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Museum Archipelago

Museum Archipelago

Author: Ian Elsner

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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, diving into institutional problems, and introducing you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.
60 Episodes
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60. Stephanie Cunningham Pipelines Creatives of Color In Cultural Institutions with Museum Hue
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 Links00:00 Intro00:15 The Ongoing Fight for Racial Diversity in Museums01:52 Stephanie Cunningham02:26 The Founding of Museum Hue03:05 Hueseum Tours03:52 “Authentic Participation” and Jobs06:29 Museum Hue’s Membership Model07:05 Knock On Effects of Resistance to Change08:56 A Story of the Museum Exhibition Design Company10:10 The Unchecked Cultural Power of Museums11:05 Black Visuality11:25 Museum Hue’s Memberships12:07 Arts Targeted By Oppressive Forces13:55 Outro/Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow 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]
59. Faith Displayed As Science: The Role of Creation Museums In The Modern Creationist Movement with Julie Garcia
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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Quest for Scientific Legitimacy01:06: Julie Garcia 02:25: Garcia's Thesis03:50: Visiting Creation Museums04:45: Using Dinosaurs to Attract Children To Creation Museums07:00: Why Build A Museum?10:51: Creationists Going Directly To Their Audience11:17: “Biblically Correct” Tours11:48: The Two Model Approach13:00: Outro/Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow 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.
58. Joe Galliano Fills In The UK’s Family Tree At The Queer Britain Museum
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 UniversityThis 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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Joseph Galliano00:35: 50th anniversary of the Partial Decriminalization of Homosexuality in England and Wales01:55: Legislation from the 'Buggery' Act to Today02:58: Legislation Focusing on Male Homosexuality04:00: "Rightful Place"04:43: The Word Queer05:28: The Plan for Queer Britain06:20: Dan Vo at the V&A07:25: Virtually Queer08:45: Museums Asking Questions10:40: Fundraising and Partnerships12:09: Sponsor: Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, GW University13:18: Outro | Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow 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]
57. The Colored Conventions Project Resurrects Disremembered History With Denise Burgher, Jim Casey, Gabrielle Foreman, & Many Others
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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Colored Conventions Movement01:23: Gabrielle Foreman And Jim Casey02:00: Colored Conventions Project02:21: Denise Burgher03:34: Data As A Form Of Protest06:25: Terms Of Use For CCP’s Data07:20: “To Respect, Not Just Collect”09:20: “Celebratory History Of American Progress”10:23: The Understudy Of The Colored Conventions Movement11:25: Women's Centrality To The Movement12:30: Getting People Involved12:54: Douglass Day14:15: Museums And Digital Spaces15:00: Announcing Museum Archipelago StickersTranscriptBelow 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.
56. Lana Pajdas Trains Her ‘Fun Museums’ Lens to Croatian Heritage Sites, From The Battle of Vukovar to Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik
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 DubrovnikMuseum 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. LouisThis 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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Croatia00:40: Over-Tourism in Dubrovnik, Croatia01:14: Lana Pajdas and the Fun Museums Blog02:39: Disney’s America on Museum Archipelago03:15: Vukovar Municipal Museum on the Battle of Vukovar05:12: “Museum Procrastination”06:14: Sustainable Tourism07:59: Possible Solutions to Over-Tourism09:08: FunMuseums.eu09:18: Sponsor: The Museums, Heritage, and Public History program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis10:11: Outro | Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow 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.
55. Barbara Hicks-Collins Is Turning Her Family Home Into the Bogalusa Civil Rights Museum
Barbara Hicks-Collins grew up in a Civil Rights house (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_%22Bob%22_Hicks_House) in Bogalusa, Louisiana. In her family breakfast room in 1965, her father, the late Robert “Bob” Hicks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_%22Bob%22_Hicks), founded the Bogalusa chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deacons_for_Defense_and_Justice). The armed self-defense force was formed in response to local anti-integration violence that the local police force complicitly supported.The house became a communication hub, a safe house, and a medical triage station for injured activists denied medical services at the state hospital. After her father’s death, Barbara Hicks-Collins decided that the house has one more chapter: as the Bogalusa Civil Rights Museum (https://roberthicksfoundation.squarespace.com/civil-rights-museum). In this episode, Barbara Hicks-Collins talks about growing up with the Civil Rights movement in her living room and describes the process, progress, and challenges of today’s Bogalusa Civil Rights Museum project. 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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Barbara Hicks-Collins00:42: Robert “Bob” Hicks01:28: “Why Not A Museum?"02:54: The City of Bogalusa, Louisiana03:45: “The Civil Rights House"04:11: The Events of February 1, 196505:04: The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement06:28: Daily Life Under Threat07:20: Bogalusa Civil Rights Museum09:35: The Process11:18: "It's Not Easy But It's Possible"12:16: Learn More | Donate to the Museum14:05: Outro | Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 55. 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]Barbara Hicks-Collins can describe the exact moment an idea for a civil rights museum in Bogalusa, Louisiana entered her mind.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “After Hurricane Katrina, our homes were devastated so I had to move back to Bogalusa, I was able to help my mom take care of my father, his health was failing.”Barbara Hicks-Collins’s father is the late Robert “Bob” Hicks, a civil rights leader and founder of the first chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. The Deacons were an armed African-American self-defense force operating in the segregated — and violently hostile towards integration — city of Bogalusa and other towns across the American south in the 1960s. Barbara Hicks-Collins: “I spent about five years with him and every waking hour we could talk, he talked to me about what he loved to talk about: the civil rights movement. When my father died, I realized that a lot of things are not permanent. And that meant to me that a lot of the history that I felt would always be here because we experienced history and it was so important for people to know why they are where they are today, and history makers — they were dying off sooner than I had expected.”Barbara Hicks-Collins: “But I was thinking of a way — how could we preserve the history permanently — and the idea of a dream came up: why not a museum? Where you can start preserving the history, talking to some of the decedents and make a civil rights museum so this generation and generations forever would know about that.”Today, Barbara Hicks-Collins is the director of the museum, and she joins me to talk about the process, progress, and challenges of the Bogalusa Civil Rights Museum project.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “Greetings from Bogalusa, Louisiana! I’m Barbara Hicks-Collins. I’m the museum director of the future museum which is going to be the civil rights museum in Bogalusa and I’m also one of the founders and executive director of a non-profit organization named after my father, The Robert Bob Hicks Foundation. And how are you today?”I’m doing well! Before we start talking about the museum, we have to talk about the town of Bogalusa and the life of Robert “Bob” Hicks.Barbara Hicks-Collins: The Goodyears came from New York and they started the paper mill here in Bogalusa and they brought in people from all over the country when they heard there was going to be a mill here. They brought them in. Then they built homes for the people to love in. And since this was 1906, of course, they are separated. So in Bogalusa, it's separated where you have the blacks and you have the whites. They build churches for blacks and churches for white. So that's how they tried to do, they said it was equal if you did it that way. Everything, so you know that story. In the 1960s, Robert “Bob” Hicks worked and labor organized at the paper mill and lived with his wife Jackie Hicks and their children in a house in the black neighborhood of Bogalusa.