphere, a copy of a soccer-ball shaped device carried by Luna 2, whose only purpose was to cover its crash-landing site on the moon with little pendents embossed with images of the hammer and sickle. Shannon Whetzel: The Soviets send the Lunasphere, and it’s just a small ball that upon landing, it has a small explosive in it and all of these, our gallery calls them Cosmic Calling Cards go all over the surface of the moon. What a nice little metaphors for the cold war -- what a stick in the eye. Whetzel also said that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to teach younger generations about the political context of the Space Race. After all, it’s been 30 years since the Berlin wall fell. Shannon Whetzel: It is very difficult to explain the cold war. First of all they didn’t live through it, I don’t know if you did. It wasn’t black and white, there was so much grey, and I think that’s the difficult part. Especially, you’ve seen our gallery, it’s pretty big, a 45 minute tour down there you just barely make it to the shuttle, and that’s if you’re rushing. It’s difficult to portray those ideas in a short amount of time to a younger audience. No matter what you do, historically it gets wrapped up nice and neat. As we change here on earth, so too does the way we teach the story of spaceflight. Whetzel gave me an example of the list of items humans have left on moon -- a list that includes everything from the propagandistic Lunasphere pendants to actual trash left by the Apollo astronauts. Shannon Whetzel: I did a tour with our campers the other day, we do a collections tour, and I was telling them, and they were appalled. I was like, wow, the generational difference. They were appalled, they were like, “we trashed the moon”? And I was like, “we did.” This is one of the reasons I will always keep coming back to space museums. The environmental consciousness that the Apollo program itself sparked by its images of a tiny, fragile, borderless earth, now gets the chance to reevaluate Apollo anew. And that is just one of the ways that the Cosmosphere, free from a specific location, can tell the story of human space exploration better than a site-specific museum. Visiting the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston, Texas, visitors learn about how that site played a role in the larger Apollo missions. Visiting the Parkes Observatory in Australia, you can learn about how the radio telescope was instrumental in broadcasting the famous image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon to the world. But the Cosmosphere allows visitors to take a step back. This has been Museum Archipelago.
Akomawt is a Passamaquoddy word for the snowshoe path. At the beginning of winter, the snowshoe path is hard to find. But the more people pass along and carve out this path through the snow during the season, the easier it becomes for everyone to walk it together. endawnis Spears (https://www.akomawt.org/about-us.html) (Diné/ Ojibwe/ Chickasaw/ Choctaw) is director of programming and outreach for the Akomawt Educational Initiative (https://www.akomawt.org). She saw a need to supply regional educators with the tools to implement competent education on Native history and Native contemporary issues. She co-founded the Initiative with Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) and Dr. Jason Mancini to make those tools. In this episode, Spears talks about the different between living culture and sterile museum artifacts, her discussion at Untold Stories 2019: Indigenous Futures and Collaborative Conservation (https://www.untoldstories.live/mohegan-sun-2019) about how Native narratives are violently presented through a white lens in museums, and the potential for museums to disrupt that for many visitors. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 68. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] endawnis Spears: “For many indigenous people, we are looking for ways to engage our culture at all places at all times. And for me and for many other Native people, it happens to be in the realm of museums.” endawnis Spears focuses on engaging with her culture within the realm of museums precisely because museums violently separate her culture from a living context. endawnis Spears: [Introduction in Diné] endawnis Spears: [Translation] Hello, I’m endawnis Spears, and I am Yucca-fruit-strung-out-in-a-line clan. I’m born from the Ojibwe people. My maternal grandfather’s from the Tangleclan, and my paternal grandfather is from the Choctaw/Chickasaw people. I’m the director of programming and outreach for the Akomawt Educational Initiative. endawnis Spears co founded the Akomawt Educational Initiative in 2018 with Chris Newell and Dr. Jason Mancini. The Initiative was born out of their experiences in museum and classroom education across present-day New England. They saw a need to supply regional educators with the tools to implement competent education on Native history and Native contemporary issues. They created the Initiative to build those tools. endawnis Spears: The word Akomawt is a Passamaquoddy word for the snowshoe path. One of our co-founders, Chris Newell, is a Passamaquoddy, and he recommended this term as a defining a part of our Initiative. In [the] Passamaquoddy world, snowshoe pass at the beginning of the wintery season is hard to find. It’s hard to walk on, but the more people pass along this path and carve out this path through the snow during the season, the easier it becomes for everyone to walk it together. And we see that as part of our mission and part of the work that we’re trying to do, part of the guiding principles for our work, that we are looking to add to that educational experience for people we are living with and amongst here in what is present day New England because we are all going on the same direction, and the more information and the more culturally accurate and respectful and historically accurate information we are working with, then the easier it is for our children, for our grandchildren. And when I say our, I mean native people, but I also mean non-native people, and so I mean our neighbors and our allies that we live and make lives with here in the present day United States. The Initiative focuses on what is called Sites of Knowledge. These include K-12 schools, universities, and museums. But as Speares describes, the notion of slioed sites of knowledge is a western idea, poorly suited to the work that they do. Instead, The Akomawt Educational Initiative seeks to employ knowledge at all places at all times—something that museums as they exist today fail to do. endawnis Spears: In our traditional communities, in our native communities, there was no place that you would go to learn and to gain the authority on one particular place and then leave that place and not employ that knowledge someplace else or not see the connection between one place and another, so to go to a museum, and this is the authority, and this is where you learn about this, and then you exit the museum, and that knowledge is no longer useful to you as you go about your daily life, that concept of siloing knowledge and siloing our understandings of the world is a foreign one to this continent. Spears shared a striking example of this at Untold Stories 2019: Indigenous Futures and Collaborative Conservation, the closing session of the American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference. She showed an image of a Haudenosaunee cradleboard, as presented in the Detroit Art Institute. It is completely divorced from context and certainly doesn’t feel lived in, in typical museum conservation fashion. She compares this with an image of the cradleboard that held her as a child and has securely held all four of her children. The ties on the cradleboard are ceremonially re-tied for each child — representing a continuity in the material world, that is nowhere to be found in the museum. endawnis Spears: If you came into my house right now, you would see all of the cradleboards from when I was a baby that were made for me, which I have a few. And then the cradleboards that we had made for our children, my husband and I’s children. They are placed up on the wall. They’re displayed on our wall as beautiful art, as part of our family and part of our heritage. The difference between that and a museum is that we keep pieces of that baby’s experience within the cradleboard, so we keep a blanket in one of them. We put them up on the wall to remind us of that time, that special time with our son or our daughter. And so these are instances where the cradleboard is referring back to a specific child in a specific place in a specific emotional life of our family. Spears uses The difference between her cradleboards in her own home and how they would be treated in a museum collection to illustrate the difference between living collections and ethnographic objects. And I think when we look at cradleboards within museum collections, all of that is ripped away. All of that is stripped, and that stripping of those experiences and the spiritual and emotional life of that piece is a violent one, and it’s a very apt representation of what colonialism is, that we are going to take this, and we are going to rip it away from its relationship with you and make it only relevant in its relationship to us, the colonizers, and that’s the story that gets honored. That’s the story that’s more important, and that is a violent story, and it’s one of domination, and so when we go into museums, and we see items that have a lived relationship with us, within our communities, within our homes, we see them on display as ethnographic objects. That is a reminder that our understanding of our own material culture is not the one that is important. To prevent the continued violent ripping of the emotional life that object collections represent, the Initiative offers a range of educational support services and educational programming across present-day New England. And part of that is making sure certain words remain problematized. endawnis Spears: We don’t like to use the term New England unproblematized. This is not problematic. Everyone calls it New England. This is OK. We sanction this term. We don’t want to use any terms that place American western understandings of our places and our culture and our communities in reference to Europe, in this case England. Some of the services offered by the Initiative take the form of outreach programming like, “Understanding Cultural Appropriation”, or guided tours like, ​”Lessons in Radical Feminism From the Fourteenth Century” at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. The Initiative also offers consulting services, providing museums, historical societies, and cultural institutions with socially just and accurate historic information and the means with which to interpret Native collections and themes with and for Native communities. endawnis Spears: We get to go to museums across southern present day New England and, again, look at exhibits critically. There are many museums in the area that are starting to form Native American advisory panels, and who sits on those panels is so important. I think one thing that Akomawt really is very good at is we are also part of the native communities here in the northeast, so I’m from these other tribes, but I married a Narragansett and all of my children are also Narragansett, which is a federally recognized tribe here in Rhode Island. And so I do have buy-in into this community, into the wellbeing or the representation of my children’s community. Knowing how inaccurately museums portray your own culture, or cultures you’re familiar or interment with, how does that change how you visit museums where you don’t know much about the culture being presented? endawnis Spears: I think that for me to say that I’m always aware of that when I go into a museum is not completely accurate, that native people, even though we know that this has been done to us, we still look to some of these institutions as places of knowledge. And I think that when I go into a museum to learn about something, there is always that question of, how did this get here? Whose was it? Who made it, but really why did they make it? What is this object’s life outside of here? And I think that I’m not always asking that question all the time, but that is a question that’s there at the back of my mind. And I think that the more that museums can bring these disembodied pieces back to a body, the better I would relate to it as a native person and as an indigenous person. I think that there’s definitely a duality at play for me when I go into a museum. It’s conflictual. There are some newer museums that deliberately define their primary audience as members of a Native Nation. An example that just opened in Minnesota is the Hoċokata Ti (the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s new cultural center). There’s a touchscreen interactive media piece there that protects some information behind a code that only Nation-members know. How can practices like these change how museums have presented themselves for centuries? endawnis Spears: That is so interesting because it asks the question, who is the primary recipient of what we’re giving in this space? Who are we pointing this space towards? Who is the orientation point? And that doesn’t mean that there can’t be other people in the space learning from that or watching that process. I think that as museums grapple with their colonizing past and the role that they played in colonizing Turtle Island, the world, being in bed with imperialism, I think that as the museum field grapples with that history, we are going to start to see museums as places where practice can be on display, so in the sense that there is an orientation towards this tribal nation. This is who we are speaking to, but the museum can point out or put on display the fact that this practice is being followed and people are in a museum using the actual practice. The museum is speaking very directly to the practice, very blatantly using language and terminology and saying, “We have a certain group that we are prioritizing here. We want you to learn in this space, but you are not the thing that this museum revolves around,” and that in and of itself is an educational experience. Sometimes it’s good to be disruptive in that way and that museums can be a disruptive force in that process by saying that their orientation is towards this particular community and not towards the over-culture. And I think it’s really important for white visitors to museums in a very comfortable space. They know how to interact with museums. They know how to interact with exhibits that reaffirm what they were already thinking before they went into the building. I think to disrupt that experience can be really interesting and really important, and I think that museums have an opportunity to be a really interesting disruptive tool in that process. The Akomawt Educational Initiative lives at https://www.akomawt.org/. There, you can find a list of resources from a “guide to indigenous terminology” to readings and books organized by grade level. You can also see a list of classes and services that the initiative offers across present-day New England. You can watch Spears in the complete proceedings of Untold Stories 2019 at untold stories dot live. Information is also available for the 2020 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah called, PRESERVING CULTURAL LANDSCAPES. This has been Museum Archipelago.
