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Boatbuilding

Boatbuilding

In Fall semester 2019 I co-taught a course called Boatbuilding: Design, Making, and Culture, with Chris Bull and Shep Shapiro. Here’s the description: This course introduces the study of the design, engineering, work, material culture and history through the construction of a traditional workboat, a Maine peapod. As the class builds the boat we’ll gain a hands-on understanding of issues of engineering, design, skill, and workmanship. At the same time, we’ll do historical research and visit museums to gain insight…

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Little Compton Landscape Stories

Little Compton Landscape Stories

Last year (summer 2019) the Little Compton Historical Society took on the topic of landscapes. (Each year the organization focuses on a different topic.) We edited a book on Little Compton landscapes. (Available here.) We did an exhibition that showed off maps, landscape paintings, and some of the tools that shaped our landscape history. Students in the public humanities program at Brown contributed several virtual extensions of the exhibit. One group used StoryMaps to tell focused stories of the landscape,…

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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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“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.

Teaching through projects

Teaching through projects

The public humanities program has two required courses, one theory and one method Projects count for about 50 percent of the grade in the project course. For several years, large class projects that built an exhibition. We built some shows that I am proud of, but there’s not really enough time in a one semester course, the group’s too large for everyone to learn about all of the aspects of the show, and too much of the class turns into…

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Should you get a Ph.D to work in a history museum? – Part 3: How might we make it useful?

Should you get a Ph.D to work in a history museum? – Part 3: How might we make it useful?

Part 3: How might we make it useful? How might we fix the Ph.D. so that it is more useful for work in museums, or alt-acc work more generally?  What models are there? Before getting into this, though, it’s best to take notice of the ongoing conversation on new uses for the history degree. Anthony Grafton and Jim Grossman of the AHA put it best: “No More Plan B.” He describes the expectations history departments set in vivid language: Yet…

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Should you get a Ph.D to work in a history museum? – Part 2: Is it useful for the job?

Should you get a Ph.D to work in a history museum? – Part 2: Is it useful for the job?

Most curatorial jobs do not require a Ph.D., but is it useful? Does it make one a better curator? The doctoral degree is not designed to train curators. Ph.D. programs in the humanities are, for the most part, designed to train professors at research universities. This may have made sense at one time, but it doesn’t anymore; only roughly one-third of history Ph.Ds. who go on to teach in tenure-track history programs, the sort that demands research output. There’s an…

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Museums and the Crisis of Education

Museums and the Crisis of Education

Just a link here to a post I did for the Center for the Future of Museums blog, on the way that changes in education open possibilities for museums. Some good discussion there about the connections o museum education and other kinds of museum work.  

Contemporary collecting risky – but important

Contemporary collecting risky – but important

In which I come to the defense of Carlene Stephen’s blog post on collecting Stanley, and mostly disagree with Thomas Soderqvist on contemporary collecting – though agree with him that we need to theorize contemporary collecting better… Museums (at least American museums) commit to keeping things forever, so there’s always a risk to accessioning something into the collection. The decision to accept an artifact has a cost: acquisition costs, processing costs, and then significant storage costs, ad infinitum. The life-cycle…

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