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “Since our family house was known as the civil rights house because we were a civil rights family and all the civil rights workers. Anyone who came into Bogalusa, just everybody. Civil rights lawyers, they would always come to the house. On February 1st 1965, after a series of meetings at the Bogalusa Voters League, Bob and Jackie hicks invited two white civil rights workers, William Yates and Steve Miller into their home, aware that they would not be safe in a nearby hotel because of local Ku Klux Klan activity. Robert and Jackie Hicks sat down for dinner that night with their children, including Barbara, and their guests Yates and Miller. When they finished eating, they retired to the living room to watch television and talk over the day’s events. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Robert Hicks opened it and found the Bogalusa Police Chief standing in the doorway. He had bad news: a mob of whites had gathered nearby and they were prepared to murder the entire family and burn the house to the ground if the Hicks didn't put the white activists out. The officer added that they should expect no help from law enforcement.As Lance Hill writes in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, “Bob and Jackie Hicks were levelheaded activists and they mobilized quickly; Jackie promptly called several friends for assistance. When it became known that the Hicks family needed protection, the black men of Bogalusa responded swiftly. The police officers watched line of black men — armed with shotguns and rifles—rapidly file into the Hicks house.The mob never materialized.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “We were just an ordinary family, but we were placed here to do extraordinary things and that was to, as my daddy say, to be the voice for the voiceless. To be the person who would stand up for people who were afraid to stand up for themselves. And so that's what he did and that's what we, as a family, began to do. That's when we reached out ... well, he reached out and the leader, and they start the spirit and so men who had never stood up before began to stand up and say no to the injustice. ”A few weeks later, after more violence in Bogalusa and on the day of Malcolm X's assassination, Robert “Bob” Hicks and fellow activists founded the Bogalusa chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, headquartered in Hicks' home and made up of many of the same foot soldiers who had come forward with their guns to protect the family on February 1.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “In our breakfast room was the radio, so when people called in the communication radio, we could hear that all over the house. People called we would hear all of that. Some people were calling in for distressed. We would hear all of that. My brother was refused medical service because he shouldn’t have been at the public park which is all white.”In this way, the house served as not only the communication headquarters, but as but a safe house and a medical triage station for injured activists denied medical services at the state hospital. And now the house has one final use: as the future Bogalusa Civil Rights museum.Barbara Hicks-Collins: “It was my family house. I mean, that's where I grew up. That's where all the civil rights activity took place so when I walk in the house I see the family standing in the living room on Sunday morning with my father giving the Sunday morning prayer before we go to church. I see that and I see our bedrooms and I see mom in the kitchen and all of that. Then on the other hand, I see the fear, I see the struggle, I see where we had the men from the Deacons for Defense and Justice with guns all around to protect the civil rights workers who stayed at our house and to protect my father wherever he went, to protect the family. So, seeing the house in two different points of view or feeling two different ways. Based on that, I want to show in the museum what we went through as a part of the movement and then maybe they can understand how difficult it was. That this way of life was not the way it should have been for any American.”This future museum, this house made into a museum, will interpret what happened inside and outside against the wallpaper of a domestic scene. For Barbara Hicks-Collins and her family, a closed front door didn’t close out the world around her. The radio -- which was necessary because the city would monitor and occasionally shut off the phone lines -- could come on at any moment. For all the other interpretations that the museum will present, the Klan’s threat to daily life is maybe the most powerful. So what’s the process of getting from here to there? For Hicks-Collins, it started with making small, periment changes to Bogalusa landscape that will pave the way for the museum. Barbara Hicks-Collins: “From the idea of having a museum with the history preserved, then I started going through the process. I think the first thing that I did was to go to the zoning commission to make sure that it was zoned for a Civil Rights Museum. That was a little complicated. You have to know Bogalusa. I had people to come in to support the idea and finally they approved the area for a Civil Rights Museum. So the second thing was to rename the street where the Hicks family lived. To rename that street Robert “Bob” Hicks Street. That took some doing. Eventually, it happened and so the entire street is named after my father. By this time, we had the Robert Bob Hicks Foundation, made it a 501(c)(3) organization. And from that point we were able to move to getting a land marker and by the way, the land marker is right in front of the Hick's house. What's interesting about that is that they never had a land marker for an African American in Washington Parrish. Never. This was the first one. So we thought that was a great success. The Robert Bob Hicks Foundation is building support through fundraisers, a small grant through the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, and volunteer efforts to physically prepare the house for the museum. Hicks-Collins also recently secured a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services to record interviews with members of the Deacons, civil rights lawyers, and others. Barbara Hicks-Collins: “But the whole thing that I want to say to you about this whole process and having a dream and staying on courses though is something you have to believe in because it's not easy but it's possible. It's definitely possible. It's not going to occur overnight. Just like the struggle for equality in all these little, small, country towns and in America as a whole, it didn't come overnight. So you have to be committed and you have to stay the course even though some people may not be with you, you still have to stay the course because you know the end result. You know you're going to give this generation and generations to follow something that was so valuable. If you don't go about it with that mindset, you'll lose it. Hicks-Collins is working build the museum in time so that the few civil rights workers and foot soldiers who are still living, will be on site, giving tours and answering questions.The museum project is entering what Hicks-Collins calls phase II: restoring the house to make it suitable for a museum: rewiring the stolen electrical system with updated codes, installing a security system, and building the Legend Gallery with surround seats in the carpark. You can find out more information about Robert Hicks and the status of the museum by visiting roberthicksfoundation.squarespace.com and you can donate to the foundation at roberthicksfoundation.squarespace.com/donate. Barbara Hicks-Collins: “Let me tell you this. On Martin Luther King's birthday we have the ROTC students to come in and they help do the volunteer work. I started explaining to them before they started doing any work that this is going to be whose house it was and this is going to be a museum, the whole spiel there. I asked this girl, I said ... teenagers, junior, sophomore at the time, I said, "What museums have you been to?" And she said, "None." I said, "No. I mean, have you been out of Bogalusa to go to a museum anywhere? Not just in Bogalusa. And she said, "No. I haven't been. I've never been to a museum." It was ... how could that be? She was a junior. How could that be a thing, a junior, almost a senior, never been to a museum? And she worked harder than anybody else and so I just hugged her say, "So you're one of the people that I'm working for. I'm working so you can have a museum and you can let your children know that you were a part of this." That gives me more courage to come in. We need to make sure that their stories always, already, always here and what better there other than a museum?This has been Museum Archipelago.[Outro]