Cité de l'Espace (https://en.cite-espace.com/) in Toulouse, France is a museum in the middle. It is in the middle of France’s Aerospace Valley (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerospace_Valley) and the European Space Industry. But it is also geographically in the middle of the two competing superpowers in the Space Race that ended with Apollo 11. From its vantage point in the middle, Cité de l'Espace has its own story to tell. The museum features a mix of Soviet and American space hardware, like an American Apollo lunar module and a Soviet Soyuz capsule. The museum also features an extentive collection of French-made space hardware. In this episode commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, I visit Cité de l'Espace to see their preparations for “Apollo Day,” discuss a museum on the lunar surface (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/32), and see how the Space Race is presented from the middle. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 67. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] All over the city of Toulouse, France, on buses and on the streets, there are ads featuring a smiling moon with an American astronaut reflected in its sunglasses. [Audio of Toulouse radio ad] Apollo Day is the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing — the first and for now, only time humans have made it to another celestial body — hosted by the Cite de l’Espace museum in Toulouse. [Audio of Toulouse radio ad] Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus anchoring what is known as Aerospace Valley — a cluster of engineering and research centers in the heart of France. Like the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex featured in episode 64, the museum also has aspects of themed attractions, but unlike most space museums in the United States, the museum presents hardware and content from multiple space agencies around the world, taking a more global approach to the history and future of space exploration. This could be because, in addition to being the Centre of the European aerospace industry, the museum and the rest of France sit in the middle: physically in the middle of the two competing superpowers in the Space Race that ended with Apollo 11. NASA, the American Space Administration, and the Soviet Space Program are both well represented here. The museum features a mix of Soviet and American space hardware, like an American lunar module, and a Soviet Soyuz capsule. And the mix of Russian and American is also present in more subtle ways too: in a planetarium show, an animated “James the Penguin and Vladimir the Bear” guide visitors through the night sky. [Audio from planetarium show: “Vladimir, you’re a surprising bear!”] I was keen to visit Cite de l’Espace because my family also sits in the middle of the Space Race. My mom, who is Bulgarian, remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon landing as a kid on TV from behind the iron curtain. She says news about humanity’s achievement was broadcast in Bulgaria, but with an air of disinterested detachment. The adults she was watching the broadcast with knew better than to celebrate. My dad, who is American, remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon landing at his home in Wisconsin: everyone around him was interested and, of course, openly excited. From its vantage point in the middle, Cite de l’Espace has its own story to tell. The story of the Apollo landings is presented here with all the excitement of an American space museum, if a little less patriotic. One obvious difference was the date: when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, it was 8:56pm Houston time on July 20th, 1969, but in France it was almost 4am on July 21st. There’s something charming about accounting for timezone changes on a place like the moon, but I wonder if that’s the reason why the museum’s Apollo Day is July 21st, when I have always learned the moonwalk began on July 20th. Cite de l”Espace did not answer my request for comment, but the exhibit text says that French children were awoken in the middle of the night to watch the moonwalk. In the galley, footage of the moonwalk was interspersed with footage of people watching from all over the world, including Sydney, Australia and Paris, France. In the gallery about the Apollo missions, I watched a museum presentation of earth-moon comparisons for children called Meeting Moon. The focus was on physics: a demonstration of what it would it would feel like to lift a heavy object on the earth and then the moon. But the presentation was rooted in the Apollo Project, referencing specific missions and even the experiences of individual astronauts. The finale of the presentation was as feat of coordination by one of the child volunteers. They were strapped into a harness that simulated moon-like conditions, and were asked to erect an American flag in a hole in the carpeted lunar surface… [Audio of room noise] Which they finally managed to do. [Audio of the room applauding] The presenters noted that the United States was the only country to land humans on the moon so far. [Audio from gallery] I like the optimism of the “so far.” Even if the next enterprise to land on the moon is American, the United States won’t be the only country there for too long. The museum has a temporary exhibit called “Moon, Episode II” (presumably Episode I was the Apollo missions), which presents some of the challenges, and proposes some solutions to going back to the moon. Each of the solutions presented did not rely on national agencies, but simply human ingenuity. Cite de l’Espace is not designed for an American or Russian audience. Instead, the museum is the showcase of space achievements in general and French contributions to those achievements in particular. The biggest thing in the museum is an Ariane 5 rocket, a human-ready launch vehicle designed by the French Space Agency that accounts for 60% of global satellite launches. You can get a bite to eat at La Terrasse guanaise, a reference to French Guiana, an overseas department of France, where European rockets are launched because of the department’s proximity to the equator. But while I was there, the museum was making its final preparations for Apollo Day: moving a lunar module to a special location in the middle of the open air part of the museum, all to get ready to celebrate not just an American achievement, but a human one. One of the young visitors also curious about the preparations was wearing a tee shirt with Yuri Gagarin’s face on it. Gagarin, the first person in space, flew on a Soviet rocket only eight years before the moon landings. The modified version of that rocket is also on display not far away. In a video in the Moon episode II gallery, the narrator notes that the boot prints around the Apollo 11 landing site are still there, untouched just as the astronauts left them, ready for humans to visit again. Cite de l’Espace has nothing to say on the topic of a museum at the site of the landing — a project regular listeners know I want to help develop when the time comes. I hope that future museum at the Apollo 11 landing site is a little like Cite de l’Espace. I hope that it doesn’t just feature the American story, but instead features the mix of countries presented here that lead to the achievement. So, whether you celebrate on July 20th or 21st, I wish you a happy Apollo Day. This has been Museum Archipelago. [Outro]
The most-visited room in the most-visited science museum in the world reopened last week after a massive, five year renovation (https://extinctmonsters.net/2019/06/14/deep-time-is-a-masterpiece/). Deep Time, as the new gallery is colloquially known, is the latest iteration of the Fossil Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. It might not seem like much in geologic time, but the Smithsonian Fossil Hall has been welcoming visitors for more than 100 years. Over those years, the dinosaur bones and other fossils—even some individual specimens—have remained at the center, even as the museum presentation around them has changed dramatically. You can measure the change by the different names of the hall through time. What is today Deep Time first opened in 1911 with a different name: The Hall of Extinct Monsters. In this episode, we’re going back in time through the iterations of the Fossil Hall with Ben Miller (https://extinctmonsters.net), an exhibitions developer at the Field Museum in Chicago. From its opening as The Hall of Extinct Monsters in 1911, to renovations in the 1960s and 1980s, to the forceful climate crisis message of 2019’s Deep Time gallery, the Smithsonian Fossil Hall has answered life’s biggest questions. This is the story of how museum workers shrugged off their “cabinet of curiosity” roots and embraced education-oriented exhibits like what we see in the gallery today. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an episode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 66. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Audio of Deep Time gallery] This is the most visited room in the most visited science museum in the world — the east wing of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. It’s the Fossil Hall, known simply as “the place with the dinosaurs.” Today is just a few days after its 2019 grand-reopening. For the past five years, this room was closed to visitors, undergoing a massive renovation. The new gallery is called Deep Time after the concept of geologic time. Deep Time reflects our current best understanding of life on earth. The dinosaurs in the hall are presented as part of the larger story of evolution: the gallery is punctured by prominent black pillars marking extinction events like the End-Permian Extinction, the End-Cretaceous Extinction that killed all non-avian dinosaurs, and our devastation of life today. It might not seem like much in geologic time, but this room has been welcoming visitors as a museum gallery for over 100 years. Over those years, the dinosaur bones and other fossils have remained at the center as the museum presentation around them has changed dramatically to keep with our understanding of the world. You can measure the change by the different names of the hall through time. What is today Deep Time first opened in 1911 with a different name: The Hall of Extinct Monsters. Ben Miller: It was this great big, open neoclassical space with a skylight three stories up. There was a handful of mounted skeletons of dinosaurs and other animals on pedestals in the middle of the floor, some smaller fossil cases lining the walls. It was very reflective of paleontology in museums at the time, in that paleontologists were concerned with taxonomy and with classifying known forms of life, but they weren’t really concerned about, say, the behavior of those animals, or the ecosystems they fit into. From its opening as the Hall of Extinct Monsters in 1911, to renovations in the 1960s and 1980s, to the new Deep Time gallery today, the Smithsonian Fossil Hall has answered life’s biggest questions. This story is not just a story of life on this planet but also the story of our changing understanding of how we fit into it. Today we’re going back in time through the iterations of the fossil hall with exhibitions developer Ben Miller. Ben Miller: Hello my name is Ben Miller and I’m an exhibitions developer at the Field Museum in Chicago. Before that, I worked for the park commission in Maryland. I was putting together Dinosaur Park. That’s largely my career at this point. Miller writes a blog about the history and artistry of paleontology exhibits in museums called, fittingly, Extinct Monsters dot net. When the Hall of Extinct Monsters opened in 1911, the building that is now the National Museum of Natural History was called the United States National Museum. The hall, with various fossils scattered around the room, generally resembled a classic “cabinet of curiosity” approach to exhibit design. Ben Miller: “Certainly museum workers of the time, particularly at the Smithsonian, they were considering exhibitions as showrooms for the collections, rather than having any particular public educational function.” In other words, there was no overarching story — the exhibit wasn’t telling the story of life, it was just saying, ‘here are some cool fossils.” Ben Miller: That’s always the first thing that is conceived of when one’s putting together an exhibition today is what the story is. At the time, this was a showroom for the collections. There wasn’t any kind of narrative that was considered. They were certainly adding new specimens over the course of the first half of the 20th century, including the biggest thing in there, the Diplodocus, the big, long-necked dinosaur went in in the early thirties. But, the basic architecture of that space remained pretty much the same. It just got more and more crowded. Diplodocus remains in the hall to this day, forming an impressive set-piece in Deep Time. The Hall of Extinct Monsters persisted largely unchanged until 1962, when it was finally renovated as part of a Smithsonian-wide modernization project. Ben Miller: In the 50s and the early ‘60s, the Smithsonian went through this modernization project. The US National Museum and all the other components of the Smithsonian, they were looking at overhauling all these older exhibits and bringing in more a visitor-centric focus to those spaces. The Dinosaur Hall and the adjacent halls got renovated. This was a project led primarily by Ann Karras, who was the exhibit designer at the time. She had a hand at rewriting some of the labels, re-organizing the different fossils that were on display, to put them into a story that the general public would be able to follow moving through that space. They also changed the aesthetics quite a bit, which to me, it was a bit of a downgrade. They got rid of all this gorgeous neoclassical design, the big skylight on the ceiling. They boarded up all the windows, put in dingy brown, wall-to-wall carpeting. Yeah, that’s what the exhibition looked like. The most polite way to describe the dingy brown carpeting would be, “earth tone”. When doing the renovation, workers realized that the largest mount, Diplodocus, was too difficult to disassemble and move, so the new exhibit was designed around it. Still, the exhibit was evolving. Ben Miller: It was partially still based on taxonomy. There was a room for reptiles, a room for mammals, a room for fishes. But, they were bringing in the story of life over time and the evolution of life over time, so, which organisms came first, which came later. There was definitely a tone of progress, that was more in vogue at that time, than you would really see in a modern take on the history of life. The next set of renovations took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Those renovations, known as “The History of Life” followed the evolutionary progression of fossils, plants and animals through time. Ben Miller: I think the turning point was in 1974, when they did the Hall of Ice Age Mammals and the Rise of Man. That exhibit was, rather than being based on taxonomy or the structure of the collections, it was this integrated story that drew on paleontology and anthropology and climatology and geology, bringing in different curators and different experts, as well as exhibit designers, to tell this cohesive, collaborative story about what the Ice Ages were like. That dovetailed a bit with the reorganization of the paleontologists at the museum at the time into what’s now known as the Department of Paleobiology. They were more interested in the life and evolution of these animals. I think everyone knew at the time that that was going to be the future, this integrative approach, telling a story about a particular point in time or bringing together a particular narrative was going to be what exhibitions were going to be in the future. That was what drove the renovations throughout the whole east wing for the rest of the century. They continued on to the spaces where the dinosaurs were and around them and eventually finished in 1991 with the Ancient Seas Gallery. It wasn’t always easy. There were some points of tension between this old guard of curators and the new professionalism and greater voices of authority in the project that the exhibitions department was having. But, ultimately, people were seeing these exhibits as something that existed more for the public, rather than being a showroom for the collections. It’s also the version of the exhibit that Miller remembers visiting as a youngster growing up in the DC area. Ben Miller: I’m not sure when I started going, probably around 1990, and there were still a few changes after that.I was maybe two or three years old, so I don’t really know how deeply I was thinking about it. This was probably the first dinosaur exhibit I went to, so it was just the place to see dinosaurs, I didn’t really have a point of comparison, and got to know all of those specimens very well, going to see them year after year after year. What I think was always very clear is that space was at the mercy of its history, and that this had been a series of partial renovations over the course of decades and decades. There were some tight corridors. There were a lot of false walls boxing people in, leading to dead ends and cul-de-sacs. That was just the result of continuing to add new things and new partial renovations to a space that wasn’t really built for that. They added the cast of T. rex around 2000. But, that version of the exhibit, it stuck around for quite some time. The gallery was restricted in part by the story it was telling, guiding visitors through time in a maze-like fashion, making it difficult from a visitor flow perspective to go backwards, particularly with the visitor numbers as high as they were. This is also the version of the gallery that Miller studied when, later, he worked as an intern at the Smithsonian. Ben Miller: I was working with the Paleobiology Department and, later, with the Education Departments, and one of the things I was doing was visitor research, interviews with visitors there about: how they understood the history of life on earth, how they conceived of the great expanses of time, what they thought about the presentation of evolution in the gallery, and that sort of thing. I hope that that little contribution I made was helpful in eventually conceiving the hall as they did. This series of renovations from the 70s and 80s lasted all the way to 2014 — when the hall was closed for the renovations that ultimately became Deep Time. What makes Deep Time so exciting was that it was by far the most complete renovation since the hall first opened in 1911. And that meant the possibility to completely rethink fundamental assumptions about the way the story of life on earth was presented. That meant stripping the entire gallery of the “earth-tone” carpet, and clearing away all the false walls and cul-due sacks that had made the renovations in the 1980s so claustrophobic. Ben Miller: They had this opportunity to take everything out and start over from the beginning, which I’m very jealous of as a museum professional. Usually, you’re just building on decades and decades of what already exists and trying to fit your new story in. They wanted to bring back that historic architecture. I imagine that also has something to do with the visitorship that the Smithsonian gets. That’s one of the most highly visited museums in the world. They get 8 million people every year. When they plan exhibitions, they really have to think about getting those crowds through the space. I imagine that to that end is part of why it’s such an open exhibit, that you can explore at your own pace and go in different ways instead of going along a predetermined route. Deep Time presents the story of life on earth and that includes drastic changes in climate. The gallery does a good job of presenting anthropogenic climate change against the backdrop of previous, much slower changes. The people who made the exhibit have made it hard to visit the museum without contemplating the climate crisis and our role in creating it. Project manager for Deep Time, Siobhan Starrs, says that while people come for the dinosaurs, “they’re get get a lot more than dinosaurs.” Ben Miller: They were able to really start from square one, what do we want people to think about when they think about the history of life on earth? What they landed on was they really wanted to bring the human story into that, to show that we, as people today, were part of the evolution of life. We’re not separate from it, and everything we see in the world today is something that has a story and has roots in the long history in deep time, as the exhibit is called. I think orienting the exhibition around the extinctions seems like a really good move, as you said, because it connects to the modern story about humans causing extinction today, and, also, because, these extinctions are checkpoints in the history of life where everything changed One of the exhibits that helps visitors think on a deep time scale is an animated interactive media piece called “Your Body Through Time,” which illustrates early instances of characteristics found in our bodies like bilateral symmetry and lungs, and how they evolved in our ancestors. And the presentation of the fossils themselves is dynamic—very much a departure from the taxonomical presentation when the room was simply “the hall of extinct monsters.” Ben Miller: I know something that was important to the curators was to show the skeletons as animals. They went through the process of disarticulating all of their mounted skeletons, conserving them, and putting them back together in poses that show different kinds of behavior, not just eating and killing each other, as you see in a lot of newer exhibits. But, they’re doing things like sleeping and guarding eggs. There’s even a mammoth in there, that’s using its tusks to clear snow off the grass. All sorts of really interesting behaviors that bring new life to these creatures and really show them as living, thinking beings that once existed. The re-imagined exhibit is also arranged in reverse chronological order: visitors start among mammoths and ground sloths of more recent history and move backward in time through increasingly alien-looking versions of North America, until ultimately encountering the earliest life. This reorientation also means visitors enter the gallery in the middle of a human-caused mass extinction event already in progress — the same way we enter any place on earth. Ben Miller: I think it’s a very novel approach to start in the present day and move back. I think most exhibitions, they have started with the origins of life and moved forward. It will be really interesting to see how folks react to going back in time. Certainly from an aesthetic perspective, I think it’s very clever, because you can put your big, impressive ground sloths and mastodons at the front and really show people something really cool. Ben Miller: Whereas if you start with the origins of life, you’re starting in a room full of really old stromatolites and rocks and hell scenes of what the earth looked like then. You’re kind of hiding what the big show is, which is going to be your skeletons of dinosaurs and so forth. It will be interesting to see how people respond to that.
