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Category: Exhibits

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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Authenticity, and bears

Authenticity, and bears

The scene: Roger Williams Natural History Museum, Providence, Rhode Island. A group of twenty third-graders has just arrived. The docent settles them down, tells them to use their inside voices and their walking shoes. But one boy can’t wait. His hand shoots up as soon as the docent asks for questions. Is it real? He’s been staring at a taxidermied bear. It hasn’t moved, as far as he knows. But it’s in a cage, sort of, surrounded by Plexiglas, and…

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A rock’s story

A rock’s story

I’ve been following closely (this may sound odd) the story of a rock. Not just any rock, and not just any story. It’s a rock on Mars, and it’s been tweeting. So, a first-person Martian rock story. You can see the whole thing here, storified. The rock is sitting happily in Gale Crater. A strange robot from another planet arrives, shoots it with a laser, and leaves. Hard to imagine how to make this interesting. But it is. The rock has…

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“Facing the Museum,” Completed!

“Facing the Museum,” Completed!

I’ve written about Faces – now called “Facing the Museum” several times on this blog. It started with the discover of several century-old “ethnographic busts” in the attic of the museum’s Collection Research Center, became more interesting as we teased out the stories of the busts, and then expanded into an overview of the history, challenges, and potentials of the anthropology museum. You can see the script of the show here. And here’s the blurb we’re using for PR:  “Facing…

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White ceiling or black ceiling?

White ceiling or black ceiling?

What color should the ceiling of a museum be? The museum has a white ceiling now. It makes it space brighter, and I’m sure that’s why it was chosen. But it also calls attention to a clutter of lighting fixtures. Through the magic of photoshop, we can make it black: Should we? What do you think? What messages does it send about being a gallery, or a museum, or a laboratory? What kind of behavior might it encourage? Would it be…

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From the Brown Daily Herald on the Haffenreffer Museum

From the Brown Daily Herald on the Haffenreffer Museum

(from the Brown Daily Herald) Hidden gems abound at the Haffenreffer Elizabeth Koh Staff Writer Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 Sam Kase / HeraldThe Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology features over 1 million artifacts. With his bushy white hair, active Twitter feed and hipster glasses, Steven Lubar, professor of American studies, is not your typical museum director. He presides over a collection of artifacts including jade coins and primitive spearheads, all lovingly labeled and nestled away in a corner of the Main Green….

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Process and Product

Process and Product

The last six weeks have been winter break at Brown. And it’s been an incredibly busy time at the Haffenreffer Museum. Good? Yes, in terms of product. We’ve accomplished a great deal. Two new exhibits installed, a lot of design completed. It’s easier to get things done when there are no classes to teach and no students around. But not so good, in terms of process.  After all, with no students around, we’re missing our most important goal: to give…

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An update on “Facing the Museum”

An update on “Facing the Museum”

I’ve written before about the discovery of “ethnographic busts” in the museum’s collection, and about my plans to use them as an introduction to the Museum. The plan has been percolating, slowly, and it’s time for an update. One reason things at museums take a long time is that it’s good policy to share drafts and get feedback on ideas. That’s especially true at a university museum. And the feedback on this exhibit has been strong. Anthropologists – even those…

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