54. Buzludzha Is Deteriorating. Brian Muthaliff Wants To Turn It Into A Winery.
High in the Balkan mountains, Buzludzha monument is deteriorating. Designed to emphasize the power and modernity of the Bulgarian Communist Party (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7I65bs_HH4), Buzludzha is now at the center of a debate over how Bulgaria remembers its past (http://www.buzludzha-monument.com/archives/).Architect Brian Muthaliff (http://cargocollective.com/bmuthaliff) wants the building to evolve along with Bulgaria. His master’s thesis on Buzludzha describes a re-adaption of the site to subvert the original intention of the architecture, including installing a winery and a theater. Unlike architect Dora Ivanova’s Buzludzha Project (http://www.buzludzha-monument.com/project), which we discussed at length in episode 47 (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/47), Muthaliff’s plan (http://cargocollective.com/bmuthaliff) only calls for a single, museum-like space. In this episode, we use Muthaliff’s thesis as a guide (http://cargocollective.com/bmuthaliff/R-E-D-Reconstruction-in-an-Era-of-Dilapidation) as we go in-depth on what a museum means and discuss the best path forward for this building and for Bulgaria.Image: Rendering from R.E.D | Reconstruction in an Era of Dilapidation: A Proposal for the Revitalization of the Former House of the Communist Party by Brian MuthaliffMuseum 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 Links00:00: Intro00:15: Buzludzha Monument00:45: Brief History01:45: Brian Muthaliff02:30: The Buzludzha Project03:18: "Buildings Turned Into Artifacts"03:50: Reconstruction in an Era of Dilapidation05:16: Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia05:33: Participatory Architecture05:50: Buzludzha as Winery06:45: Buzludzha as Democratic Platform08:11: Bulgarian Horo08:50: Museum or no museum?11:32: Muthaliff's Thesis Defense12:14: The Future13:10: Read Muthaliff's ThesisTranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 54. 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]Ever since I visited earlier this year, I can't stop thinking about Buzludzha. Buzludzha, an enormous disk of concrete perched on a mountaintop in the middle of Bulgaria, celebrates the grandeur of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Rising out of the back of the disk is a tower, 70 meters high, and flanked by two red stars. The building was designed to look like a giant wreath and flag. During its construction, the top of the peak was blown away with dynamite to make way for the building. Today, it's hard not to see a giant UFO. Bulgarian architect Dora Ivanova says that the building's daring design was, of course, intentional. Dora Ivanova: It was built to impress. It was built as part of the political propaganda and education as they called it during this time. Its shape looks like a UFO, actually. This is also on purpose because it had to show how the socialist idea is contemporary, it’s the future.The building is deteriorating, making its futuristic design all the more striking. Buzludzha was completed in 1981, but just 10 years later, the Communist party collapsed. As the regime changed and Bulgaria headed towards a democratic form of government, Buzludzha just sat there. Parts of the structure became exposed to the elements. On the top of the mountain, the building was whipped by strong winds and frozen by temperatures as low as -25 °C. Today, the building has been a ruin way longer than it was a functional building.Brian Muthaliff: The interiors were everything that I had imagined while approaching it from the exterior, in this kind of derelict state. When on the interior, it was completely dark when we got there. Our flashlights couldn't even get very far, and we were kind of all holding hands, you know, taking the next step carefully. You could see chunks of concrete falling off in certain places.This is Brian Muthaliff, a Canadian architect who first visited Buzludzha with his Bulgarian fiancée.Brian Muthaliff: All right. Hi. My name is Brian Muthaliff. I am an architect in Ontario, Canada, who has his master's thesis focused on the Buzludzha monument in Bulgaria, and the re-adaption of it.Buzludzha is deteriorating. The question is: what should we do about it?Bulgarian architect Dora Ivanova has a plan to turn it into a museum. We highlighted her work, called The Buzludzha Project, in episode 47 of this program.The Buzludzha Project aims to repair and preserve the building and interpret what it means. Bulgaria lacks an interpretive museum about the decades of communist rule under the thumb of the Soviet Union. What better place to put that museum but inside Buzludzha?Ivanova is under no illusions that a painstaking restoration of the building to its original form could give the impression of celebrating the the building’s original ideologies. She thinks that adapting or repurposing the monument would be forgetting or disguising its original intention.But Brian Muthaliff respectfully disagrees. He wants the building to evolve along with Bulgaria. Brian Muthaliff: There are two types of museums, I think, that occur in the contemporary world. One, the museum that's built anew to house artifacts. And the second is when buildings get turned into museums as artifacts. Both of them are appropriate in certain circumstances. This is not the case. I think this building speaks to a much broader question than just mere artifact.Muthaliff also could not stop thinking about Buzludzha after he visited for the first time. He focused his master’s thesis on changing the meaning of the building and what it could be used for in the future -- a process he calls “reprogramming.”Brian Muthaliff: The moment we left that building there was this kind of lingering thought about this particular monument. It felt like there was a real potential for the building, and faced with the project of figuring out a thesis, this building stayed in mind. And it wouldn't leave me. So, I decided to make it the focus of the thesis. I think the scope's expanded beyond the building at that point, it became a conversation about the culture in Bulgaria, and this building as a reflection of that culture, and how I could tie the two things together. The thesis became about reprogramming the building as a means of reconciling with their past. And beyond that it became about what type of program, then, is appropriate for this project? What type of program could maybe speak to the Bulgarian history, which is centuries long, I think it's almost 5000 years, and communism makes up a very small fraction of that piece. So when we're talking about the nation's identity, what is that identity? And how can a program, and a building, reconciled, represent that, the nation?This is the good stuff. This is what Museum Archipelago is all about. Should this building become a museum, or something else all together? Bulgaria has plenty of communist era monuments -- listen to episode 25 about the Museum of Socialist Art for a fascinating discussion of a museum where statues of Lenin decorate a slightly overgrown field -- but Buzledga is the only monument that you can occupy. For Muthaliff, this is an invitation for people to participate with the architecture. Brian Muthaliff: I wanted it to be something that people can still participate in, without having to kind of mentally prepare before visiting the building that actually they are going there to learn, in the very traditional way of learning, which is just kind of, you know, reading or being distanced from the object.And the means of participation? A winery, of course.Brian Muthaliff: So the building, in my view in the thesis, ends up being this winery that's open to the public. It cultivates the land. The metaphor there is that it's a productive tool, and production is a kind of means of creating the future. So it's not something that kind of stops, it's not something that you're distanced from, it's not something that you read or that you look at. It's something that you participate in. And through participation, through action, you kind of reconcile your histories. Programmatically, the winery needed to be the thing that draws, that makes the building productive, and then it holds up this kind of shield for the people to sort of celebrate it. Part of what the redesign accomplishes is subverting the original intention of the building. The building is designed with one entrance underneath to the main dome, which