Everything decays. In the past, human heritage that decayed slowly enough on stone, vellum, bamboo, silk, or paper could be put in a museum—still decaying, but at least visible. Today, human heritage is decaying on hard drives. Sarah Nguyen (https://twitter.com/snewyuen), a MLIS student at the University of Washington, is the project coordinator of Preserve This Podcast (http://preservethispodcast.org/), a project and podcast of the same name that proposes solutions to fight against the threats of digital decay for podcasts. Alongside archivists Mary Kidd and Dana Gerber-Margie (https://twitter.com/theaudiosignal), and producer Molly Schwartz, Nguyen advocates for Personal Digital Archiving (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_archiving), the idea that for the first time, your data is under your control and you can archive it to inform future history. Personal archiving counters the institutional gatekeepers who determined which data and stories are worth preserving. In this episode, Nguyen cautions that preserving culture digitally comes with its own set of pitfalls, describes the steps that individuals can do to reduce the role of chance in preserving digital media, and why automatic archiving tools don’t properly contextualize. Image (left to right): Mary Kidd, Sarah Nguyen, Molly Schwartz, Dana Gerber-Margie, and Lyra Gerber-Margie Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an epsiode. Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly. Join the Club for just $2/month. Your Club Archipelago membership includes: Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show; Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door; A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast. Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 65. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript Everything is in a constant state of decay. In the past, human heritage that decayed slowly enough on stone, vellum, bamboo, silk, or paper could be put in a museum — still decaying, but at least visible. And today, human heritage is rotting on hard drives. The entire internet, everything from social media to Wikipedia, is stored on hard drives on anonymous computer, waiting for the inevitable, and not-too-distant day when they will just wear down and stop working… heritage lost forever to the sands of time. But there is one potentially beneficial loophole to digital heritage as compared to non-digital heritage: digital files can be copied. They can be copied again and again and again, perfectly every time. The path between past and future for a digital file is to hop from one storage to another every few years in an unbroken chain: staying one step ahead of digital decay. Digital copies aren’t like a Xerox of a Xerox which just becomes unreadable over time do to increasing noise. And best of all, making a digital copy doesn’t destroy the original. Sarah Nguyen: Wax cylinders there, you can only do it so many times. Or then the grooves we’ll be inaccurate after playing it. But then within the digital interface, because it’s so easy to pick up and throw away, that’s where it becomes even a higher risk of deterioration and loss within the file. This is Sarah Nguyen, the project coordinator of Preserve This Podcast, a project that proposes solutions to fight against the threats of digital decay for podcasts. She cautions that preserving culture digitally, while having some advantages over other mediums, comes with its own set of pitfalls. Sarah Nguyen: Hello, I’m Sarah Nguyen. I am the project coordinator for preserve this podcast. So alongside the two archivists, Mary Kidd and Dana Gerber-Margie, and our producer, Molly Schwartz. Currently I am an MLIS student at University of Washington, so I kind of get to bring in the current readings of what people are talking about within preservation or within file formats. Preserve this Podcast is a tiny and delightfully meta podcast called, Preserve this Podcast, and it is accompanied by an equally-delightful zine, detailing what you can do to prevent digital decay. The founders saw the podcast industry booming, and wanted to teach independent culture producers who aren’t operating as part of new large, podcast companies, how to keep control of their narratives—now and in the future. Sarah Nguyen: So podcasts are notorious for being DIY. People who are independent storymakers audio creators who don’t have an institutional backing. We kind of see Preserve this Podcast as supporting what we call the personal digital archiving: so PDA is the acronym for it. We want to make it so that podcasters are able to be autonomous and have the agency to control their content outside of the digital decay as we call it. Personal digital archiving is the idea that today, individuals, who history might call normal people have the opportunity to preserve via digital methods. In the past, it was only the rulers or the vastly wealthy who could take control of their own data. This is the first time in human history that your data have a good chance to be archived. Sarah Nguyen: That’s why this whole kind of subprogram of personal digital preservation has been this movement. I think it’s like once a year or twice a year, there is like a PDA conference host at various institutions around the US, where it kind of just talks about what are low barrier to entry practices that people can use to archive their own work because in how the real world works, when you don’t have the luxury of your job being archiving any sort of digital files because you have to like create these things and make sure that there is a return on investment. Artists and creators aren’t really looking to save their work. At the moment in time when you’re creating something, it’s a disruption to actually have to think about “how do I backup and save things?” Because you get on a wave and kind of just want to make it happen. Sarah Nguyen: One of my other part time jobs outside of preserve this preserve this podcast is with a dance company. And when you like just like creating like a piece of work or choreographing a piece while you’re in the dance studio, you’re not also making sure that your file is backed up off this camera off of your iPad or iPhone, you know, after you’ve created it. I will admit it here: I am a hobbyist PDA-er. I have systems that automatically log everything I can about my activity and health to custom spreadsheets. I built a private server that my phone automatically updates my location to several times a minute, so I can always know every museum I’ve ever visited. You can be sure that the file you’re listening to right now will be transcribed and backed up in multiple locations. But according to Nguyen, automatically backing up is only half of what properly archiving actually means. Automatic backups and automatic transcriptions are in some ways making it easier to preserve, but proper achieving is also about contextualizing. So it’s not enough to just record podcasts or my locations as individual entities. I need to contextualize them, too. Sarah Nguyen: And that’s kind of like the biggest one of the bigger bottlenecks of archiving is like are you contextualizing that object, that file correctly so that it’s represented in the correct way? So I think that in certain processing, like the manual side of it potentially is becoming easier, but the more intellectual side of representation and identity of a thing is becoming more difficult because, especially with podcast or almost anything on the internet, Youtube videos, whatever, things are being created at a much faster rate. Many, many hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube every second of every day, and each video is analized by machines looking for patterns. Expecting the machines to contextualize all those hours of content is only going to lock in biases — either mirroring society’s or introducing new ones. Sarah Nguyen: The way that people have perceived libraries, museums and archives is an educational space, right? They think that it’s all fun and fun and interesting and educational versus like having a specific opinionated point of view. The whole point of a podcast is that you have a story, you as an individual have this idea of how the world works and you want to share it. That’s what makes it even more important to be able to assign your own descriptive texts to it so that you ensure that people know what you’re trying to say to them upfront. Sarah Nguyen: So like in our most recent episode with Kaytlin Bailey, who does the Oldest Pro Podcast, she talks about, basically the oldest profession, which is sex work. And like for her to say, you know, specific words within her podcast, it can be misinterpreted completely by Google’s algorithm. Then her podcast could potentially be taken down just because through automatic flagging, they’ll misinterpret it as she’s trying to promote sex work. It strikes me that we are in the middle big shift from archiving tools of the past: now, that archiving is in control of an individual — you! — instead of being left to a third-party like a museum or library. That changes the valence of collections if everyone can take control over their own story. Whether any of this data are going to be useful or interesting to the future is beside the point. By reducing the role of chance, and eliminating the institutional gatekeeper who determines which data and stories are worth preserving, anyone and everyone’s data has a chance inform future history. Sarah Nguyen: We put this under the guise of a PDA, a personal digital archive. Right? So it is up to you if you want to and you feel the need and, and the just want to save your work for the future, it’s under your responsibility. I kind of, that’s kind of where we’re putting it at. It’s kind of like if you want to share your story, then you will go as far to preserve it, versus just handing it off to someone who might preserve it under the wrong context. So I think that it’s important to the point where you as a creator believe it’s important. And so if we can give you all the tools and a step by step guide to do as necessary, we would love for anyone to be able to do it. In the past, museums and libraries would control who got to be collected. The best way forward might not just be to force these institutions to open up, but also bypass them altogether by making the archiving tools accessible to all. Sarah Nguyen: In libraries and archives, there is this whole debate about the archives and libraries are not neutral. We’re not neutral because there is that idea that like, yes, we want to give you the options to have access to all different types of materials, even if it is racist or can be hurtful to someone. But, um, should we, because our, we actually neutral in that way. Like is it going to actually help or is it misinformation at that point? So we want to make sure that within your podcast, when you’re creating it, you’re able to control, uh, so that someone doesn’t misinterpret it in a way. Sarah Nguyen: That’s why we want to give the agency to the creator themselves, not to put it under the onus of someone else. And if this does take off, which we kind of hope it does that like someone will be able to fund an actual server or institution where people will be able to submit it for the long term versus in the generalized, internet archive. First steps are just kind of making it in an accessible way in a zine, a podcast, workshops where people can kind of dip into the waters and feel if it’s important to them and if they want to do it. And then if not, we’re totally fine with that too. Preserve This Podcast can be found wherever podcasts are available — for now. In the final episode, Nguyen and the other hosts acknowledge that accessing their podcast into the future depends on a 301 redirect and remembering to pay server bills. The project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is hosted by the Metropolitan New York Library Council. Preserve This Podcast is also traveling to various workshops and conferences to take podcasters, producers, and audio archivists through their curriculum of archiving podcasts. You can find a full list of where they’re going at PreserveThisPodcast.org.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience, which opened at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennedy_Space_Center_Visitor_Complex) in Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2013 brings visitors “nose to nose” with one of the three remaining Space Shuttle orbiters. The team that built it used principles of themed attraction design to introduce visitors to the orbiter and the rest of the exhibits. Atlantis is introduced linearly and deliberately: visitors see two movies about the shuttle before the actual orbiter is dramatically revealed behind a screen. The orbiter’s grand entrance was designed by PGAV Destinations (https://pgavdestinations.com), whose portfolio includes theme parks and museums. Diane Lochner, a vice president of the company who was part of the architectural design team, says that without that carefully-planned preparation, visitors wouldn’t have the same powerful emotional reaction to the Shuttle. In this episode, Lochner is joined by Tom Owen, another vice president at PGAV Destinations to talk about the visitor experience considerations of the Shuttle Atlantis Experience, whether attractions engineered to create a specific emotional response in visitors are appropriate for museum contexts, and the broader trend of museums taking cues from theme park design. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE), or even email (https://mailchi.mp/6aab38a7b159/museumgo) to never miss an epsiode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 64. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript We’re going to start today’s episode with a thought experiment. Think of a museum. The first museum you think of. What does it look like? Hold that thought. Now think of a theme park? How different do they look from each other? My guess, is pretty different. But the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida has aspects of both. One the one hand, it is a museum—galleries featuring spacecraft, historic launch pads, and a complete Saturn V rocket layed out in an enormous room. But on the other hand, it is a themed attraction—a destination featuring ride-like simulators, themed concession stands, and the new Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience. It’s as if the Complex, only a short drive from Orlando, Florida, is competing for visitors against one of the globe’s most effective themed attractions — Walt Disney World. As it turns out, not everyone everyone mentally separates museums and theme parks so discreetly. Tom Owen: We have a nuanced view about the relationship between entertainment and education This is Tom Owen, a vice president of PGAV Destinations who worked on that new Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience at Kennedy Space Center Tom Owen: Hello. My name is Tom Owen. I’m a Vice President with PGAV Destinations. My background is in theater, scenery and lighting design for theater and so I’ve been able to incorporate that theatrical thinking into my work with museums and zoos and aquariums and theme parks really the entire time I’ve been here. It’s not surprising that someone who works in both museums and theme parks would see similarities between the two. But I am surprised that Owen doesn’t see the world divided between education and entertainment. Tom Owen: I think that entertainment is a great way to educate people. If it was just the dry facts, people would get bored and leave. Entertainment doesn’t diminish education. In fact, I think it often times makes it more effective. Diane Lochner We believe that you can actually learn quite a bit from theme parks and themed attractions. This is Diane Lochner, who is also a vice president of PGAV. She also worked on the Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience. Diane Lochner: “Hello, my name is Diane Lochner. I’m a Vice President at PGAV Destinations. And my background is actually in architecture. I’m a registered architect and have been for 20 plus years. And so my intrigue is the understanding of the built environment, but how that impacts visitors as they’re working their way through attractions and museums. And the Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience can be described as both a themed attraction and a museum. The exhibit, which opened in 2013, features one of the three remaining shuttle orbiters — the white part of U.S. space shuttle system that looks like a giant glider. Lochner and the rest of the design team used principles of themed attraction design to introduce visitors to the orbiter. Diane Lochner: So we made some conscious decisions about how to introduce people to the shuttle itself. So, it’s a very scripted linear experience prior to witnessing the shuttle. And that was intentional because we needed to emotionally prepare the visitors to accept the information that they were going to learn about the shuttle. And we think that’s a critical piece in planning. And so before anybody actually sees the shuttle itself, there was a short pre-show film that gave a little bit of information, mostly about the people that were involved in designing the shuttle. It’s not heavy, it’s not deep, it’s not long. And then they move into another theater that is got a very inspirational film again about the shuttle and the launch and some of the sequence of the process of the shuttle, and then finally at the end of that film, the shuttle is revealed very dramatically. This type of timed control with a required film reminds me of a more recent example: George Washington’s Headquarters Tent displayed at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tent is presented in its own theater with screens and projections. If the tent was simply set up in a gallery without the focused attention, people would just walk right past it. But by making a large production out of it with lights, screens, and sounds, the effect is a viscerally memorable experience. Now back to the Shuttle Atlantis. Diane Lochner: The image on the screen actually aligns with the space shuttle beyond. At the end of the film, the screen actually lifts up and the visitors are presented nose to nose, so to speak, with Space Shuttle Atlantis. So it’s a pretty dramatic presentation relative to meeting Atlantis for the first time. Diane Lochner: It’s really been an interesting thing to watch visitors clap and cry as that screen lifts up and reveals the shuttle. And so in that sense, I think we created that really important preparation so that people were ready to receive the information and start to learn and start their experience at Space Shuttle Atlantis. After the screen dramatically lifts up relieving the orbitor, visitors pass through the hole where the screen used to be and enter the Atlantis display, after which they are free to wander through the entire gallery. The main idea of the gallery is that the U.S. Space Shuttle system was an innovative program, designed to reuse spacecraft so that the frequency of going to space could increase and astronauts get more work done in space. Tom Owen: The main takeaway about the whole shuttle program is the individual orbiters was part of a system and that that whole purpose of that whole shuttle program was working in space. And so we depicted Atlantis as a workhorse. In fact, the way that we chose to display it was up in the air, banked at a dramatic banking and with the payload bay doors open, the telescopic arm deployed just as it would have been at the moment that it was pulling away from the International Space Station. So that that message of Atlantis at work was a powerful image that we wanted to ingrain in the minds of people. Tom Owen: Every exhibit that was designed had to be approved by NASA’s STEM education team. So there was, again, a very strong interest that people learn, but also that the project would inspire the next generation of space exploration. The project wasn’t designed for people that are already space enthusiasts or already knew a lot about space. It was really designed, at least as much or for the most part, for people that we wanted to inspire so that they would become space enthusiasts and maybe maybe take an interest in STEM or maybe even take an interest in a career in the space program. So here’s that middle part of the Venn Diagram, the intersection of a themed attraction and a museum: the Shuttle Atlantis Experience is educational, and it deals with a set of historical events. But it heavily relies on some of the principles of themed attractions to get the point across. Fundamentally, I see themed attractions as engineered to create a specific emotional response in visitors — and through that, they offer an escape from the real world. They are a chance for us to enter a fictional world. “Frontierland”, an “old west”-themed land in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, never actually existed, but clever trick is to make it feel like a lived-in space that has a history. When I am in a fictional world, even the smallest thing that reminds me of the real world takes me out of the illusion. And hilariously, sometimes a theme park will go so far as to put up up fake historical markers and even museums that describe people and events that never happened, but nevertheless lead to what the environment looks like today. But when learning about the real world, I’m not so sure the same strategies apply. The real world is messy, and the study of history, for example, is not fun, and not amusing. In episode 17 of Museum Archipelago, I cover the spectacular failure of a Disney theme park concept called Disney’s America in the early nineties. Disney’s misguided idea would have put a park showcasing [quote] “the sweep of American History” — including the institution of Slavery and the Civil War — within a fun theme park environment just outside Washington, DC. Courtland Milloy, writing in a series of Washington Post editorials about the then planned Disney’s America around 1993, brought out the inherent contradiction of the project merging a fun day out with a view into American history. He writes, “Against a backdrop of a continuing distortion of African American history, which includes awful textbooks and self-induced amnesia about the legacy of slavery, a slave exhibit by Disney doesn’t even sound right.” By contrast the U.S. space program happens to an example of a much less problematic history that, as a result, works displayed in a themed attraction setting -- and one on US. Government property not at Disney World. Being a shuttle astronaut was extremely risky -- of the five shuttle orbiters that have gone to space -- only three of them are still around to display in museums. But nobody become a shuttle astronaut by accident. And since the failed Disney’s America concept, the big theme parks have stayed out of attractions based on real-life histories, or at least relatively recent real life histories. Instead, they have blurred the lines between various destination types by switching modes. Both Owen and Lochner see a world where competition for visitors leads museums to focus more on creating that specific emotional response you find in themed attractions. Diane Lochner: I think that museums are beginning to investigate other attractions relative to continuing to capture more visitors, at least certainly the ones that we're talking to in the most recent projects. They are really beginning to understand that they might have to do some things that are a little more out of their norm relative to appealing to visitors because they still want to make sure that obviously they are achieving their goals relative to educational standards and things like that. But certainly the competition for time has really increased. And so I think, in general, museums are starting to think about different ways of curating the experience for individuals and really beginning to connect to visitors' emotions in different ways. Tom Owen: And even though the objective of Disney may not be for visitors to come and learn something, or at least not to be able to go down a list of facts that they learned about a certain topic, which some of the museum might say is their objective. I think people learn things going to theme parks. For example, if a kid is at a certain age where they've been fearful of roller coasters but they get brave and they decide to get on a roller coaster. They're learning something important about themselves and the fact that they're put into an experience that's really special and over the top and different from their everyday experience, it inspires them and it opens up their world of thinking.
