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Category: Exhibits

New essay: Exhibiting Absence

New essay: Exhibiting Absence

I’ve posted to Medium a new essay, on the challenges (and possibilities!) of exhibiting things museums don’t actually have. Sometimes, an exhibition developer wants to call attention to the absence of an object from the collection. (Fred Wilson famously did this in “Mining the Museum,” and museums have called attention to NAGPRA-returned objects, or to stolen objects.) Sometimes, you want to recreate, or even create, objects that have been lost, or those that never existed. Take a look. 

“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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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 Curator Rules”

“The Curator Rules”

These are the slides and my notes from my talk at Marymount University, the Bissel Lecture in the Humanities, presented April 10 as part of the Virginia Humanities Conference. My thanks to Tonya Howe for the invitation, to Marymount for their hospitality, and to the audience for its good questions. NOTE: The next entry in this blog is a corrected and expanded version of this talk.

Exhibit and exhibit labels workshop

Exhibit and exhibit labels workshop

I talked to the “Methods in Public Humanities” class today about exhibitions. A very quick overview, and didn’t even get to the how-to-write-good-labels part of the talk. Here are my presentations, on exhibits generally, and on exhibit labels, slightly cleaned up but without much in the way of notes.  

History of museum exhibitions; a Pinterest experiment

History of museum exhibitions; a Pinterest experiment

When I taught a course on the history of museums, I found it useful to have a ready source of historical images of exhibitions from the past 500 years of so. As an experiment, I added Pinterest to my workflow. It’s extremely easy to add an image to a Pinterest board; click a button, correct the caption, and you’re set. And Pinterest makes suggestions, too: other boards with similar images, which makes it easy to explore and find images others…

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The Curator Rules

The Curator Rules

Museum curators have certain ways of doing things, certain rules they follow. It’s important to know what these rules are – and also to realize that they can be broken. These are notes from my talk to Catherine Whalen and Sarah Carter’s “Curatorial Practice as Experiment” course at Bard Graduate School. Catherine asked that I talk about creative curation, to inspire students in the class working on an exhibition project. The assignment got me thinking: what’s creativity? Some part of…

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Collecting the History of Technology at the National Museum of American History

Collecting the History of Technology at the National Museum of American History

Collecting for history museums is challenging work, and there needs to be more research and writing on both its history and how to do it. We need to understand how and why collections came to museums; what decisions that shaped collections they hold today? And we need to talk more about how to collect, how to train museum curators to collect, and how to evaluate collecting and collections. We need to share best practices. Those were among the conclusions of a session on…

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