focuses the visitor experience into the grandeur of the building and, by extension, the Bulgarian communist party. Muthaliff calls for terraforming the peak so it reaches back to its original height before it was levelved off, leaving some of the building underground. What is now a series of enormous windows high around the dome, providing views of the entire county, become entrances, inviting people in from all corners of Bulgaria. Brian Muthaliff: It meant to remove the type of procession that was intended from the beginning, which is you kind of ascend in to this halo-ed space. And use the kind of elongated windows that band the circumference of the building as entrance points, as this kind of democratic platform that would invite everybody from around the entire country. And that's, by virtue of the way they placed it in the country, dead center … And then these windows in a circle so kind of have a view to every point of the country, and I thought, they are all portals in to the building. And so if we terraform the mountain top to be what it was, to meet that level, so that people could approach it and enter that space publicly, that again was a kind of subversive move to the architecture political agenda of the building, which is this one kind of procession through this space. Now it would be multiple kind of entries, multiple ways of experiencing the wreath. And then finally hitting or ending up in this kind of celebratory space. Which is at the top of the mountain.I can’t help but be delighted at subverting the original intention of the building. Muthaliff notes that his proposal reminds him of a traditional Bulgarian dance called the horo: it’s a circular dance that starts off with just a few people. As the dance goes on, the dancers develop a kind of gravity, pulling in people from every which way, and then all of a sudden it's this massive circle, and then it's a spiral, and then it's a kind of a crowd of people all circulring. It’s something a Bulgarian grandmother would approve of.And speaking of Bulgarian grandmothers, Muthaliff’s thesis does leave room for a single museum-like space. In this case, he describes it as another subversive tool. Brian Muthaliff: Post the fall, post-1989, there was an initiative to collect letters, and memoirs, and autobiographies, and photographs, of people throughout Bulgaria during the communist period. How great is it as a kind of subversive tool to describe this particular history during this time, through the eyes of the people in this building that was designed kind of from top down? And in the ring that they used as a gallery space to block out the sun, to kind of create the halo of the sickle and hammer, like it all just kind of makes sense as an architectural move that would both pull in the sense of life during communism, so it's in a way directly speaking about communism in this communist building, but about things that I think are far more profound than the kind of political agenda of the communist period. In some of the stories it would talk about grandmothers, I guess, that are grandmothers now but they weren't at the time, where they got their food, and I thought these histories were far more compelling than perhaps talking about how the building was built. So these are the kind of things and threads that I wanted to pull on, rather than a kind of topical history of communism. And so I think it made for such a great program as the only type of traditional museum piece in the building. I think in my mind, and again the program of the winery, perhaps there's more appropriate programs that could affect the building, but in my mind, it has always been a gathering space. I’m mesmerised by Muthaliff’s thesis. As Buzludzha continues to deteriorate, both Dora Ivanova and Brian Muthaliff agree that now is the time to act. Brian Muthaliff: Dora's approach to moving the project forward is absolutely what the country needs. A lot of people are saying, you know, this is the moment now. This is the time we need to take action and we need to do something, 'cause if the country's not moving, then either people are moving out of it or something, or nothing's happening and things are dying. Everything's always dying, right, and we have to kind of maintain our lives to kind of keep the energy going. And so the energy that Dora's putting in to it is absolutely fabulous, and it's exactly what we need for the building.As a Bulgarian citizen who is too young to remember the period of communism, I am constantly frustrated by the generall cultural unwillingness to talk about that period. The physical remains of that era and ideology are scattered around the country, but most people I talk to in Bulgaria seem content to quickly move on. Brian Muthaliff: On an kind of end note, when I presented the thesis to the university, a note that my thesis advisor brought up was that, because I did have an architect on my panel that was critiquing the thesis, that was Romanian. And he was absolutely appalled that anybody would even touch the project. He was more in line with building a glass box beside the building and sipping wine while watching it decay. He carried all these emotions with him, and something that was brought up, there was a young Bulgarian there and then there was this old Romanian architect, and the young architect mentioned that there's been this massive gap, and people, or the country really needs change, and the only people who are gonna do or affect change are us, are the ones responsible now.I think it all comes down to what we make of museums. Museums shouldn’t be the places where we sip wine and watch objects in glass decay. An interpretive museum could be just as subversive to the original architecture even as it restores it. And there’s no reason why museums can’t be gathering spaces just as engaging as wineries or dance halls. So if I had a say in the decision, I think I would prefer to build an interpretive museum in the space along the lines of what Dora Ivanova’s Buzludzha Project proposes. But we should take Muthaliff’s thesis, and critique of architecture frozen in time, to heart.The debate about what to do with Buzludzha continues, and I’m happy to say progress is being made. Just recently a team of experts from the European heritage organisation Europa Nostra conducted a survey of the building. I hope, in my own way, to work on whatever the building becomes.Muthaliff’s complete thesis, called Reconstruction in an Era of Dilapidation, is available in the show notes. It’s full of fascinating diagrams, well-thought out readings, and intricate renderings. Give it a read. [Outro]
53. Tribal Historic Preservation Office Helps Students Map Seminole Life for the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum (https://www.ahtahthiki.com/), on the Big Cypress Reservation in the Florida Everglades, serves as the public face of the Seminole Tribe of Florida (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/16). But the museum collaborates with the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (http://www.stofthpo.com/) (THPO) next door to preserve the tribe's culture, working for and with the community through various shared projects. One of the projects is called Are We There Yet: Engaging the Tribal Youth with Story Maps (https://www.ahtahthiki.com/mosaic/), which is now on display in the museum. Quenton Cypress, Community Engagement Coordinator at THPO, and Lacee Cofer, Geo Spatial Analyst at THPO, started the project with Juan Cancel, Chief Data Analyst at THPO. The team taught 11th grade students at the Ahfachkee School (the school on the Big Cypress Reservation) GIS mapping software and helped the students create their own maps about a Seminole or Native American topic (https://afstof.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=cd4597ad79cb4ca8ab920cbe7b548442).In this episode, the THPO team talks about the process of teaching the students how to use geospatial software, the Story Maps that the students created, and how the students reacted to seeing their work in the museum gallery.Image: Lacee Cofer, Juan Cancel & Quenton Cypress presenting thier project at the Esri User Conference in San Diego in 2018.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)! 