The Museum of Old and New Art (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Old_and_New_Art) opened in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia in 2011. With a name like that, MONA (https://mona.net.au/) could include any type of art. But looking at the collection, it’s clear that its creator, millionaire gambler David Walsh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Walsh_(art_collector)), has a fascination with sex and death -- and bets that the rest of us do too. Walsh himself calls MONA a “subversive adult Disneyland.” The building’s architecture is designed to make you feel lost, and the art is displayed without any labels whatsoever. It’s just you and the art. In this episode, Hobart-based musician Bianca Blackhall (https://www.facebook.com/biancablackhallmusic/) talks about how she’s watched MONA reshape the creative community and art landscape of the island, what makes the museum different from other art museums, and how Hobart is now in “Sauron's Eye of tourism.” This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/tags/tasmania). Over the course of three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an episode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics Discussed 00:00: Intro 00:15: This Month, Museum Archipelago is Taking You To Tasmania 00:47: Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) 01:05: Museum Archipelago on ABC Radio Hobart 01:30: The Way MONA Shapes the Island 01:44: MONA’s Architecture is Designed to Make You Feel Lost 02:42: Bianca Blackhall 03:05: David Walsh 03:50: “A Subversive Adult Disneyland” 04:08: The Holy Virgin Mary 04:13: On the road to heaven the highway to hell 04:29: Cloaca Professional, 2010 04:55: MONA’s Lack of Labels 05:33: “Art Wank” 06:20: Pride in MONA 06:50: “Sauron's Eye of Tourism” 08:20: A Monument to Joyful Secularism 08:43: Join Club Archipelago More ➡️ The Making of MONA by Adrian Franklin Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 63. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript Museums on the Australian island of Tasmania are a microcosm of museums all around the world. They struggle with properly interpreting their colonial past, the exclusion of First People from telling their stories in major museums, and having a large, privately owned art museum reshape a small town. This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania. Over the course of three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Today we visit the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. It’s known as MONA, and it is by far the largest museum in Tasmania… not only by square footage (it’s the largest privately owned art museum in the southern hemisphere), but also by its influence. Helen Shield: If you were hosting an international podcast about museums, where would you spend your precious travel dollars to record? That’s Helen Shield, host of a terrestrial broadcast radio program in Tasmania. Helen Shield: There’s one obvious answer, isn’t there? She’s a Hobart local and she interviewed me about this series. Listen to how she describes the way that MONA shapes the island. Helen Shield: It wouldn’t be a trip to Tasmania without stopping in a museum that has singlehandledled changed tourism and probably the international reputation of this island, stopping in at MONA. MONA, often called the museum of sex and death, opened in Berriedale, a suburb of Hobart in 2011. The building, an enormous bunker out on a peninsula overlooking a river, sneaks up on you as you approach. Once you’re inside -- though a rather small entrance that whisks you underground, the architecture is designed to make you feel lost. There are no signs or directions, so you have to choose your own route. The maze-like paths split in two, with no indication which way you should take, other than which one might seem more attractive to you. Tunnels and stairs -- which don’t always move you up or down by one story -- are not an escape from the disorienting experience -- instead, they might lead you to a tight closterphoic chamber, a lovely cafe overlooking the water, or another massive, previously undiscovered subterranean open space. Bianca Blackhall: I don't think people expected it to have such an impact. It's kind of like a layer. It's very villainous. This is Bianca Blackhall, a Hobart-based musician who has watched MONA reshape the creative community and art landscape of the island. Bianca Blackhall: Hello, my name is Bianca Blackhall. I live in Tasmania. I'm 27 and I'm a musician among other things. The museum is the product of Tasmanian millionaire and art collector David Walsh. Walsh made his fortune by gambling, and Blackhall says that he is a much-talked about figure in Hobart. Bianca Blackhall: He'd be an interesting guest at the dinner table cause he's quite unusual in his manner and that he'd made his money through gambling and he was good with numbers. In his introductions to one of MONA’s past exhibits, Walsh recalled of spending a lot of time in Hobart’s museums as a teenager. Bianca Blackhall: And apparently he used to get dropped off by his parents in town at the museums. And he used to just walk around them all day as a kid and then they'd pick him up again at the night. They’d be like, “come home”. Cause maybe he was, you know, annoying them or whatever at home as a kid. With a name like the Museum of Old And New Art, MONA could pretty much include any type of art. But looking at the collection, it’s clear that David Walsh has a fascination with sex and death -- and bets that the rest of us do too. And, turns out, he’s right. Social animals like us, love thinking about fucking and dying -- and excretion and rot. Walsh himself calls MONA a “subversive adult Disneyland.” There’s The Holy Virgin Mary, a painting created in part with elephant dung. There’s On the road to heaven the highway to hell, in which the remains of a suicide bomber are cast in dark chocolate. There are dead horses and rotting, festering wounds with swarming bugs encased in acrylic. There’s audioanamatornic skeletons fucking. There’s a digestive machine at turns food into feces and stinks up an entire gallery. The art tries to punch you in the gut, and it mostly succeeds in part because there aren’t any descriptive plaques telling you what’s important about the art or how to feel about it. Ian Elsner (on ABC RADIO HOBART): I have to say, I’ve never seen anything like it. Helen Shield: And this from someone who works in, and spends his free time exploring museums. Ian Elsner (on ABC RADIO HOBART): So often we are in the museum world very stressed out by the labeling. We spend hours and hours thinking about what the labels and placards look like next to a piece of art, and so it was it was really refreshing to just go into the museum and see no labels at all. Bianca Blackhall: The wording in normal museums is more clinical, like these two people are it's a copulating and they’re enjoying it. They’re always removing feeling from the equation like, oh, objectively this is this, but moving on. Your only guide to the museum is its inhouse app, called the O. The O will provide some interpretation of the art, but the interpretation is hidden away in a little tab called ARTWANK, which has the icon of a penis. It’s delightful to see art off the pedestal, but Blackhall says that the levity and approach might also be easier for the artists. Bianca Blackhall: I think it's a very uncomfortable thing to be asked to explain. Please explain. You know, that's Pauline Hanson says, and it's like more, how do I say this stuff without being a twit? It's almost like they've made the unconventional the every day, you know, and sometimes, you know, you wander around there and then there'll be people in smocks getting about and you're like, why are they, well, you know, these are these arts smocks. I'm not sure you know what's happening, but it's, so it's like now it's a part of your every day. Do you think for Tasmanians there's a certain amount of pride that it's here? Bianca Blackhall: Definitely, yeah. People have welcomed it with open arms almost. The way people talk about it, they say things like, “MONA, Yup, Yup. Very good.” You know, like in a kind of very, you know, gruff way but like, “oh yeah. Very good. Yup. Going to go down to the big bonfire. With the kids. And it’s good.” MONA has also been well-received by art critics and by tourists visiting from outside Tasmania. As a new destination on the global art tourism circuit, there’s no doubt that the museums has changed Hobart, a city of a quarter million people. Bianca Blackhall: I feel like it partially began with MONA, this Sauron's Eye of tourism. I feel like we’re in the eye. It’s watching us. The world is going, “that little island there”. And it really in in the last year or two, you can feel the new foot traffic. You can really feel it. It’s a little bit… I don't know if we're actually quite got the infrastructure for the amount that we have tourists that we now have. Luckily, MONA I think took responsibility for itself but yeah you can definitely feel… we have cruise ships now coming in and that, I don't know if they even go to minor, but we've had the cruise ships coming in and out. Sometimes there are cruise ship traffic jams where they have to wait out in the bay for the other one to leave before they come in. And yeah, it's changed rapidly in a very short space of time. It's quite shocking.
The displays at the Tiagarra Cultural Centre and Museum (https://tiagarra.weebly.com/) in Devonport, Tasmania, Australia were built in 1976 (https://tiagarra.weebly.com/tiagarra-opening-and-timeline-1975---1979.html) by non-indigenous citizens and scientists without consulting Aboriginal Tasmanians. David Gough (http://www.utas.edu.au/community/naidoc/community-bio-david-gough), chairperson of the Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/434417366698696/) remembers visiting the museum when he was younger and seeing his own culture presented as extinct (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Tasmanians). Today, Gough is the manager of Tiagarra. When he took over, one of the first things he did was put masking tape over the inappropriate and incorrect descriptions and write in the correct information. As Gough explains, racist language covered up and written over by the very people it describes is the perfect metaphor for what Tiagarra was in the past and what it is going to be in the future. On this episode, Gough and fellow Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation board member Sammy Howard give a special tour of the museum, describe using the museum to educate members of their community and the wider public, and discuss the future of Tiagarra (https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Tiagarra+Mersey+Bluff&t=h_&ia=web). This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/tags/tasmania). Over the course of three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an episode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 This Month, Museum Archipelago is Taking You To Tasmania 00:46 Tiagarra Cultural Centre and Museum 01:56 Dave Mangenner Gough 02:53 “To Keep” 03:00 A Brief History and the Importance of Understanding the Past 0438 Tour of the Museum 06:00 Protecting Sites 07:15 Educating the Public About ‘Middens’ 09:20 “A Collection of Hoop-Jumpers” 10:30 Optimism for the Future of Tiagarra 11:35 Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country 12:40 Connecting with Members of First Nations Around the World 13:28 Join Club Archipelago 14:10 Outro Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 62. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] Museums on the Australian island of Tasmania are a microcosm of museums all around the world. They struggle with properly interpreting their colonial past, the exclusion of First People from telling their stories in major museums, and having a large, privately owned art museum reshape a small town. This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania. Over the course of three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Today, we visit Tiagarra Cultural Centre and Museum in Davenport, Tasmania, Australia. The museum is situated on Mersey Bluff, a traditional Aboriginal sacred site, that now hosts a nature trail and a caravan park. The museum was built in 1976 to promote Aboriginal culture and cultural tourism. But the displays were put together by non-indigenous citizens and scientists. David Gough, of the local Devonport/Latrobe Aboriginal community, remembers visiting the museum when he was younger and seeing offensive words on the plaques and on the walls. David Gough: When we were younger and looking at this stuff and thinking, wow, you know, there's words…. really inappropriate words. Talk about about us as no longer a race of people. People have been writing my family and our stories and writing in a way that suited them. They wrote us as savages and nomadic and all these things. They wrote things like we didn't how to make fire, that we were really limited people. But we lived through two ice ages. Today, Gough is the chairperson of the Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation and the manager of Tiagarra. One of the first things he did as manager was put masking tape over those words. David Gough: As soon I got the keys to the door back, I put masking tape over words, this sticky tape there… I put masking tape over really inappropriate words. I’ve written over them like, “beautiful people,” rather than some of the words that were under those and said now we can put ourselves in here, rather than… this place told stories… left us as we don’t exist anymore, because we don’t have our stories in here. Offensive racial language covered up and written over by the very people it describes is the perfect metaphor for what Tiagarra was in the past and what it is going to be in the future. David Gough: Hello, my name is Dave Mangenner Gough. Tiagarra Cultural Centre and Museum Davenport, Tasmania. Tiagarra is an Aboriginal name that means “to keep”. This site is a significant site. Where the caravan park is, just there, was where there was huts and a village. Aboriginal Tasmanians lived in Tasmania for at least 60,000 years: often completely isolated from mainland Australia by rising sea levels. European colonization of the island, and a violent guerrilla war between British colonists and Aboriginal Tasmanians from the mid-1820s to 1832 known as the Tasmanian War, was devastating to Aboriginal Tasmanians. For much of the 20th century, including when TIAGARRA was constructed, the Tasmanian Aboriginal people were widely, and erroneously, thought of as being an extinct cultural and ethnic group. David Gough: There was a roundup of our people and a mass attempted genocide of our people. The impacts of colonization and displacement has meant our families had to chop wood in order to survive and cultures changed and shifted. Growing up in schools, some of the kids go, "Aboriginal, what does that mean?” They don't really grow up knowing a lot about what their ancestors did or what happened to their families because it’s been pretty… well especially here, our families went through great trauma, and that still affects us, so we’re seeing young kids growing up, and there’s just this traumatic patterns that happen. Through a series of careful museum upgrades, teaching Aboriginal cultural to as wide an audience as possible, and activism, Gough plans to change this. David Gough: It's important for, for our own families, it's important for the the other kids in the areas as well. Then I think that that's why I go to the schools is to help work with our kids, but also the other kids. And then it builds this mutual respect and an understanding about who we all are. And I think understanding where our past, we'll give them hopefully a way forwards. Gough took me through the museum as it is today. Except for the masking tape and some ochre handprints, the museum looks almost exactly as it did in 1976. We enter through the front door -- a fake cave that opens to a description of the land bridges across the Bass Strait, which today separates Tasmania from the rest of Australia. David Gough: Yes. We enter with a cave. We actually have some money to make some changes to this session, but we're very mindful that now this place is a time capsule and it's actually becoming a museum of museums. So I'm, I'm really cautious about making changes to it, but there will be some changes. David Gough: This panel here talks about 12,000 years apart, two ice ages where we were connected to Australia and how that allowed what people would say migration and people and animals. We know this actually came up close to here and this is a great lake. People lived around this lake; it wasn't just people walking backwards and forwards. And we've got a lot of aboriginal heritage sites in rock shelters are underneath. David Gough: When I bring kids through here and spend an hour with them or talk about living sites. We used caves as living sites and we have several different caves in our country that are, some are living in caves and some are ceremonial caves and the ceremonial caves, we try to keep quiet from most of the public because they get vandalized. David Gough: I have visited a lot of our sites cause I was on the Aboriginal Heritage Council for quite a few years and I’ve been very heavily involved in protecting our heritage around the country. What happens is when someone comes across in damages something that we're saying, oh, they didn't realize what it was. So then it would get thrown back at you saying, well, if I had of known, I wouldn't have done that. That's why I went on the council already focused on changing that act, about protecting our heritage to take out that the ignorance clause and to put some due diligence around process so people understand so if they're going to dig somewhere or they're going to do something in an area they need to contact heritage and find out if there's if there is something there that they would damage. The gallery continues through detailed dioramas. Gough says visitors, specifically school groups of children that come through, are fascinated by them. But he says that without proper interpretation -- without stories being told in the voice of Aboriginal Tasmanians -- the dioramas’ true meaning is lost and the lasting impact is lessened. David Gough: What we keep in here is stone tools and artifacts and there's dioramas about how are our people live through two ice ages. It's very important as an education tool but without us being here, it's kind of pointless. David Gough: And this over here talks about what they call middens, which I don't like the word meetings. And a lot of us is as we growing up were, were cause I think it might be a Latin name for rubbish, you know, um, and it's because that's what they saw it as. David Gough: But people drive up and with four wheel-drives and, and are destroying them. And we constantly trying to make, get protection. We're trying to get world heritage listing of these areas because some of these are about four times as high as this building. So when you're standing there and you're looking at abalone shells on, on that and you see the hight, you know, that they were feeding, eating, people, eating, that's how old these places are. Many thousands of years old. And right there we have rock Petroglyphs, rock markings in those areas too, which are probably five times older than the Sphinx. David Gough: There's a lot of ceremony that happens around these, these living sites. Babies are born and the elders have passed away and they're buried there or cremated there as well. So for us, these not rubbish tips, they’re hospital, the church there, everything, there are graves there, everything, and our family members have had to go up to where they've four wheel drives and rebury people. So in other exposing people's remains. It's really, really sad when you're up there and you're trying to stop people that they're now saying it's their culture to four wheel drive on these areas. Gough sees the public education as crucial not only to protect the sites, but also protect the stories. David Gough: So this place going through this with kids and that and getting to understand, maybe change some concepts and understanding about what's around them and what a landscape actually means. When you see something like this, you can turn around to someone else and say, do you know what this is? Then you become the educator and then you can pass on that, the reasons about why you would look after it, because once it's removed, the story can go. The museum is currently closed -- only open for pre-arranged tours consisting mostly of schoolkids and the occasional podcaster. Even the ownership of the museum has been contentious up until recently -- the Devonport City Council rescinded the lease from the Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation in 2014 and did not hand back the keys until 2015. Sammy Howard, fellow board member of the Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation, explains that the museum has been hampered by red tape every step of the way. Sammy Howard: Really, as Tiagarra, we’ve struggled for years to try and keep the doors open. It's the only museum keeping place in Australia that’s not federally or state funded. I'm just sick to this of watching air governments set us up for failure. They