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Category: Museums

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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The Find-me-another machine (On Search)

The Find-me-another machine (On Search)

[my presentation at the RISD Museum / Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology “On Search” Conference] I’d like to tell you about the new machine I just invented. It’s called the “find me another” machine. The portable version I brought with me happens to be just the right size for the objects we’ve heard about today. Here’s how it works. First, you set some sliding switches on the front of the machine. And then you take an object – a Maori feather…

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Building a skiascope

Building a skiascope

                “The theoretic value of the skiascope is incontestable.”  —Benjamin Ives Gilman In his Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1918 ), Gilman gives detailed instructions for making a skiascope, a device that will allow museum to see paintings and sculptures more clearly, by blocking glare, and other distractions. [scribd id=268670595 key=key-z673RqPg67anzV5ifkqI mode=scroll] The instructions are long and complicated. Here’s a quick pictorial guide: First, cut out the top and bottom Make the wires, and…

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“Today’s Museum: Innovation, Change, and Challenge”

“Today’s Museum: Innovation, Change, and Challenge”

Here’s the presentation I gave at the Mathers Museum’s “Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters” workshop last week. More on the workshop here. It was a delightful event: smart people from around the world thinking about the future of museums. Video and more coming soon. [scribd id=265809631 key=key-YIEJLWe80MpT7zmNQkzO mode=scroll]

“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. [scribd id=261593303 key=key-Cnl9rhuKTMbfV4vLycxp mode=scroll] 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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Writing about the past, thinking about the future: National Museum of American History

Writing about the past, thinking about the future: National Museum of American History

My article on the history and philosophy of collecting at the National Museum of American History has been published in the Federal History Journal. The issue is freely available, here, and my essay is here. It’s a good issue: I especially recommend the article by Margo Anderson, “Public Management of Big Data: Historical Lessons from the 1940s.” My essay was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the NMAH. I used to work there, and a former colleague asked me to write something. The director was…

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“Museum Histories” course, Spring 2015

“Museum Histories” course, Spring 2015

Here’s the syllabus for my upcoming course, AMST1903I. It’s a history of museums, mostly American, history and science as well as art. The syllabus includes links to many of the articles, but you’ll find some are behind paywalls. Any feedback welcome! [scribd id=252173704 key=key-QP8xBNRSKsbXowmmtvLd mode=scroll]

Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and related events

Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and related events

I am pleased to join a group of distinguished museum folks in this statement about the role of museums in addressing contemporary issues. The public humanities puts community at the center of its theory and asks: How might cultural institutions be useful to community? The recent events help to focus that question. We should ask not what we should do now, but what should we have been doing all along to build the community connections we need to be useful now?…

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