00:00: Intro00:15: The Big Cypress Reservation & Quenton Cypress01:05: Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki on Episode 16 of Museum Archipelago01:48: The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office03:00: Lacee Cofer03:30: Are We There Yet: Engaging the Tribal Youth with Story Maps03:58: Juan Cancel04:50: “But how does that serve the tribal community?”07:09: The Topics Students Choose08:58: Students Seeing Their Work at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki10:32: Why Mapping?11:46: Outro / Watch Making-Of For Free on PatreonMuseum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast for free to never miss an episode.TranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 53. 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 To get to the Big Cypress Reservation in South Florida and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum inside it, you drive an hour into the Florida Everglades. By the time you arrive, you’re isolated from almost everything else. Quenton Cypress: Here in Big Cypress, it's just us. There's a convenience store that's open till 11 o'clock at night. There's no Walmart, no Publix, no Walgreens. Anytime we need just some toilet paper, we have to drive an hour. And we have to make sure we get everything.This is Quenton Cypress, Community Engagement Coordinator at the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office.Quenton Cypress: My name is Quenton Cypress, and I'm the Community Engagement Coordinator. And I'm actually a tribe member. I'm from this reservation that we work on. My job is to make sure the community works with us.The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office, or THPO, where Quentin works, is separate form the The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum. We’ve talked about the museum before: on episode 16 of Museum Archipelago, I interviewed Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, about the high percentage of museum visitors from outside the U.S. Through these visitation trends, the museum serves as the public face of the tribe to the outside world. But the museum, more importantly, serves the tribal community. Quenton and the THPO work to preserve his culture, and ensure it is not exploited. And this means a strong connection between the museum and tribal members.Quenton Cypress: There are a lot of things that we can give out to the public, but there are certain things that we can't. It was actually our chairman at the time, James Billy, who wanted to build the museum to talk to the tourists and different folks that came around to tell them more about the Seminole history. So it started off very community involved. And we had several community members that were running the museum. And just over time different things happened and they started working somewhere else. And then the museum became more non tribal populated. And that connection between the museum and tribal members, it just kind of fell apart in a way. Not so much in a bad way. They just didn't have no more tribe members working here to full connect us with the museum. Sometimes tribal members don't feel comfortable coming and talking to a non tribal. And telling them their history, their family's history, and different legends and things we have from our culture.And so in more recent times, I've seen a lot more involvement with the community again. And we got different tribal interns. The tribe offers working programs. So we've got some tribal member kids coming to us, and working for us, through that program. And we got different kids coming to us to fill their community hours for school to graduate..Lacee Cofer: For a long time they didn't really associate with each other or work together very much. And in recent years that's really changed.This is Lacee Cofer, who also works for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office.Lacee Koffer: Yes. My name's Lacee Cofer, and I am the Geospatial Analyst for the THPO. Both the museum and THPO have the goal of cultural preservation. So we perform very different roles, and do it in very different ways. But we still have that common goal to preserve the culture, and to work for and with the community.Today, both the THPO and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum share a campus -- their buildings are connected via a boardwalk. Both offices have been working on finding new projects that serve their common goal. One of these projects is called Are We There Yet: Engaging the Tribal Youth with Story Maps, which is collaboration of the THPO, the museum, and Ahfachkee school, which is the school on the Big Cypress Reservation. Both Quenton and Lacee created the project with Juan Cancel.Juan Cancel: Hello. My name is Juan Cancel. I'm the Chief Data Analyst at the Florida Tribal Historic Preservation Office. I manage the archaeometry section. With my team Quenton and Lacee. Pretty much we manage all the mapping, GIS work that goes on in the office. The project involved teaching the Ahfachkee School’s 11th grade students the GIS mapping software, having the students develop and create their own maps about a Seminole or Native American issue, and finally, presenting those maps in a gallery at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. It started as a way to encourage young tribal members to get involved in the community. For Juan, that meant starting by thinking about how Quenton, a young tribal member, and Lacee, who was becoming skilled in GIS, could get even more involved at the museum.Juan Cancel: And what they both do and represent for me at least, is breaking that mold. Together we've been working on developing GIS. Developing mapping to track our information a little bit better. Tracking our information more, location and data and put it all together. But that's good well and all for our office, but how does that serve the tribal community? What we saw a couple of, maybe nine years ago, we went to a mapping conference. It was a international conference. And one of the most impactful presentations we ever saw was, this gentlemen went out into the Amazon, and was mapping with the community out there. With the indigenous tribes out there. But he was doing it with them. He was having them point to a map or explaining what this is. And they together came up with that. And that's where this idea of participatory mapping came about. And it's not a hard idea, it's something they did and we're like, that's genius. But we just took it as well. We're like, you know what? We're gonna apply this here.To create the program, the team had to create lesson plans for the 11th graders. Lacee thought that students would have a harder time learning how to use the GIS mapping software than writing a research paper. Lacee Cofer: And it was the complete opposite. So teaching them our GIS online, they caught onto it so quickly. And choosing symbology and uploading images. And just navigating the whole interface was so easy for them. But them I'm like, "All right, we're going to cite our sources using APA," and they're like "What are you talking about?" So it really threw us for a loop. But then the more I think about it I'm like, duh. They use this stuff all the time. They're on their computers and their smartphones and their iPads literally all the time. So I don't know why this surprised me. But it really reinforced the idea that getting to them using technology is a super effective way to do it with teenagers. So it just bridged the gap and really helped us teach them the important of place and topics. And using the science to preserve their culture. And since it was technological and something they used all the time, it just clicked. So it was helpful. And it was good.The students could choose topics that interested them, as long as it touched on a Seminole or Native American issue. The team helped the students figure out a geographic aspect to their topics and present it all in a story map.Juan Cancel: It could be any subject, so Lacee prepared a list with Quentin and I on what we want to hit on and some examples of like history, historical figures, sports, fashion, politics. I think they kind of chose the things, I guess ... It's funny they found things that they were really interested in.Lacee Cofer: Yeah. We had one who is really into hip-hop music, and so he created a story map that talks about different Native American musicians and it was really cool and he was really passionate about that topic and I learned about a lot of musicians that are Native American I didn't know about, and then something that's really important to the tribe is the cattle industry and one of our students discussed the cattle industry and how