didn't give us the training and the things that we needed. I’m starting to think that we've become a collection of hoop jumpers. Because every time we get through one hope, there's another one put in front of us, hurdle jumpers, whatever. They just seem to, we'll let you go this far, but hang on a minute. You can't go too far. You can't succeed. The white governments have got to be seen as with falling bulk amount of money at this and it's not working. David Gough: When you’re trying to deal with these things, what people kept trying to talk about in meetings was Return on Investment. And it's a difficult space when you're talking about sharing and your culture and having a place for your community to be. This place means a lot to our families in this area. But both Howard and Gough are optimistic about the future of Tiagarra. The Corporation hopes to bring some higher-tech exhibits like touch screens into the museum and build the resources to maintain opening hours with staff and guides from the community, all while centering their own story. A number of factors contribute to their optimism. The museum can now apply for specific funding sources. From other Tasmanians, there is an increased interest in understanding the land and its people, and a greater understanding of British colonization of the island. David Gough: We've sort of feeling that this is our year where we will get this place open again. You know, more than just bringing school groups through. With this business plan, what we're doing is to get out to spend some, some of this money and upgrade some of the exhibits in here and put ourselves and our stories into this space. This is really important. That could be an option of having a self guided tour with people walking around it here. And as they come to different sections getting told that story is that where we're wanting to tell. But everything costs money. And it is not just upgrading the museum. All over Australia, and indeed all over the world, the practices of welcome to country and acknowledgement of country are slowly becoming more common as a way to open events, school assemblies, and conferences. David Gough: There’s a difference: there's an acknowledgement to country and they can be done by anyone. It is to acknowledge the land and the traditional people of the land. And that can be done by anyone. And it should be done by people to say. Before you do a speech or a forum or a function is firstly to say, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land. If you know, the name of them is to mention the name of them and to say that, you know, to acknowledge the land we made on is is their land and you know, those sort of things. David Gough: Welcome to country is done by someone who is from that country. It's basically welcoming people onto our land and for people to understand where they are. And I feel it's very positive and people get to understand, I learned a bit about who we are or what land they're on and learn a bit about the traditional people and custodianship or other than ownership. Gough describes visiting Native American nations in the US state of Arizona and realizing that the challenge that members of First Nations face all around the world -- including developing museums that simultaneously serve their own people and the wider public, are similar. And so a are some of the solutions. David Gough: So I do believe they're doing that and more I can see that with my friends and Arizona that there's some acknowledgements coming up around the universities are where they see it. Yeah. And that's, um, that's, that's a great thing. David Gough: You know. So when we're doing things here, I'm getting things in support from my friends on the other side of the world that have been going through similar things. So it was a conversation on there [Facebook] last week, which was around acknowledgements. Those people know what we do is, so I was able to comment on that and then people backwards and forwards. So there is some support in that, which is really, really positive. Hi, it’s Ian again. Since you’ve listened all the way to the end, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re a fan of Museum Archipelago. Join other fans by subscribing to Club Archipelago. It’s a not-so-secret club that gives you access to special bonus features like longer versions of some of my interviews, my take on the museum industry, and insider tours of museums around the world, all with the same humor and quality you’ve come to expect from Museum Archipelago. Join today for $2 a month at Pateron.com/museumarchipelago, and get Museum Archipelago Logo stickers mailed straight to your door. That’s pateron.com/museumarchiepalgo. This has been Museum Archipelago. [Outro]
Penal transportation from England to Australia from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s was used to expand Britain's spheres of influence and to reduce overcrowding in British prisons. The male convict experience is well-known, but the Cascades Female Factory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascades_Female_Factory) in Hobart is at the center of a shift in how Australians think of the role that female convicts played in the colonization of Tasmania. Dr. Jody Steele, the heritage interpretation manager for the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (https://portarthur.org.au/about-us/), which includes the Female Factory, says that having a convict ancestor used to be considered shameful. But in the past 20 years, attitudes have shifted dramatically. Sites like the Female Factory (https://femalefactory.org.au/), the Female Convicts Research Centre (https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au), and a general interest in geological research have helped the public better understand how the forced labor of women built the economy of the island. Today, the museum is on the cusp of a major renovation (https://femalefactory.org.au/event/cascades-female-factory-design-and-interpretation-centre-project/). Dr Steele describes how the proposed design, chosen by an all-female panel, will present the female convict experience in Tasmania. This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania. For the next three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an episode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 This Month, Museum Archipelago is Taking You To Tasmania 00:46 Cascades Female Factory 01:00 The Male and Female Convict Experience 02:26 Dr. Jody Steele 02:48 Why It’s Called The Female Factory 04:30 Being A “Respectable” Women In Colonial Society 06:10 Interpreting the Site 07:05 The Lack of Artifacts at the Site 08:50 Australia's Changing Attitudes Towards Convict Ancestors 09:38 History and Interpretation Center Design Competition 11:12 Female Convicts Research Centre 12:15 The Reminders of Convict Labor in Hobart 13:20 Join Club Archipelago 14:00 Outro Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 61. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] Museums on the Australian island of Tasmania are a microcosm of museums all around the world. They struggle with properly interpreting their colonial past, the exclusion of First People from telling their stories in major museums, and having a large, privately owned art museum reshape a small town. This month on Museum Archipelago, we’re taking you to Tasmania. For the next three episodes, we’re conducting a survey of museums on the island, and exploring how each of them relates to the wider landscape of museums. Today, we begin with the Cascades Female Factory in the Tasmanian capital city of Hobart. It’s at the center of a shift in how Australians think of the role that convicts played in the colonization of the island. Jody Steele: The male convict story is the story that everyone’s heard about and everyone wants to discover something about it. So I think it’s odd that the female story is equally as fascinating and as intricate as the male story, and yet until recently nobody’s really shown that much of an interest in it with the exception of family researchers or people who have a specific connection. The site tells the story of European colonization of Van Diemen’s Land, the original European name for the island, from the female perspective. Jody Steele: The whole penal transportation to Australia and subsequently Van Diemen’s Land started as a result of prisons in England. Post industrial revolution, and people turning to crime without all the industries that they were used to, machines taking their jobs, the prisons just started to literally overflow. So they needed a mechanism to get the people out of those spaces, stop the overcrowding, and the colonization of Australia was an attempt to get that population out of Britain, and essentially far far away. Over 170,000 men women and children were transported during the transportation phase, which started in New South Wales in the late 1700s and in Van Diemen’s Land in 1803. The only museum in Tasmania that represents the female convict story is the Cascades Female Factory, where Dr. Jody Steele works as the heritage interpretation manager. Jody Steele: Hi. My name is Jody Steele. I am the heritage interpretation manager for the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, and we are lucky enough to be the portfolio managers of three world heritage sites with form part of the Austrian convict sites world heritage nomination. And the Female Factory fall under our portfolio. Understanding why the site is called the Female Factory means understanding how the female convicts were seen as resources to the early colonists. Jody Steele: Moving men out here as a labor force was something that seemed to make a lot of sense to the early Brits, to be able to pack up men and move them across the fall trees and to gather all the materials necessary for building, as in literally building a new colony. And then of course, if you want that population to grow, that can’t be done with men alone. So in the early 1800s, the first vessels with women on board came. Those women in the first days as convicts were usually assigned directly out to the early Hobart population. As your servants, housemaids, that sort of thing. As soon as anyone in that situation needed to be reprimanded for anything that they’ve done, they needed an establishment to do that. And so, as a result of that, the Cascades Female Factory was established. Right here. Jody Steele: Right here. So the female convicts were an amazing resource to that particular set of colonials. They could have female convicts coming in and care for their children. Witnesses educators and a lot of these women weren’t just petty criminals you know they were quite skilled at a number of trades. So you had two seamstresses and all of the trades that the men didn’t lend their hands to. You needed somebody to do laundry for the colony. And so having a prison filled with women who you wanted to put under hard labour to punish them. Laundry was one of the greatest ways to do that. You could well if the military presence could have their their uniforms laundered here and washed and ironed so it gave the colony a massive resource of trades that the men weren’t doing. Which is why it got its name as the Female Factory. The system operated under a strict series of punishments, that was nevertheless at the discretion of the guards. It was managed by a hierarchy of those incarcerated and was encouraged by attitudes towards what it meant to be a respectable women in the colonial society. Jody Steele: A lot of the women who were assigned out were assigned out to people. Some of them to people that they knew. Some of them even to their husbands which is quite curious and I think in those instances there is an absurdity to the system where these women were assigned to people that they were genuinely in love with. They wanted to have families with. They got pregnant. Pregnancy while you were under sentence was considered a crime which meant that those women ultimately would be removed from their assignment brought back here to have child they would spend time with the child when it was a baby. They would be usually weaned quite quickly from their mother. And sometimes you know within within months that mother would then be back under sentence being punished separated from her child with the child being left in the care of other convict women in the nursery usually by sort of three years of age. The child would then be removed from this location the nursery here and removed into an orphan school. You may never see your child again. Now as somebody who wanted to have that baby with the person they were with. That must have been horrific. And then there is the flip side to that story when you could be assigned out to an individual master. He may have had absolutely no choice in falling pregnant and yet you were the one who gets punished for that occurring. You would come back in here and quite often that into that individual who you were assigned to originally would simply just get a new female convict servant and you know you’re left under punishment for something that was clearly not your fault it must have been horrific. Steele says the biggest interpretation challenge is that is so easy for visitors to see the entire population of incarcerated people rather than individuals with vastly different, often contradictory, experiences. Jody Steele: I think the biggest challenge when interpreting a site like this is people come with an understanding of a mass population. They think of a convict population. And unless they happen to be descended from an individual convict, they find it really hard to think about the individual within the system. And with over 7,000 women passing through these few yards alone, it tends to be the mass mentally that we try to break down here, which from my perspective is the most fun part of what I get to do, is to find the odd individual who has this amazing story, whether it be a tragic tale or a tale of resilience and strength. Telling the stories of odd individuals is complicated by the fact that not many artifacts remain. The site itself is made up of three yards, surrounded by sandstone walls with only markings on the ground indicating the size of prison cells or nurseries. Jody Steele: The challenge here, unlike a lot of our convict site museums is that the artifactual material associated with female convicts just isn’t there. Even our state museums, don’t have a lot of artifacts associated with female convicts. There isn’t the material history surrounding them that has been maintained for them men. Jody Steele: Probably one of the hardest things to deal with is the fact that most of the convict population didn’t have access to the time or the inclination to sit down and write a daily journal, and for most of them the literacy wasn’t particularly high usually when they arrived, but part of the convict system was actually educating a lot of these people, so a lot of them left with a much better education when they got in, but the time they could have started writing a journal, they were most likely off getting married, building businesses. So there’s a massive gap, and we really do rely heavily on what is the administrator’s view of these individuals, right down to the way they described them when they got off the ships. And then, we rely heavily on their descendants, who have all those stories and the oral histories of how these families built up from these individual women. Dr. Steele talks about a massive cultural shift in Australian attitudes towards ancestors who may have been incarcerated. Because the family memory of the Female Factory goes back just two or three generations, it’s an opportunity for the museum to better interpret and educate by becoming a hub for these stories. Jody Steele: For a very long time, having a convict ancestor was considered something to be ashamed of. And that has probably only shifted in the past 20 years of having a sense of pride of being descended from a convict when they became aware that even through they may have been criminals, some of them quite serious, some of them petty, that they were responsible for building the new colony of Australia. And that’s been a real shift of people being real proud of it now, and because genealogical research is now enormous, we’ve got access to things that aren’t that oppressive record. Business records, and images of shopfronts where these people built businesses. Massive massive change in attitude. The Female Factory is in the middle of a design process to open a brand new History and Interpretation Centre on the site. The process began with an architectural design competition judged by an all-female panel. Jody Steele: It’s really important when we’re working on this site that we recognise the contribution of women to society. I mean that is that is why this place is is recognised and part of that process when we we put the call out for the architectural design competition was that we really wanted women to contribute to this project we had over 50 original people who came in who put their hand up to get involved in the competition and we pulled together a team of amazing women mostly architects and the chair of our board Sharon Sullivan who oversaw the process and did all of the review of all of the nominations. Looking for things like female contribution of course looking at the Heritage impacts and how the building would would sit in in the landscape and what stories the building itself might tell the new building that they were hoping to put in this space will be clearly identifiable as a brand spanking new building that is that is part of our intention but it will also hopefully be aside from being a beautiful architectural structure. We’re hoping that it will recede and then the individual stories will come out as you’re inside the building. The building will be located over the cellblock location so I guess you know in a lineal form it will represent part of the historic landscape. But outside of that most of our storytelling will have to be in a very different format and we’ll have to get really creative. We work really closely with a group of people called that are called the female convict Research Center that’s started as as a bunch of women female researchers who I think they would forgive me for saying they’re totally obsessed with female convict history and they have built up a an amazing database of all of the female convict women. And so we have access to that database and it would I mean what an amazing thing to be able to know that you have a female convict ancestor to be able to come here to tap into that find out how long they were here exactly what space they were living in working in even being punished in to be able to go to that space you know and stand essentially in the footprints of your ancestor would be an amazing thing. You can see the winning design in the show notes for the episode. The architects call for a beautiful but solum building with plenty of play between the open spaces of the yards as they are today, and confined spaces of cells as they used to exist. Hobart is a city partially built with convict labor, but the reminders — the type of stone on a building for example — are subtle, and you have to know what you’re looking for. A structure like the one proposed removes the sublty, and makes it harder to forget. Jody Steele: I would I would love you know the female convict history to be the first thing that people engage with and then to flow on into into the story of the men. I want people to walk away even if they don’t have a better understanding of convict female convict history. I want them to walk away asking questions and I think that’s what we all want when we build these places we want them to start questioning what they believe what they think what they knew before they walked in the door. I don’t necessarily I mean subliminally I’d love to educate everyone who walks through the door but quite often those people are on holidays and they probably don’t want me lecturing to them for an hour and a half about convict history. But I want them to walk away questioning you know what this place meant to Tasmania or you know what the women at least felt or went through to try and get some kind of gut reaction from them and to that experience that these people went through to create the place that we live in working today. Do you like the podcasts I make? Club Archipelago is the best way to support me. It gives you access to a special bonus podcast that’s an even deeper dive into the museum landscape — kind of like the director’s commentary to the main show. There are longer versions of some of my interviews, commentary on the industry as a whole, and insider tours of various museums from past guests, all with the same humor and quality you’ve come to expect from Museum Archipelago. Join today for as little as $2 at Pateron.com/museumarchipelago, and get Museum Archipelago Logo stickers mailed straight to your door. That’s pateron.com/museumarchiepalgo. [Outro] Jody Steele: I can admit, I like you am a total museum junke and wherever I go I drag anyone who I’m traveling with to every possible museum to every possible museum in every possible place to wherever I travel around the globe. I’m the person who reads the sign and then taps on it to figure out what it is made out of, and whether I like the font. You’re there, you’re there with me, you do it in every museum you walk into.
