What might historic preservation learn from museums?

What might historic preservation learn from museums?

Every year, the Providence Preservation Society sponsors a symposium on key issues in historic preservation. This year’s symposium, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1966 historic preservation act, asked:  Why Preserve?  From the introduction: The 2016 Providence Symposium, Why Preserve?, will bring together experts from across the nation as well as local stakeholders to examine why historic preservation matters to Providence and all communities. To be held at the iconic but threatened Industrial Trust Building, the Symposium will launch a…

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Making things

Making things

I’ve finished my “Lessons from the Lost Museum” book manuscript and I’m starting to think about a new project. I’ve gotten in the habit of writing and may as well keep at it! The new project is about making and technical skill. Not sure how to frame it, or what the end product might be. I’ll teach a class on this in the fall to think it through. I know that part of it will be actually making things. Here’s a first attempt…

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Primary-source twitter

Primary-source twitter

My twitter followers will know that over the past year or so I’ve been posting primary sources from the history of museums. My apologies to those who find their timelines clogged with selections from the museum debates of yesteryear, and my thanks to those  who have let me know that they’ve enjoyed my odd hobby. Some background: I’m working on a book on museums that includes a bit of history, and so I’ve found myself exploring the nineteenth and twentieth…

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“Collecting and Collections” course & stamp exhibit

“Collecting and Collections” course & stamp exhibit

Head over to the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities blog for a post Sarah Dylla and I wrote about our course last semester, AMST1510, Museum Collecting and Collections. And head over to the John Hay Library where you can see the course exhibition, Thousands of Little Colored Windows: Brown University’s Stamp Collections. A few pictures of the exhibit…  

Design Objects in Museums

Design Objects in Museums

[my talk to the Questioning Aesthetics Symposium, RISD, March 2015] The call for papers placed this conference in the context of RISD’s recent interest and success in “transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries to encourage more holistic, multi-faceted approaches to art and design practice.” In my talk I’d like to focus on disciplinary boundaries in how museums use artifacts, and offer some suggestions on how we might transcend some of those traditional boundaries for a more holistic, multi-faceted museum. The disciplines whose boundaries I’d…

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The Whaling Museum’s Collections Development Plan, done!

The Whaling Museum’s Collections Development Plan, done!

  It’s done! For the past year or so I’ve been working with staff and other Collections Committee members at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on a new collections development plan. It’s been an interesting experience. Collections development plans are a fairly new thing for museums. They are part of a general transition in how museums think of collections. Stephen Weil’s famous 1999 essay sums it up: “From Being about Something to Being for Somebody.” Museums once existed for their collections….

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Considering the 9/11 Memorial Museum: One visit, three ways

Considering the 9/11 Memorial Museum: One visit, three ways

(some advice I gave my students before our visit last week, updated after the visit) When you visit the museum—when you visit any museum—try to examine it in three different ways, to look at it through three different lenses. First, consider it as a member of the general public. Next, look at it with a critical eye, trained by your reading, museum experience, and theoretical concerns. And finally, think about it as an employee of the institution might: what works,…

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A class about collections

A class about collections

We’re halfway through the semester, and my collections class is deep into the stamp exhibition project. I’m teaching a course titled “Museum Collecting and Collections.” There are three projects: the Brown University’s Library extensive stamp collections the paintings that came to Brown with the Annmary Brown Memorial, and scientific instruments scattered across Brown departments. In each case, we’re trying to understand the history of the collection, think about their potential use, do some cataloging, and propose a collections management and development plan. Today…

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The dark ride (on search)

The dark ride (on search)

  For a search engine to work well, it needs to know where to look. The streetlight effect offers a common metaphor. The drunk man searches under the streetlight because that’s where it’s easiest to find things. In a search of a museum collection database, we can search most easily, or only, in the categories that are well described, that we have good vocabulary for, that curators care about. I’d like to suggest another metaphor: the amusement park dark ride….

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