it played such a pivotal role in the current economic state of the Seminole tribe, and then we had another girl who at the time was participating in the Seminole Princess Pageant, and so she did her story map on Seminole princesses of the past and talked about the pageant and how it got started and how it was important to the community.Quenton Cypress: All year long, whenever we were talking to these kids and doing this project, we would always tell them, "Hey, this map that you're creating is a chance to tell our history, our culture, and you're gonna be telling it to people all over the world." They couldn't really quite grasp that concept because we're here at the museum an hour into the Everglades by ourselves. So, whenever we were trying to explain it to them all year long, they just kinda gave us a smirk. Finally, after a semester of work, the students got to see their projects in the gallery at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum. As Quintin explains, this shift in medium changed the way the students saw their projects.Quenton Cypress: It wasn't until that reception day that they walked in and seeing all this work we here at the museum put together to present their story maps to the public. It wasn't 'til that day that they walked in there and seeing the iPads up on the wall and their stories on those iPads. They were fully engaged into those iPads. They were smiling, talking, laughing, and a couple of them were like, "Man, I feel bad that I didn't add on more stuff that I could have added on now." You know, along the way, there was a couple of students that didn't get to get their work to us and they felt guilty that day. It's bad, but it's good at the same time because now they get to see, "Hey, we were being serious. This is gonna be in the museum. This is gonna be on display for the world to see." One of the kids. He was really quiet the whole year, barely talked to us. I think he talked to us maybe like three words and he would never smile, and that opening day, that day we did the reception, he could not stop smiling. He was smiling the whole time. He was laughing. He was talking about the exhibit. to see him acting like that was a really big deal for us, and then for the rest of the high school to see their work on display, we hope that's more encouraging for them, so now they get to see the end result of the whole project and all of the work that goes into it. So if we get to do this project again in the future, we're hoping they're more motivated and they now know that, yeah, their work is gonna be on display. It is gonna be open for the world to see.The team presented this project in front of other GIS professionals and educators at the 2018 Esri User Conference in San Diego. For all the improvements in mapping technology over the last 20 years, it’s the democratization of the tools of map-making that is the most relevant to museums. There is not one canonical map in the way there is one canonical planet. Juan Cancel: There's a tribal understanding of the land. The community understands this area. They've been here forever. They've always been in Florida. We don't see mapping the same way. So if I call a road, like, oh did you go down the C130 canal or something like that. Quenton, he's like, "Oh, you mean the fishing spot, down the road near my uncle's house?" So it's a very different perspective.The project has been a success. The gallery with the student’s maps will remain open in the museum until January 8th, 2019, and the team plans to continue the project with other students in the Big Cypress reservation in coming years. Juan Cancel: And I think story mapping was the Ideal vehicle, so to say, that transitioned both current technology, online technology, accessibility to the tribal youth. And an avenue to get them started to understand what we do a lot better.
52. Paula Santos Dives Into The "How" of Museum Work on Cultura Conscious
By day, Paula Santos (http://www.culturaconscious.com/about/) is Community Engagement Manager at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_County_Museum_of_Art). By night, she hosts the excellent Cultura Conscious (http://www.culturaconscious.com) podcast. On Cultura Conscious, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, Santos interviews cultural workers on their work with justice and equity. The discussions dive deep into what Santos calls the "nuts and bolts" of museum work.On this episode, Santos describes her thoughts about the relationship between cultural institutions and the communities they identify as “underserved,” gives examples on how institutions can cede power, and explains how the idea for her podcast came out of a cultural worker discussion collective she was a part of in New York City.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 Intro00:15 Paula Santos00:53 Cultural Institutions and Communities04:14: Cultura Conscious05:27: The Idea for the Show06:55: Nuts and Bolts of Museum Work07:58: Subscribe to Cultura Conscious09:50: Outro & Club ArchipelagoMuseum Archipelago is a fortnightly museum podcast guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums and surrounding culture. Subscribe to the podcast for free to never miss an episode.TranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 52. 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 Paula Santos and I have some things in common. We both work in the museum world during the day, and by night, we both host podcasts about museums. We even describe our day jobs in the same way: we are programmers. I am a computer programmer, writing the code that runs interactive media displays in museums. And Santos, as Community Engagement Manager at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is a museum programmer, managing programs and events. Paula Santos: Hello, I’m Paula Santos, I’m a podcaster, museum educator, and community organizing learner.Over the past year or so, Santos has been thinking about the assumptions cultural institutions make about the communities they identify as “underserved.”Paula Santos: We don’t always have to lead with our audiences need x, y, z, these people are underserved for x, y, z reasons. Our communities have social capital, they have art, they have their own resources, that us as institutions can absolutely build with, and that understanding that it isn't just a top down effect, where here we have a huge grant, and now we're going to fly a helicopter over this community and throw art supplies around.When we spoke, Santos was a day away from presenting a culminating event of a show, and acknowledged that not just helicoptering in made a lot of people, including herself, nervous. Paula Santos: We as an institution can build with a community and that means also ceding our power. And that makes a lot of people very nervous at a granular level. As a programer, it does make me nervous. For example, I have this program tomorrow where I really try to the best of my ability to cede the floor to an organization of young queer people to put on a culminating event for a show that we have at one of our satellite spaces. I'm nervous. I'm nervous not because I don't believe in them, I totally believe in their vision, and they will be there, and they’re going to follow through, but I'm nervous because I ceded that control and I don't know how the institution will respond in the long run. When it's actually happening, that is totally relinquishing of control, as much as I can give.]Santos’s nervousness is part of her conscious effort not to take the easy route in her work. Her critique is that many institutions, when attempting to serve as many people as possible, take the easy route -- and helicoptering in is easier than actually ceding control.Paula Santos: We make a lot of choices in who we serve, why we do what we do, what kind of money do we pursue for our programs, where we are going to bend for funders, and we are entirely part of the larger machine of what makes things unjust and oppressive. So I feel like that's where I stand. It's not so much, we have a civic duty of justice, but more like we are members of society and how can we do cultural work in a way where we can truly work with all aspects of society, and not just the ones that are most convenient or the ones that are most privileged, or the ones that are easiest. A lot of the decisions when we think about justice and all those sorts of things, it isn’t so much that people are making ideological decisions a lot