The fight for racial diversity in museums and other cultural institutions is not new: people of color have been fighting for inclusion in white mainstream museums for over 50 years (https://amzn.to/2udBIYZ). Dispose these efforts, change has been limited. A 2018 survey by the Mellon Foundation (https://mellon.org/media/filer_public/e5/a3/e5a373f3-697e-41e3-8f17-051587468755/sr-mellon-report-art-museum-staff-demographic-survey-01282019.pdf) found that 88% of people in museum leadership positions are white. Stephanie Cunningham (https://twitter.com/stephacunning) has a clear answer for why these white institutions aren’t changing: “When you’ve been practicing exclusion for so long, you can’t change overnight.” That’s one of the reasons why she co-founded Museum Hue (https://www.museumhue.com) with Monica Montgomery in 2015. In this episode, Cunningham traces Museum Hue (https://twitter.com/MuseumHue)’s trajectory from a small collective to a national membership-based organization (https://www.museumhue.com/join), and spells out why being a well-meaning institution is necessary but not sufficient for equity in the field. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an epsiode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics and Links 00:00 Intro 00:15 The Ongoing Fight for Racial Diversity in Museums 01:52 Stephanie Cunningham 02:26 The Founding of Museum Hue 03:05 Hueseum Tours 03:52 “Authentic Participation” and Jobs 06:29 Museum Hue’s Membership Model 07:05 Knock On Effects of Resistance to Change 08:56 A Story of the Museum Exhibition Design Company 10:10 The Unchecked Cultural Power of Museums 11:05 Black Visuality 11:25 Museum Hue’s Memberships 12:07 Arts Targeted By Oppressive Forces 13:55 Outro/Join Club Archipelago Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 60. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] Stephanie Cunningham: People of color, especially people of African descent, have been fighting for museums to be more inclusive over 50 years ago. It's the reason why institutions like the studio museum in Harlem was created. It's the reason why MOC, the Museum of Chinese in America, El Museo del Barrio, all these institutions came up because of the lack of inclusivity within these institutions. What we've seen today is not actually a shift in inclusion in a white mainstream museum, but a two-tiered museum, which is still the white mainstream museums and the development of these culturally specific institutions that I mentioned. It's important for us to realize that there has been need for institution building for people of color, but also these white mainstream institutions that hold a lot of our cultural heritage have to also include us into the scope and the framework of their institution and become more inclusive as well. A 2018 survey by the Mellon Foundation found that 88% of people in museum leadership positions are white. This imbalance continues though museum visitorship numbers, even though many museums are within communities of color or within states that have high populations of people of color. Stephanie Cunningham has a clear answer for why these white institutions aren’t changing: “when you’ve been practicing exclusion for so long, you can’t change overnight.” And that’s one of the reasons why she co-founded Museum Hue. Stephanie Cunningham: Hello, my name is Stephanie Cunningham. I am the co-founder and creative director of Museum Hue, an arts organization that works to increase the visibility of people of color working in arts and culture and museums in particular. It's really important that we begin to think more critically on how to change this, how to shift this and make museums more innovative and inviting that will attract more people of color and also be very honest about their history and their conflicting provenances as well within the institution. Stephanie Cunningham co-founded Museum Hue with strategic director Monica Montgomery in 2015. The organization began in New York City as a collective of people of color working in museums and other cultural spaces. Stephanie Cunningham: We realized that we really needed a safe space, a space where we can have psychological safety, where we can be ourselves and talk about our experiences working within cultural institutions, whether it be microaggression, macro aggression or racism and talking about perhaps some best practices of the things that were also going well for people within institutions as well. Museum Hue began infiltrating spaces with programs like Hueseum Tours, which the organization leads in art museums and other performance venues. The tours started in New York City but have since branched out to different parts of the country. Stephanie Cunningham: We'll have a conversation focusing on staff and artists of color and also narratives of color as well, because what we also realize is that a lot of the narratives within museums and cultural institutions don't reflect people of color, and so we invoke and incorporate those within our own tours and presentations within these spaces. The Huesuem Tours are one example of Museum Hue’s focus on authentic participation within the arts world. Another is jobs, particularly jobs in creative and leadership roles. At the heart of the issue is not a lack of qualified creatives of color, but instead that the doors of museums and the surrounding ecosystem are largely closed off to people of color. Through extending Museum Hue’s network, and by pipelining people of color in the museum and cultural field, Cunningham has seen how a mostly-white cultural institution’s desire to be more inclusive is necessary but not sufficient when it comes to actual inclusion. And that’s why, last year, Museum Hue became a membership-based organization. Stephanie Cunningham: We decided to become a membership based institution. This came out of our fellowship at Race Forward Racial Equity in the Arts organization. About 50 or so institutions throughout New York City were invited to participate, and we all had our own platform and ideas, but the basis was for all of us to create racial equity framework, and so we decided with the Museum Hue membership that we can focus on institutions that are willing and wanting to work with us in changing the framework of their institution, making it more inclusive of people of color. We've been able to facilitate a lot of opportunities, a lot of jobs for people of color within these museums and also work with them in trainings on cultural competency, but mostly working on real action based because we know that these conversations, although well intentioned, they can fall short, and so we need institutions to take action steps. Action steps look like creating real policy and also procedures in ways that we are accepting or they are accepting people of color and allowing them to have a seat at the table in a real way, looking at their board, making it more diverse, and so looking at real ways that we can begin to focus on the framework of the institution and working on them from the inside out. In episode 48 of Museum Archipelago, The Whitest Cube podcast co-host Ariana Lee makes the point that many museums can claim diverse workforces if you take into account people of color working in museum’s janitorial services department, but less so in seats of power. To that end, Museum Hue created an internal survey that any cultural or museum-related institution can use to develop an assessment of their current staff and institutional attitudes towards inclusion and diversity. Stephanie Cunningham: This isn't a change that happens overnight because you've hired people of color. We want it to be a core part of the foundation and the structure of the institution. In order to do that, we have to encourage them and support them and thinking about this more critically, and so because we've moved in this new vein, it's been a real blessing that so many institutions around the country have wanted to sign on with It's about over 80 at this point, and so we're looking at different ways to support them in creating the toolkits and creating more tours, and not just focusing again on our institutional members but also mostly on people of color in the field as well. Cunningham’s focus on museums and other cultural institutions comes in part because museums can be more resistant to change than some other parts of society--and in the case of museums, that resistance has knockon effects. Stephanie Cunningham: Many people of color have the needed qualifications and some factors in many of our fields but yet don't see them represented, and so we have to realize that there's a real epidemic that have people of color are not represented in leadership or given opportunities for leadership or different spaces and different industries. For me, tackling museums, number one for me is my focus because I have a degree in art history and cultural heritage preservation. I also think that museums, for whatever reason, within the grand scheme of society that's been changing isn't seen as a place of importance for the there to be racial diversity. I think it's needed in all industries, but especially in museums when we're talking about cultural heritage or talking about artistic freedoms of expression, it's incredibly important that we begin to look at museums first because museums create the narratives that we see throughout our landscape. It's important that people begin to see people of color represented in history, in art because that then opens up a new lens for people and of appreciation and recognition of cultural contribution that people of color do not get in this country. For me, museums have to begin to create a lane that is really much more inclusive than they actually are. For Museum Hue, increasing the number of people of color at museum leadership levels begins to shift the framework of not just that institution, but of entire museum ecosystem, like museum exhibit design companies. Stephanie Cunningham: There is a very prominent, I won't say the name, exhibition design company that works with so many museums throughout the country. They went to meet with a museum that they were speaking with to begin to work with on an exhibition design. During the meeting, they were asked by the person that they were working with, a person represented by the museum who was a person of color asked them, "Do you have people of color on your staff?" They, for whatever reason, had not even thought about this. They're like, "We're doing exhibition design. Why does this matter?" But it does matter because perspectives and cultural differences and understandings are also needed as well, and so they reached out to Museum Hue because they were like, "Do you know of anyone in exhibition design that can possibly work with us?" People of color are also going to begin to ask these questions of companies that they're working with as well, and having companies think about this issue as well because it's going to affect their bottom line. Museums have incredible cultural power, and most of it is unchecked. Cunningham’s point is that it, without serious change, that cultural power won’t last forever. Stephanie Cunningham: Museum Hue is just working to change that and to utilize our collective power and our voices to call out these issues and help usher in a change that is constant, not a change that is dependent upon the funding that an institution gets for diversity and inclusion, but something that is a core part of museums and other cultural institutions, because I honestly believe if museums do not change and become more inclusive, expect obsolescence, expect museums shutting down, expect museums continuously become irrelevant for the greater public. Cunningham also hosts an excellent podcast called Black Visuality. Past guests have included Blake Bradford, who is also featured on episode 43 of Museum Archipelago. As the director of Lincoln University’s Museum Studies program, Bradford also sees a pipeline of Black students, exposing them to career paths that are largely closed off to people of color. Museum Hue has three different membership types. Once is an institutional membership, for organizations to align their diversity + equity efforts with Museum Hue, and also advertise job openings. Another is the Huers membership, for people of color interested in the Museum Hue platform. And finally, the Allies membership, for those looking to support Museum Hue’s mission. You can listen to Black Visuality and learn more about Cunningham at stephanieacunningham.com. You can find more information about Museum Hue by going to museumhue.com. Stephanie Cunningham: My work really if you look at all the things that I've been doing falls under two parts. It's really just looking at ways to support people of color to increase our visibility, to facilitate our employment and get us more entrenched in the creative economy and also on the other part, call out and challenge and address the barriers and the hierarchies and issues that relate to specifically racism and lack of opportunity in the field for people of color. That's what I'm continuously doing is just working on ways to shift this field and move it into where we can see much more equity, much more diversity, much more ... There's another word that I'm looking for. Much more parity as well in the field is incredibly important to me. This has been Museum Archipelago. [Outro]
There’s a new tool in young-Earth creationists' quest for scientific legitimacy: the museum. Over the past 25 years, dozens of so-called creation museums have been built, including the Answers in Genesis (AiG) Creation Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_Museum) in Kentucky. Borrowing the style of natural history museums and science centers, these public display spaces use the form and rhetoric of mainstream science to support a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, including the creation of the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago. In her 2009 thesis, “Faith Displayed As Science: The Role of The Creation Museum in the Modern Creationist Movement (https://ncse.com/files/pub/library/Theses/Duncan_Julie-%20Faith%20Displayed%20as%20Science%20-%20The%20role%20of%20the.pdf)”, Julie Garcia visited the AiG Creation Museum and three other creation museums: The Creation Evidence Museum in Glenrose, TX, Dinosaur Adventureland in Pensacola, FL, and the Institute for Creation Research which is near San Diego, CA. In this episode, Garcia discusses her findings and explores why museums are a particularly well-suited medium for creationist ideas. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Castbox (https://castbox.fm/x/10jh_), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an epsiode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics and Links 00:00: Intro 00:15: Quest for Scientific Legitimacy 01:06: Julie Garcia 02:25: Garcia's Thesis 03:50: Visiting Creation Museums 04:45: Using Dinosaurs to Attract Children To Creation Museums 07:00: Why Build A Museum? 10:51: Creationists Going Directly To Their Audience 11:17: “Biblically Correct” Tours 11:48: The Two Model Approach 13:00: Outro/Join Club Archipelago Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 59. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript There’s a new tool in young-Earth creationists’ quest for scientific legitimacy: the museum. Over the past 25 years, dozens of so-called creation museums have been built, most of them in the US. Borrowing the style of natural history museums and science centers, these public display spaces use the form and rhetoric of mainstream science to support a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, including the creation of the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago. Julie Garcia: A museum lets creationists speak directly to the people in an unfiltered and unchallenged way. Just being able to put all this inside something that’s called a museum and using the trappings of science, it gives creationism that additional feel of the legitimacy and credibility that it might not otherwise have. This is Julie Garcia, and her interest in both evolution and the people who vehemently deny it, led her to explore why museums are a particularly well-suited medium for creationist ideas. Julie Garcia: My name is Julie Garcia. I was formally known as Julie Duncan at the time I wrote my senior thesis, which was called “Faith Displayed As Science: The Role of The Creation Museum in the Modern American Creationist Movement”. Garcia grew up in Kentucky, and as an undergrad at Harvard, she decided to become a History and Science major. Julie Garcia: At other colleges that’s known as History and Philosophy of Science which is basically just the study of what science is and why we trust it and what are different ways of knowing the world. For me, part of the reason to go into it is because I loved evolution so much and had always just had a fascination with the whole process and had also had a corresponding fascination with why so many people so vehemently didn’t like evolution, and why so many people, to the point of 30, 40, sometimes 50% percent in certain polls, believe in creationism. So I was prompted to write this thesis when in 2006, I heard that in my backyard, in Boone Country Kentucky, Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization, was going to be building the largest Creation Museum in the world, known as the The Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, a 27 million dollar facility, over many 20 acres, about 10 minutes from my house.” The Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, also known as just The Creation Museum opened in 2007. In its first year, it reported 400,000 visitors. Julie Garcia: I eventually decided, coming into the summer of 2008, before my senior year, that I would spend that summer traveling back home to Kentucky to visit the creation museum there, and three other creation museums around the US. The Creation Evidence Museum in Glenrose, TX, Dinosaur Adventureland and the related creation museum in Pensacola, FL, and the Institute for Creation Research which is near San Diego, CA. That’s kind of how it all started, and I spent the summer visiting and learning about the four different museums.” Garcia chose these four museums for their stylistic differences and for their geographical diversity. At each one, she viewed the exhibits, and talked to the founders and staff, then analyzed and highlighted the messages and methods common to all of the museums. Julie Garcia: There was some trepidation before I went because I was worried that by disclosing that I was not a creationist they would assume I was going to write a smear piece on their museums, which honestly when I read my thesis now I feel there are certain things that I would phrase differently that came off snarkier than I think I would write them now. But everyone was very kind to me and they were all very eager to show me everything that they had built and they were very proud of it. I came away thinking these are very nice people with whom I just disagree, but that’s what stuck in my mind the most: everyone I talk to was very faithful and believe completely in everything that was shown in the museums. I did feel uncomfortable to seeing all the children there because it’s one thing obviously for adults to decide what they believe, and feel very strongly about them and teach them to others. It was just a little troubling to me to see young children learning things that were contrary to mainstream science. But of course, that’s kind of the purpose of these museums. All four museums heavily feature dinosaurs — either in audio animatronic form or as fossils. This is not just because of time compression of geological ages present in young-Earth creationism — it is also because dinosaurs attract the pubic, particularly children, to these museums. The founder of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, Ken Ham, calls dinosaurs “missionary lizards” for their attention-getting power. Julie Garcia: Dr. Hovan from Dinosaur Adventure Land in Florida and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis very explicitly say the purpose of using things like dinosaurs is to attract the children and to bring them in. Then again, with distance now I can acknowledge that is true for secular museums as well because we all know that dinosaurs sell, but at the same time, given the counter narrative being told at these museums about dinosaurs and humans living together, yes, I did feel some discomfort seeing kids being explicitly told that these dinosaurs were alive 6,000 years ago and that people were riding them. In Answers in Genesis, they actually have a triceratops towards the end of the museum and they actually have a saddle on it. And you can sit on it and take a pictures. And it’s not a joke: it’s a representation of what the museum says would have been a typical pre-Flood diorama, where humans were living together with dinosaurs. So why build a museum? Garcia argues that there are three significant and interrelated reasons for the creationist movement. The first: museums are seen as credible. Museums really have a long history in the US as places of scientific research and public education. In the 20th century, they were sometimes referred to as “Cathedrals of Science,” this idea that they were buildings where we set forth the best of human endeavor and everything that the collective knowledge of our species was placed in these buildings. So simply by attaching that word, museum, it gives the building a sheen of credibility that it otherwise wouldn’t have if it were called a theme park or a bible center or something like that. The second reason also relates to the focus on dinosaurs: museums are more entertaining than school, bible study, or bible school. Julie Garcia: That is something that is like a theme park, but at the same time, it’s a kind of entertaining that a lot of teachers are going to like and a lot of parents are going to like in the way that a lot of parents and teachers want an educational experience for kids. A lot of parents who might want to spend the money on what they feel like is a frivolous day at a theme park, can get behind the idea of taking them to a museum where they’re going to be learning about science and they’re going to learning wholesome things and bettering themselves. And going along with that, the entertainment value is a decent amount of money. There is money to be made from offshoots from these museums. The final reason: going directly to the people. Julie Garcia: Number three is the most important of them, which is that a museum lets creationists speak directly to the people in an unfiltered and unchallenged way. So a creator of a museum has total control over the experience that visitors have. They can control exactly where you walk and what you read at what time, and what you take away from the exhibits. I think this is part of a larger movement, away from what creationists had been doing, which was bringing these challenges in the court system: in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s a string of defeats in federal courts for violating the establishment clause. A court, when things go right, a legal proceeding is designed to get to the truth, and part of getting to the truth is subjecting assertions to rigorous cross-examination. And you have someone sitting up there, the judge who makes rulings about what is a good argument and what’s not. And can keep certain evidence out, and can rule on who qualifies an expert. And those were things that weren’t going well for creationists. So after they lost a number of these cases, they started moving more toward this museum model. I think that is because there is no cross-examination in a museum. In fact, there is no opposite point of view if you don’t want to give it. There’s no requirement that you describe how other people see evidence or that you respond to criticisms to how you are presenting your point of view. So by switching over to these museum, a lot of creationists have switched strategies from trying to impose creationism on public school districts, or impose these laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution and instead to try to change people's hearts and minds on a more local and individual level in the hope that those people will have their minds changed and will go out and teach their kids at home creationists ideas or be part of a groundswell pushing again for the teaching of these creationist ideas in schools. Being able to go directly to your audience without a middleman is one of the main ways the media landscape more broadly has changed. As institutions that used to be arbiters of truth are called into question, there is more space for viewpoints that used to be far outside the mainstream to directly attract their own audience. And it doesn't have to be on the level of a single institution either. Garcia talks about guides to scientifically informed museums, zoos, and aquariums for sale in the Creation Museum's gift shop, meant to be used at these other institutions for alternative, biblically correct interpretations of their displays. Julie Garcia: I know that in addition to those printouts you can purchase, there are also some organization that provide some of these tours, such as a group called “Biblically Correct Tours” that does tours of Natural History Museums, and my understanding of how this works is it is an offshoot of the two model approach: which is the idea that evolution and creationism is two competing philosophies and that they look at the same evidence and that they just draw different conclusions. And so by having a Biblically Correct tour of the museum, this organization explains how creationism is not opposed to science in their view because they know that Americans for the most part like science. Nobody wants to be anti-science. So if anyone disagrees about things like climate change or evolution, usually the way that it is phrased is not “well I don’t like science, and I reject science”, it’s more “well I take a more different view of the science and there are two sides of this story and I follow this interpretation.” That is exactly the type of thing that we’re seeing with tours like this, and that you also see in the Answers in Genesis Creation museum: they present things that could be in a secular museum, such as an image of a dinosaur skeleton obscured by a mudslide, and you can look at it in two different ways… It’s not just that museum-goers like science: Garcia points out that audiences tend to trust information more if it is presented in a high-tech style. In her conclusion, Garcia writes that “It seems very probable that the years to come will see the construction of more museums, most likely in the high-tech style of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, which has proven quite lucrative.” Julie Garcia: Now, it’s easier for people through mediums like Twitter and through buildings like their own Creation Museums, to claim the same kind of authority and to have an impact that they otherwise might not have in the past where they wouldn’t have had that ability get their message out.
Joe Galliano (https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephgalliano) came up with the idea for Queer Britain (https://twitter.com/queer_britain), the UK’s national LGBTQ+ museum, during the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexual acts in England and Wales (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Offences_Act_1967). Discouraged by the focus on male homosexuality and on legislation, he launched a bid to preserve histories that have been ignored or destroyed. If all goes well, the museum will open in London in a few years. In this episode, Galliano talks about the UK’s history of anti-gay legislation, how he is working to create a ‘catalytic space’ at Queer Britain, and why the medium of museums is right for this project. The word ‘queer’ was synonymous with ‘strange’ or ‘weird’, and a common slur thrown at LGBT individuals. Activists in the 1980s reclaimed the word and used it as an umbrella term for a wide range of sexual orientations and gender identities. Nowadays, queer is an increasingly popular way to identify within the community, but as historical traumas persist, and the word can still be found in hostile environments, it’s important to note that not everyone is in agreement. Joe Galliano and Queer Britain use the term as a proud self-identifier, and an intentional move away from using the word ‘gay’, and male homosexuality in general, as a stand-in for all identities. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an epsiode. Sponsor: Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, GW University This show is brought to you by the Museum Studies Graduate Program at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University. With a graduate degree in Museum Studies, you will be equipped to respond to the evolving museum profession by engaging in hands-on training in the heart of the nation’s museum capital. To learn more, click here. Topics and Links 00:00: Intro 00:15: Joseph Galliano 00:35: 50th anniversary of the Partial Decriminalization of Homosexuality in England and Wales 01:55: Legislation from the 'Buggery' Act to Today 02:58: Legislation Focusing on Male Homosexuality 04:00: "Rightful Place" 04:43: The Word Queer 05:28: The Plan for Queer Britain 06:20: Dan Vo at the V&A 07:25: Virtually Queer 08:45: Museums Asking Questions 10:40: Fundraising and Partnerships 12:09: Sponsor: Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, GW University 13:18: Outro | Join Club Archipelago Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 58. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] Joe Galliano: Turns out, in order to launch a museum, it’s a long, complicated, expensive process. Who knew? This is Joe Galliano, one of the co-founders of the Queer Britain Museum. Joe Galliano: Hello, my name is Joe Galliano, the co-founder and CEO of Queer Britain, the national LGBTQ+ museum for the UK. Galliano came up with the idea for a national LGBTQ+ museum in 2017, during the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexual acts in the UK, an anniversary commemorated by cultural and heritage institutions across the country. Joe Galliano: I felt slightly conflicted because it’s an anniversary that’s focused around men. It’s an anniversary that was focused around criminality and victimhood. Some of the fairly familiar tropes that we get rolled out that we get when we start talking about gay men, largely, and it’s not very inclusive. We’re living in a world, thankfully, where there’s a rich and wildly diverse set of sexulaitlies and gender identities and it left me slightly sad that it wasn’t entirely recognized. And also the fact that it was hung on an anniversary, and I didn’t wanted it to be another 50 years before there was something major happening again and I wanted to make sure that we build on the momentum that was being gathered around that anniversary and that it didn’t just fizzle away: it turned into something with real lasting value. The emphasis on an anniversary of legislation could have come from the context of a long history of formal, legal repression of male homosexuality the UK, going all the way back to the Buggery Act of 1533. Joe Galliano: We had the Buggery Act, which was introduced under Henry VIII, which was very much around male sexuality, male same-sex attraction and policing that. And this all stayed on the books in various forms until 1967 when there was partial decriminalization. With partial decriminalization, the age of consent was set at 21, where it was 16 for everybody else. At that point, as well, prosecutions absolutely rocketed. As soon as there was some allowance for people to behave naturally, it then became a bigger stick to beat people with. The legislation only focused on male homosexuality, which is, of course, telling. Joe Galliano: It’s interesting that those laws were always about men. Women with same sex desire were almost rendered invisible to public life and the law. Yeah, I think there’s also, if we’re talking about that kind of legislation, there actually have been a prejudice, a lot of it is about patriarchy, about male views of sexualty and sex, who has an active sexuality, who has a passive sexuality. I think through a large portion of history, women’s sexuality was seen as in service to male sexuality, and so would you legislate against that? There are also some stories. When some of the later bills will brought to Queen Victoria, they were too embarrased to talk about lesbianisim or anything like that. How much truth there is in that, I don’t know. Of course, the focus of Queer Britain will not be legislation. But as Galliano says, the laws previously on the books, and the increasing number of violent homophobic and transphobic attacks in the UK today have distorted the country’s understanding of itself — and tie directly into the mission of the museum. Joe Galliano: We’re talking about a central hub that will visible globally and within the mainstream that will give a message that here is a catalytic space that will collect our stories and here’s a way of helping progress Britain’s understanding of itself by giving Queer stories their rightful place. So that means rightful place within the culture. And also a rightful place. A place that can be their own. The word ‘Queer’ has a complicated history. It wassynonymous with ‘strange’ or ‘weird’, and a common slur thrown at LGBT people. Activists in the 1980s reclaimed the word and used it as an umbrella term for a wide range of sexual orientations and gender identities. Today, Queer is an increasingly popular way to identify within the community, but as historical traumas persist, and the word can still be found in hostile environments, it’s important to note that not everyone is in agreement. Galliano and the Queer Britain Museum use the term as a proud self-identifier and as an intentional move away from using the word ‘gay’, and male homosexuality in general, as a stand-in for all identities. The plan is for Queer Britain to have a physical space in London, opening sometime in the next few years. Although the UK is full of museums, some of which are have Queer artifacts and Queer stories, Galliano is conscious of how backsliding can happen. In legislation and culture, the laws and norms of today don’t guarantee that the future will look the same. Institutions like museums are a part of maintaining today’s momentum — and can give people who have had their stories told by others a chance to narrate their own history. Joe Galliano: I think there’s fantastic movement within the museum communities now to Queer those spaces, to make sure they are unearthing those stories and seeing how they can weave them through the main of their collections. Are they there yet? No. Some places have gotten further than others. Some aren’t doing anything. But there’s some really really good work. I would look at a volunteer like Dan Vo at the V&A who is conducting really good museum tours, LGBT museum tours and is a great volunteer activist. I think that part of my fear is that much of the movement forward relies on activist curators and really excited volunteers and it doesn’t take too many people to leave the sector, and that’s lost. The other thing I think is really important is that there’s such a rich and wildly diverse set of stories to tell. That those museums are never going to be able to tell all of those stories. Whereas what we have the ability to do is to create a catalytic space, where we can pour all of those stories in and where we can keep telling different stories and we can change the exhibitions all the time. And that LGBT people can be in control of telling their own stories as well. Over history, so often, it has been other people who have told our stories. When these other people and institutions tell the Queer community’s stories, they often become the de facto intergenerational gatekeepers — if they decide to keep and organize the information at all. This can have devastating consequences. Galliano is acutely aware that stories are being lost every day. Joe Galliano: That’s about making sure that we’ve gathered the stories of people who are with us now. They can add their voices into the archives and become part of that. It’s important really that we gather the stories now while people can actually talk to us. In terms of understanding where we’re gonna be headed with the archive to start with is that we are designing a national survey of museums around the country, which we’re doing with the assistance of the National Archives. What we really want to do is just get a proper sense of what is the nation’s holding of material that we would think of as LGBT focused. That will mean that it will give us steer as to where are the important gaps. How do we fill those gaps? That’s going to kind of give us a sense of where to focus our collecting activity. When a museum is still an idea, what the word museum means is still flexible. In addition to educational exhibits about Queer history and culture, the proposed museum is also a place for people to upload their own stories and The Whole projects serves as an antidote to the psychological damage of homophobic and transphobic attacks and oppression. Joe Galliano: Museum’s an interesting word, isn’t it, because it comes with all sorts of baggage. And actually, we’re talking about something very much broader than just a museum in the traditional sense. They show inherently show what a culture values and they’re a really good way of understanding what we are now, understand how we got there, and then take that understanding and use them to imagine the best of all possible futures. They ask questions. Who are we? How did we get here? Who do we want to be? It should be different every time you come to the museum when the physical space itself opens. Which we’re a few years off yet. What we’re looking at is a series of guest curators, a rolling series of guest curators so that each time we bring somebody in we’re like, “What is the story that you need to tell? What is the story that hasn’t been told? What’s the material that sits unexplored in other museums’ archives that we’re able to shine a light on?” Sometimes it’ll be about the blockbuster exhibition. What’s the exhibition that’s going to be bringing lines ‘round the block? Which of the exhibitions will there be telling community stories that haven’t been told? For example, it could be everything from - and I’m talking off the top of my head right this moment - It could be everything from, “What is Elton John’s stage costumes?” through to “What is the queer Bangladeshi experience of Birmingham in the 1950s?” It will be a space to tell a vast, endless set of experiences. Creating a new museum is no small task, but Galliano is ready for the challenge. As he goes through the process of collecting and fundraising, he’s also focused on building partnerships. His route to creating a robust institution begins with acknowledging that it’s a project bigger than just one person or one identity. Joe Galliano: There’s as many challenges as you want to look at and they’re all fascinating and exciting to step up to. I think the other thing is how do you carry the responsibility to make sure that something that there is such a need for and such a desire, certainly within the LGBTQ+ communities, how do you carry the weight and the responsibility of having said that you’re gonna this thing and making sure that you’ve delivered for those people. I want to create an organization that if I step away from it, we’ve got the right … There’s another person that will be able to take over that mantle. So that the organization isn’t about one person, but we’ve created a robust organization that will be able to delivery fabulously. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on because it’s the thing that I’m most … I’ve never worked from something I feel so passionately is important. I’ve never picked up a project as brilliantly challenging as this in it’s scale, in the scope of all the different stakeholders we need to make sure are brought close and are doing the right things. And that we keep a laser focus on the strategy to make sure that it happens. [Sponsor] This has been Museum Archipelago [Outro]
In American history most often told, the vitality of Black activism has been obscured in favor of celebrating white-lead movements. In the 19th century, an enormous network of African American activists created a series of state and national political meetings known as the Colored Conventions Movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colored_Conventions_Movement). The Colored Conventions Project (http://coloredconventions.org) (CCP) is a Black digital humanities initiative dedicated to identifying, collecting, and curating all of the documents produced by the Colored Conventions Movement. In this episode, two of the CCP’s cofounders and co-directors, Jim Casey (https://twitter.com/jimccasey1) and Gabrielle Foreman (https://twitter.com/profgabrielle) are joined by Project Fellow Denise Burgher (https://www.english.udel.edu/people/dburgher) to discuss how the Project mirrors the energy and collective commitments of the Conventions themselves, how to see data as a form of protest, and creating an a set of organizational principles. Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/museum-archipelago/id1182755184), Google Podcasts (https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubXVzZXVtYXJjaGlwZWxhZ28uY29tL3Jzcw==), Overcast (https://overcast.fm/itunes1182755184/museum-archipelago), or Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/show/5ImpDQJqEypxGNslnImXZE) to never miss an epsiode. Club Archipelago 🏖️ If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. Join Club Archipelago today on Patreon to help me continue making podcasts about museums (and get some fun benefits)! Topics and Links 00:00: Intro 00:15: Colored Conventions Movement 01:23: Gabrielle Foreman And Jim Casey 02:00: Colored Conventions Project 02:21: Denise Burgher 03:34: Data As A Form Of Protest 06:25: Terms Of Use For CCP’s Data 07:20: “To Respect, Not Just Collect” 09:20: “Celebratory History Of American Progress” 10:23: The Understudy Of The Colored Conventions Movement 11:25: Women's Centrality To The Movement 12:30: Getting People Involved 12:54: Douglass Day 14:15: Museums And Digital Spaces 15:00: Announcing Museum Archipelago Stickers Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 57. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript In American history most often told, the vitality of Black activism has been obscured in favor of celebrating white-lead movements. In the 19th century, an enormous network of African American activists created a series of state and national political meetings known as the Colored Conventions Movement. GABRIELLE FOREMAN: "The Colored Convention movement was Black-lead and Black organizers came together across so many of the states. Beginning in 1830 folks began to gather in Philadelphia, and there were both state and national conventions that discussed labor rights, educational rights, voting rights, violence against Black communities, the expulsion of people who were not considered residence and citizens.” JIM CASEY: “The Conventions Movement was not just a single thing, where there was one issue that they were really dedicated to solving or figuring out. Conventions were held in at least 35 states. And keep in mind that this was the 19 century, so there weren’t 50 states even back then. That we really think there is a way, through this history, to rethink everything that begins far long before the Civil War and leads up into the 20th century. GABRIELLE FOREMAN And JIM CASEY are two co-founders and two co-directors of the Colored Conventions Project, a Black digital humanities initiative focused on researching and teaching the Colored Conventions Movement. GABRIELLE FOREMAN: "Hi, my name is GABRIELLE FOREMAN, and I teach at the University of Delaware, and I am one of the cofounders of the Colored Conventions Project, and the founding faculty director of that project. JIM CASEY: “Hello, I’m JIM CASEY. I’m a researcher at the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University, and I am also one of the cofounders of the Colored Conventions Project, and also one of the co-directors. The Colored Conventions project or (CCP) is dedicated to identifying, collecting, and curating all of the documents produced by the Colored Conventions movement, which started in 1830 and lasted until the 1890s. The project is much bigger than just Forman or Casey, and it includes graduate fellow DENISE BURGHER. DENISE BURGHER: Hello, my name is DENISE BURGHER, and I am a team member of the Colored Convention Project housed at the University of Delaware. The significance of this collection is that none of these documents have been collected in the same place. It is a scattered archive, and so not even when the Conventions were going on were the proceedings and the minutes and the calls and the memorials all in one place for anyone to actually look at and see. So this is actually the first time that this archive will be collected. It allows us to see not only the issues that were facing African Americans but in particular, how to make more complex how we think the African American community and the civic, social, political activity that were taken up, not just in the United States, but across the diaspora. So what we’re getting is a more complete idea of not only what took place then, but how these activists were able to influence, shape, and create contemporary civil rights, political action, and social justice organizations in our current moment.” By studying the organizing principles of the Colored Conventions Movement, the Project reveals how data can be a form of protest. JIM CASEY: “One of the things that we see in the Conventions most often is that they are responding to a lack of information about who they are, who their communities are, and what they’re doing. This is about a kind of form of protest where we are trying to combat against things like ignorance. And so many of these conventions would have formalized ways of gathering information, distilling them, and then preparing them to get published in all kinds of different ways.” GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “And the conventions themselves have a longer life and a longer reach because the proceedings often appear in Black newspapers and in the antislavery press. But if you look for coverage of these conventions, then