of times they’re making decisions based on time. Santos is particularly interested in how the work we do in museums, non-profits or other cultural organizations intersects and is informed by larger questions of race and inequity in society. The work that Santos does, and her honesty discussing it, is what makes her podcast so compelling.Paula Santos: My podcast is called Cultura Conscious, where I interview cultural workers on their work in community, on their work with justice and equity.Santos chose a title that gave her enough room to explore many types of topics with many cultural producers. Paula Santos: I think that I wanted to show a little bit of the fact that I'm bilingual, that I'm a woman of color, and that this was going to be really thoughtful about culture. I was like, Culture Conscious and I was like ugh, does that sound like an after-school special? So then just putting it in Spanish finally landed in a place where I was like this is not super heavy as a name, it’s not like I’m toeing around a name that’s like, oh my god, I have deep cultural knowledge, but maybe could allow me to explore many types of topics.The idea for the show came from a cultural worker discussion collective which Santos was a part of when she lived in New York.Paula Santos: Talk about a really formative experience. A group of colleagues, really spearheaded by Kiana Hendricks, who was my first guest, she started a collective of cultural workers in New York. All of us had kind of overlapped at the Brooklyn museum in some way or another. This group really helped me figure out what I really had to say and contribute about cultural work in general and also even just realizing that I did have something to contribute, period. Essentially what we we were doing was a collective of professional development. It would be anything from marketing and branding to talking about critical race theory or whatever it may be. Now that I think about it, thinking about grassroots and community work — we have each other and we build together, that we don’t have to wait for institutions or wait for other people to deem us worthy of granting us some form of knowledge. We can build that ourselves. And my conversations with collective members were so fruitful and so insightful. I was like I want to start this podcast, and everyone was so supportive.]Cultura Conscious just celebrated its year anniversary. Santos says that she wanted make sure that all her guests for the first year were people of color, a trend which will for at least the next few episodes. The podcast comes directly out of her interest in what she calls the nuts and bolts of museum work -- where she sees the justice work museums and individuals need happening.Paula Santos: All this nitty gritty stuff that you wouldn’t find in a journal article, or on a blog post about a culminating thing about a program, but just the day to day. There are people who are doing everyday, nuts and bolts work that are very invested in justice work, and they’re not the people who are leading the national conferences or the keynotes. I’m far more interested in that nuts and bolts aspect, which is probably why my interviews are so long.That is why Santos and I only have some things in common. Cultura Conscious is an excellent podcast, and you should subscribe and listen at culturaconscious.com. There’s a theme to Santos’s work: we don’t have to wait for institutions or wait for other people to deem us worthy. The whole structure of podcasting is an exercise in not waiting for permission from someone else. And crucially, it’s a reminder to those working within institutions that arts and culture creators don’t wait for permission either. Paula Santos: The power of what happens when people come together that excites me so much, and I’m trying to reconcile that with being at a major institution, certain decisions that have to be made because of the way things are run, that make it very difficult at times to really keep up the momentum of community work, and many times even just be responsive to community in that moment in time. So I'm really grappling with this conflict of yes, community work! Let's do it! But then also releasing the churn of nonprofits and institutions. What I will say is that my work, I hope I can create programs, create collaborations, create partnerships where we really open ourselves up as institutions. And like I said in the beginning, really cede the floor cede our power, let community show us what they create and make the focal point of our work.
51. Yulina Mihaylova Presents a Moral Lesson at the Sofia Jewish Museum of History
The Jewish Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria (http://www.sofiasynagogue.com) is housed on the second floor of the Sofia Synagogue in the center of Bulgaria's capital, just steps away from an Orthodox Church, and Sofia's Mosque. This clustering of places of worship — it's hard to find another example of this in Europe — is part of the unique story of Jewish people in Bulgaria. While the museum tells the full story of the Jewish people in Bulgaria (http://www.sofiasynagogue.com/index.php?content_id=5) from ancient Roman times to today, Yulina Mihaylova of the Jewish Museum of History says that the culmination of the story is the rescue of the Jews in Bulgaria from deportation to Nazi death camps during the Second World War. The museum takes on the complexities of this story (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescue_of_the_Bulgarian_Jews), including the fact that not all Jews in Bulgarian-controlled territories were saved from deportation, and uses it to challenge young visitors.Subscribe to Museum Archipelago for free to never miss an episode. (https://www.museumarchipelago.com/subscribe)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 Intro00:14 Jewish Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria01:10 Yulina Mihaylova01:50 The Sofia Synagogue02:10 Jews in Bulgaria in the Early 20th Century04:00 Jews in Bulgaria During World War Two04:50 The Holocaust and the Rescue of the Jews in Bulgaria09:44 Jews in Bulgaria During Communist Times10:45 Educational Programming Moral Message12:05 Outro / Join Club ArchipelagoTranscriptBelow is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 51. 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 Sometimes in the Museum Archipelago, museums are isolated from other institutions by vast bodies of water, and sometimes, points of interest are clustered in dense island chains.The Jewish Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria is one of the latter. The museum is housed on the second floor of the Sofia Synagogue in the center of Bulgaria's capital, just steps away from an Orthodox Church, and Sofia's main Mosque. This clustering of places of worship -- it's hard to find another example of this in Europe or the rest of the world -- is part of the unique story of Jewish people in Bulgaria. Yulina Mihaylova: It's very unique because it makes this triangle of the three religions. The combination and interaction between the ethnic groups together shows this very rich historical past when the Jews live among the others. It's also part of our unique narrative which we try to say in the museum itself.”This is Yulina Mihaylova. Yulina Mihaylova: Hello my name is Yulina Mihaylova, and I'm working for the Jewish Historical Museum in Sofia for the past 15 years. My job combines working with visitors and. Our main task is to represent the history of the Bulgarian Jews back 2000 years. It’s just not the story of the Jewish people. It’s more than it because we try to say the story of the interaction of the Jewish people and the Bulgarians also. The Sofia Synagogue is the third largest in Europe. This particular Synagogue, built on the site of earlier Jewish prayer houses, opened in 1909, with a ceremony that included Sofia's political and religious elite. The opening ceremony took place 31 years after Bulgaria's liberation, which guaranteed equal civil rights to minority religious groups. Yulina Mihaylova: We speak about the early time of the early 20th century, and just to make comparison to what happened at that time in Europe, mainly in Eastern Europe, in Russia with the persecution of Jews there, and on the same time we have in Bulgaria quite a good relation between the regime and the Jewish community. I mean, not everything was so idealistic of course. But in general we can say that the Jews, after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Turkish