you understand this structural and strategized reach to make sure we get beyond the people who were actually in the meeting rooms themselves. That’s one of the things that the project has made central. To think not just about the podium. And not just about the podium and the pews, but to think through the ways in which Black infrastructure was built around Black convention organizing. JIM CASEY: So I’ll give you and example. In the California convention, we have this very small, quickly growing group. And they get together for conventions a couple of times in the 1850s on into the 1860s, and what they do is they ask everyone to ask around, to do what effectively amounts to a census. And they want to gather information about who the population is that is being left out of the official records, that’s being left out of the government reports. We have all kinds of things happening in California where folks are being denied the right to testify in a court of law for example, where you’re not physically able to account for yourself. And so the Conventions compile all of these statistics, and they track everything that they can, with the idea that they’re providing a set of useful information for the writers in their ranks, but also the local politicians to know that the community is not just a couple of people living out in gold rush country, but stretches across a lot of territory and a lot of people. And then when they go to publish it, and this is an important part: is that they prepare some reports that go out to the people of the United States or the people of Canada, they mean the broad general public. And then, in many of the conventions, prepare more reports that are addressed to the People of Color in the state or in the country. And oftentimes, they are putting out the same message or the same set of ideas, but really gearing and prioritizing different kinds of arguments in different places. And so, when thinking about the conventions as a place to learn about recording keeping, it’s full of so many of these great examples of folks who were thinking in multiple directions at the same time. And the co-founders of the Project purposely structured the initiative to mirror the energy and collective commitments of the Colored Conventions themselves. One of the first thing that struck me when I visited the project website was the terms of use for the project’s data: the data are freely accessible, but when you go to download, the site asks you to commit to the following principles: GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “I honor CCP’s commitment to a use of data that humanizes and acknowledges the Black people whose collective organizational histories are assembled here. Although the subjects of datasets are often reduced to abstract data points, I will contextualize and narrate the conditions of the people who appear as “data” and to name them when possible.” As Forman explains, principles like these reflect the wholeness of Black communities and is an example of one of the ways that the project intentionally, and in practice, continues the principles of the Colored Convention Movement itself: to respect, not just collect. GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “Whenever possible, we try to intervene in the ways in which Black people are represented in academic language, in academic spaces, in ways that do honor the ways in which the delegates and the conventions were intervening about the ways in which Black people were represented in the larger press, in the Law, and in the exclusionary politics that try to erase them. Big data sets call things items. Black people show up on ledgers as items. We have a whole history of being turned into objects, and objects and items are the nomenclature in libraries and in museums in ways that we talk about things that we curate. So we want to in all moments testify and witness to the humanity and the narratives of named people whose histories have been disremembered, and who can be turned to datasets in ways that are extraordinarily comfortable considering the history of objectification and ownership that is the legacy of Black people’s existence in these United States over the last 400 years. So that’s I think what we’re trying to make sure does not happen: that people come to the use of data which is collected in a group of people who want to respect, not just collect the work of people who came before us and largely make our existence and study possible, and we want to do that in a way that’s humanizing not just to them, but to us.” And as BURGHER points out, part of the Project’s purpose is to change the overall narrative of the most-often told version of Black American history in the 19th century. DENISE BURGHER: “We have a very fleshed out and detailed notation of abolition in this country, but we don’t understand that the majority of Abolitionists were African American, nor do we then understand the ways that African American activism shaped contemporary quote unquote American notions of civil rights, of who gets to vote and why, of who gets to stand in the juror box. This erasure, this imbalance allows one story to dominate, but we lose the ability to actually see what happen and we lose the ability to understand what happens. And it also then leads us, I think, to create a kind of celebratory history of American progress and American race neutrality, what we call post-racal, that the truth belies. We’re much more interested in learning what African Americans are saying about African Americans who are involved in creating this movement.” GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “And that’s one of the reasons that the understudy of the Conventions Movement is a particularly egregious disremembrance because the Movement speaks to the continuous targeting of Communities of Color in this country that has gone pretty much uninterrupted and documents a much longer history of organized protest and formal petitioning of fair and equal treatment of those communities.” The Colored Convention Project’s is also studying the social network of the convention goers: when you list out who attended which conference, you begin to see patterns, not only of prolific delegates, but also the infrastructure around the conventions. The project has even organized records like reviews of boarding houses the conference-goers stayed in. Another key principle of the Project is a commitment to resurrecting women’s centrality to the movement, records of which might not be as widely published. GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “It took a great deal of energy to host these conventions. Those Conventions had hundreds and hundreds of people attending and that those people were men and woman and that women were responsible for the boarding houses and the feeding and the housing of the delegates and that so many conversations and political strategy sessions we know also happened in those informal places. So the Project has been committed to resurrecting women’s centrality in the history that they have been erased from or anonymized in in terms of the records themselves, but we know they were central in the actual historical moment. And we have strategies and protocols to make sure as we resurrect that history, that women are included in the history that they help to create. CASEY makes the point that the original convention-goers were really good at getting lots of people involved in the movement, and this presents yet another opportunity for the Project to mirror the Movement. JIM CASEY: “We know that if we do just enough to help get folks up and running and participating in different kinds of ways, then we can really expand the numbers of who can participate and preserve in creating access to this history. To that idea, we’ve created this annual holiday to celebrate the birthday of Frederick Douglass. And what we do every year is we get birthday cakes and we sing happy birthday and we get together with groups and we give out organizing kits to help folks at other locations and schools organize their own events. Together, all in one afternoon, we log online and we transcribe documents together with the idea that we are both celebrating something and we’re inviting folks to participate in building parts of the history that we’re talking about. Douglass Day wasn’t created by the Colored Conventions Project, but is another example of resurrecting something that already existed before. The Read-A-Thons take place on Frederick Douglass's chosen birthday, February 14, and in 2019 will be held at University of Delaware Morris Library and the African American Museum of Philadelphia. They will be live-streamed over the internet. I think the best way to describe the Colored Convention Project is as an open research framework with a very strong set of principles. It’s remarkable for me to see organizing tools that I think of as modern, or at least native to the internet, have their roots in this understudied movement of 19th century Black activism. It’s also interesting to think how other projects and institutions can contribute and follow some of the same organizational principles. GABRIELLE FOREMAN: “There is a place for storytelling in the midst of all this data and in fact, that’s what tends to connect with people, and in fact, that’s something that’s shared between museum and digital spaces. Some of the very questions about accessibility, and participation that museums are attempting to grapple with finally at this stage, we’re also engaging as a project that creates digital content and digital stories about this incredible group of delegates and participates and hosts who made this movement possible. You can learn more about the Colored Conventions Project by visiting coloredconventions.org.
Lana Pajdas (https://twitter.com/LanaPajdas) is the founder of Fun Museums (http://funmuseums.eu), a heritage and culture travel blog with a radical idea: museums are fun. It is the guiding principle of her museum marketing, consulting work (http://funmuseums.eu), and even her photographs (https://www.instagram.com/funmuseums). In this episode, Pajdas describes Heritage Sites in her native Croatia, from the interpretation of the 1991 Battle of Vukovar at the Vukovar Municipal Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vukovar#Vukovar_Municipal_Museum) to the Game of Thrones-inspired Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast for free to never miss an episode. Sponsor: The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis This episode of Museum Archipelago is sponsored by The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. The program is currently accepting applications for the Fall 2019 semester. They offer an MA degree as well as a Graduate Certificate. Their programs address pressing needs of museums and heritage institutions in the 21st century and prepare students for professional careers in museums, historic sites and societies, cultural agencies, and related organizations. Financial support is available for a limited number of students and applications are due on February 1st. For more information, please call 314-516-4805 or visit their website. Topics and Links 00:00: Intro 00:15: Croatia 00:40: Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik, Croatia 01:14: Lana Pajdas and the Fun Museums Blog 02:39: Disney’s America on Museum Archipelago 03:15: Vukovar Municipal Museum on the Battle of Vukovar 05:12: “Museum Procrastination” 06:14: Sustainable Tourism 07:59: Possible Solutions to Over-Tourism 09:08: FunMuseums.eu 09:18: Sponsor: The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis 10:11: Outro | Join Club Archipelago Transcript Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 56. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear and the only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above. View Transcript [Intro] Lana Pajdas is from Croatia. Lana Pajdas: We are a small country, and we have fewer inhabitants that some US cities. We don’t have as many fields of industry or strong economy or whatever, and tourism is maybe the most important field we have. But in recent years, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, due in part to being a prominent filming location of the TV series Game of Thrones, has experienced dramatic overcrowding. Lana Pajdas: I was there last time, and it was pretty much terrible to see that people were waiting in lines to enter inside the old town, inside the walls. There were so many agencies selling Game of Thrones tours and taking people to some specific areas where it’s kind of difficult to have so many people in the same place, even for safety reasons. Pajdas is the founder of Fun Museums, a heritage and culture travel blog. Lana Pajdas: Okay, my name is Lana Pajdas, My blog is called Fun Museums because I like to say that visiting museums is fun above all. Visiting museums is a fun experience, and people shouldn’t think that museums are something cold, elegant, smart, intelectual. It’s just, people can have that experience in their leisure time. Pajdas is also a museum marker and consultant. Her overall theme is that museums are fun. It is a radical idea — and it influences everything, from her philosophy on museum marketing to a way to approach overcrowding in museums and heritage sites. Lana Pajdas: Exactly, that is my guiding principle. The way I write my articles it to say the most cool, funky stuff about each museums I visit. Sometimes museum professionals don’t like this at all, that’s why some people from museums, museum curators for instance, museum marketing professionals or education professionals, they send me messages: “could you stop saying things that way because it is in contrast to our professional values.” But then I said, okay, but that’s what people like to know. That’s what people like to hear. If you think it should be more intellectual, you have to understand that most people can’t read it that way, understand the way you want to present it to them. But there is a real tension, because the axis isn’t just between what’s fun and what’s intellectual. In episode 17 of Museum Archipelago, I cover the spectacular failure of a Disney theme park concept called Disney's America in 1994. The park, which would open in Virginia not far from Washington DC, would showcase [quote] “the sweep of American History” within a fun theme park environment. It is particularly notable to witness the confidence and enthusiasm Disney executives had for a tightrope between entertainment and American history. Lana Pajdas: An example is a town on the east of Croatia, its name is Vukovar. This town was heavily destroyed in the most recent war in this part of Europe in 1991 when it was occupied. Almost all the buildings were destroyed, most of the people have to go away from there, and it was one of the most terrible stories that happened in Europe after the Second World War. And now the city has been quite well restored some people went back to live there, and the museum was completely renovated. And obviously, the visit to that museum is a nice and pleasant experience, but in recent history you really need to deal with some awful stuff that happened less than 30 years ago. It’s difficult for a person from Western Europe to understand what happened in ex-Yugoslavia. Even sometimes too complicated for people from this areas. It’s not as simple as some books like to present or some journalists like to present and there are many different opinions. So I think that museums sometimes need to take certain sides, even if some will disagree. Museums that deal with that stories needs to first of all show those emotions and to collaborate with people who suffered those emotions. Of course some emotional intelligence is very important for people who create that storytelling, who transmit emotions of certain people or people who will be just visitors, or maybe have nothing to with those areas or stories. No matter what kind of museum you’re about to walk into, you have a sense of what you might find inside. And since that sense is partially informed by a museum’s marketing, Pajdas has made a habit of noting how people react to museums before they go. Lana Pajdas: In most cases, it happens that people procrastinate their decisions to go to a museum. That happens more often than not. Next time I would really like to visit that museum, but today I feel a bit tired. I’m hungry, I want to go to eat to drink, I prefer to stay at home, watch a movie, I would really love to go the museum, but maybe one day. When my friends go to Paris, for instance, they say, I want to visit Louvre, I know there are other museums, but maybe another time. Because Louvre is already enough for me for these three days. This tendency to choose the most popular museum to the exclusion of less frequently-visited ones is part of Pajdas’s interest in sustainable tourism. Lana Pajdas: I’m parallel interested in sustainable travel and the museum thing, and these are the two areas I mentioned as my primary focus and interest. So museums and sustainable travel. Sustainability has so many faces, I’m quite interested in seeing about energy efficiency and waste management. But overtorusiim being one of my focus areas even though I don’t really pretend to know what could be a solution to that. Some attractions like the Alhombre Castle in Spain introduced online booking and you can’t just come in, buy a ticket and enter, but you have to book your spot in advance online and sometimes you can’t get a ticket if you just remember a week before you go. These are some of the solutions. I do wonder how much of this heavily concentrated overcrowding has to do with the nature social media itself -- there’s a network effect of a geotagged photo, not just a particular heritage site, but at particular spot within that heritage site that presents the best angle for a photo or looks exactly the way it did on Game of Thrones. Of course, there are many other factors that lead to overcrowding — the cheap flights, the increasing ability of people to travel, and the dynamic of travel as a product. And if the Acropolis is at already capacity every single day, what it is going to look like 10 or 20 years from now? And to go back to Disney, tourism as a product already has an answer — just raise the prices. But heritage for the rich isn’t heritage anymore. Lana Pajdas: Heritage should be accessible. Obviously, for many people around the world, it’s not really affordable to go to some places. What I want to be avoided is it becomes too expensive that only wealthy people can afford visiting those attractions. That’s what I would like to be avoided. And another thing, I would really like to encourage more people who really like to travel to visit secondary attractions, not go necessarily to the most famous places, but to visit some places around that usually also need visitors and more local people could make money for living, if they get visitors on those particular places, because more people could be employed in those places and businesses could flourish. That’s the basic thing. And this is what ties all aspects of Pajdas (pydash)’s work together — to use the social media network effect to share the secondary attractions of a city, balancing the pressure on the most popular heritage site. To read Pajdas (pydash)’s blog, and to learn about her consulting work, visit Funmuseums.eu. Her twitter handle is @LanaPajdas.
loading
Comments 
loading
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store