domination, gained equal rights with other minority groups who lived in Bulgaria, which was guaranteed by the Bulgarian constitution. Means that it actually gave push to the development of the Jewish communities in Bulgaria, on a new ground. The fact that we have communities and synagogues in almost every Bulgarian city, and there was almost 30 communities all around Bulgaria. So the opening ceremony was a remarkable event. The fact that actually, the political elite was invited to [participate] in the ceremony, was a very important sign for the connection between the officials at the time and Bulgarian Jewish community.While the opening of the Sofia Synagogue represents the high water mark of the relationship between Jews living in Bulgaria and the rulers of Bulgaria, one of the main tasks of the museum is to represent the historical trace of Jewish people on the Balkan peninsula from ancient Roman period, to the present day. In the museum, this is achieved through a permanent exhibit called Jewish Communities in Bulgaria. A section of the exhibit is an ethnographic display which shows the daily life of the Jews from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and ritual artifacts from synagogues across Bulgaria.The other permanent exhibition is about Bulgarian Jews during World War II, the topic that Mihaylova says is at the front of mind of most visitors. For a summary of Bulgaria’s early 20th century political history up to World War II, listen to episode 49 of this program, about the Bulgarian Museum of Military History, but here are the important section for this story:Anti-semitism notably increased across eastern Europe after the introduction of the Nuremberg laws in Nazi Germany in 1935, and by the late 1930s, anti-Jewish propaganda gradually intensified within Bulgaria with Bulgaria's rising economic and political dependence on Nazi Germany.The exhibition itself is called The Holocaust and the Rescue of the Jews in Bulgaria, and, as Mihaylova explains, this title is overly simplistic. Yulina Mihaylova: The story of what happened during the years 1941 and 1943. This is the culmination of the story, of the long existence between both two people. The first time when the Jews were tried to be divided from the rest part of society came during the World War II, when Bulgaria connected to Nazi Germany and it began to be connected to Nazi policy. What happened in brief: during the war, it was official policy with special legislation passed by the Bulgarian government after 1941. We treated Jews in a different way on economic, social, culture and political range, with a limitation of their rights, and this law became even more severe in 1942 when already there was an institution which was arranged for trying to organize the life of the Jews and confiscated Jewish property and also starting the organization of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews, which in 1943 started already with the Jews from the so-called new territories of Macedonia and Trace. This part of the story is not easy to explain, because usually it is good to think about the bright side of the story, and to neglect this part. It's important on one hand because this was part of the official policy of the Bulgarian government and this territories was part of the administrative territories of the Bulgarian at that time. Unfortunately, almost 12,000 Jews were deported from the territories of Macedonia and Trace, only to be the first stage, which had to continue with the Jews from Bulgaria, also. The Jews from the territories of Macedonia and Trace were sent to Treblinka extermination camp in Poland. But these deportations, intended to be the first of many, would be the last. No other Jews were deported from Bulgaria or Bulgarian-controlled territories. Yulina Mihaylova: But what is important is that when it came to Bulgaria we saw something very unique. Already, when they started discussions of law in 1940, it became clear that it wasn’t going to pass in peace, because there began to be very strong civil opposition against it from the many different circles of the Bulgarian society. It already give a clear sign that the Bulgarian society in general, it was not ready to accept this sort of policy against their Jewish fellows in Bulgaria. We see in 1943 when the plan for deportation started to be clear, even in Bulgaria, it actually faced a very strong opposition, even from the right and from the left and we see this opposition even in the circles of the Bulgarian political majority. On top of it was the vice-chairman of the Bulgarian government, Dimetre Patechiv, who organized this opposition and also managed to put pressure on the government between the crucial time.All this civil pressure made the government have to postpone, ultimately indefinitely, the deportations to Nazi extermination camps. While Bulgarian officials remained differential to their German contacts, internally, they delayed and delayed, citing the need for Bulgarian Jews to remain in Bulgaria to work on Bulgarian infrastructure projects.Yulina Mihaylova: Bulgarian example is very unique, and sometimes they try to compare this to the Danish Jews, the Jews there were saved by the locals. But Bulgarian example is the Bulgarian example. It’s a combination of facts. There was the one hand there was policy against Jewish minority, but on the other hand we have full mobilization of civil power in 1943 which became one of the major factors of saving the live of the entire Jewish community who live within the Bulgarian borders during the war. That's very important to say. It's good example and good lesson for us to understand what we can understand from this is what we can learn from this, is that it's actually a very good idea to raise your voice, even when you think that it's actually desperate.The Holocaust and the Rescue of the Jews in Bulgaria is an example of an exhibit about a topic that can’t be neatly summarized -- and any attempt to tell a positive story without including the deportation of the Jews from the Bulgarian-controlled territories of Macedonia and Trace is wrong. To resist the simple story, or the comfortable narrative, is what we rely on museums for.Towards the end of the war, the synagogue roof was badly damaged by an American bombing raid on Sofia and the building remained in bad condition for many years. After the war ended Bulgaria was under control of a Socialist government, and many Bulgarian Jews, in fact the vast majority, immigrated to Israel.Yulina Mihaylova: More than 90% of the 50,000 Jews who live in Bulgaria immigrated to Israel after the war, and most of the artifacts from the other synagogues were replaced to Sofia, and are exposed to our museum also so this is part of our story to tell, the entire story of Jews in Bulgaria not just from Sofia. During the communist time, the community shrunk to some very crucial number of several thousand people, but it's very important to say that it's not true that everything stopped after the war. Although, of course, the communist regime didn't encourage so much the religious activity,but still there was a small flame which keep the Jews who remained in Bulgaria, but they actually gave the push, after the collapse of the communist regime to try to revive the Jewish life.Today, the Synagogue is fully active, and the museum on the second floor presents the sweep of Jewish history in Bulgaria. But the museum also offers a strong moral message to visitors through its educational programing. Yulina Mihaylova: I try to say to my audience, which is on one hand tourists from many different countries, mainly from Israel, from the US, from Europe who are guests in Sofia, but on the other we have many students from Jewish high schools, from universities who are actually interested in the topic. For me, the great challenge is to speak before young people and try not just to tell them the story but to ask them questions and try to challenge them to think about the story, if they were on this place and how they could react in this moment. It's not an easy task. Sometimes because we are a small museum, our programs are not so well developed, but we are very limited in staff, but I think this is the only place in Bulgaria where you can hear the full story of the Jewish presence in Bulgaria, with the story of the Bulgarian Jewish [experience] in World War II and till present days.
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