Dr. Failler Co-Edits New Volume on 1985 Air India Bombing

Thinking through the Museum is pleased to congratulate Dr. Angela Failler on the publication of Remembering Air India: The Art of Public Mourning (University of Alberta Press), a new volume co-edited with Drs Chandrima Chakraborty and Amber Dean (McMaster University).

The volume’s synopsis reads: “On June 23, 1985, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 killed 329 people, most of them Canadians. Today this pivotal event in Canada’s history is hazily remembered, yet certain interests have shaped how the tragedy is woven into public memory, and even exploited to advance a strategic national narrative. This collection investigates the Air India bombing and its implications for current debates about racism, terrorism, and citizenship.”

Remembering Air India has already gained the attention of notable commentators including Bob Rae who has written a review of it for the Literary Review of Canada. Rae, former premier of Ontario (now lawyer and distinguished professor at the University of Toronto), authored an influential report on the Air India bombings in 2005 while serving as Advisor to the Minister of Public Safety Canada. Of Failler et al.’s volume he observes, “The book is filled with impressive arguments…and thoughtful recollections and analysis that bridges the gap between scholarship and lived experience,” adding, “Let it be the beginning of a reckoning and a reconciliation, not the end of the story.”  

Failler, who has been working on the topic for over a decade, says that the innovation of this collaborative effort lies in how it “draws together academic analysis, testimony, visual arts, and creative writing, tendering a new public record of the bombing, one that shows how important creative responses are for deepening our understanding of the event and its aftermath.”

The collection also includes contributions from Uma Parameswaran, Cassel Busse, Chandrima Chakraborty, Amber Dean, Rita Kaur Dhamoon, Teresa Hubel, Suvir Kaul, Elan Marchinko, Eisha Marjara, Bharati Mukherjee, Lata Pada, Sherene H. Razack, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Maya Seshia, Karen Sharma, Deon Venter, and Padma Viswanathan.

More information about the collection can be found on the University of Alberta Press website.

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Museum Queeries Project Organizes Inaugural Workshop

Ryan Rice delivers a keynote lecture at the Museum Queeries workshop

Ryan Rice delivers a keynote lecture at the Museum Queeries workshop (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

June 2-4, 2017 –– The Museum Queeries project launched this summer with a workshop on “Museum Queeries and Curatorial Dreaming,” hosted at UWinnipeg and coinciding with Winnipeg’s Pride Week. Organized by Dr. Heather Milne and Dr. Angela Failler, it was facilitated by Dr. Shelley Ruth Butler (McGill) and provided an opportunity for members of our Museum Queeries research network to connect in person for the first time as we hail from across Canada, the United States, and Australia. The overall goal of the proposed workshop was to connect members of our newly formed Museum Queeries research network, and translate specific objectives into tangible strategies for engaging museums on 2S+LGBTTQ issues.The following key questions framed this work:

*How are museums implicated in the ongoing struggle for 2S+LGBTTQ rights?
*How have 2S+LGBTTQ issues been integrated within the curatorial and programming mandates of museums?
*What kinds of alliances might be formed at the nexus of queer and indigenous/decolonial activism in relation to museums?
*What kinds of productive exchanges might occur at the intersection of queer and antiracist activism in the context of museums?
*How might we, as academics, activists, curators, artists, community stakeholders, and students, work collaboratively with museums to (re)conceive of them as queer spaces?

The workshop included a field trip to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) for one of its “Pride Tours,” a site visit to the Winnipeg Pride festival grounds located next to the CMHR, as well as a curatorial dreaming exercise led by Dr. Butler to attempt to reimagine queer content in the context of the CMHR. The intent was thus not simply to critique museums, but rather to engage and potentially collaborate with them by proposing ways in which they might more effectively address 2S+LGBTTQ issues.

The workshop was funding by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Research Manitoba, and the University of Winnipeg.

For more information on the Museum Queeries project, visit museumqueeries.org.

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Dr. Patterson named Carleton’s Assistant Director of Curatorial Studies

In their announcement of two new graduate diplomas in Curatorial Studies, Dr. Monica Patterson was named as the Assistant Director of the program at Carleton University.

In the new program’s two-semester core course, students will learn about a range of contemporary and historical issues related to curatorial theory and practice. Through rigorous analysis of major critical texts, theories and debates, students will explore topics including philosophies of collecting; the history of the museum; questions of aesthetics, value and authenticity; memorialization; the colonial legacies of curatorial practices; and the challenges and possibilities of decolonization.

Through their critique and their practice, Patterson argues, curators have the potential to not only represent, but also inform, social attitudes, public opinion and political debates.

In addition, to support the new program, Carleton University and the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) have signed a letter of agreement. This formal partnership between a national museum or gallery and a university is the first of its kind in Canada.

For more information on this new program, visit Carleton’s website here.

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International Graduate Field School hosted at Concordia University

From May 25-27, 2017, the Thinking through the Museum research team facilitated and participated in an International Graduate Field School in Critical Museology at Concordia University.

Directed by The Canada Research Chair in Museum and Heritage Studies, Dr. Erica Lehrer, the Field School in Critical Museology exposed students to the most current approaches to critical museology theory and practice: from decolonizing, human rights, digital, and children’s museology to the treatment of “difficult knowledge” with innovative curatorial and pedagogical approaches. Academics in the field delivered study units that addressed current issues, challenges, and areas of innovation in Canadian and international museums. These units were complemented with guided “behind the scenes” field-study visits to Montreal museums.

The Summer Field School, hosted at Concordia’s Curating and Public Scholarship Lab (capsl.cerev.ca) aimed to build an international network of peers in this growing, interdisciplinary field. As part of this year’s course, students designed and presented their own “curatorial dream” to an international, specialist audience during the inaugural “Museum Anthropology Futures” conference at Concordia (May 25-27, 2017).

 

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Dr. Erica Lehrer organizes Museum Anthropology Futures Conference

From May 25 to 27, more than 100 diverse experts in the field are congregating at Concordia University to examine these questions and many others at the US-based Council for Museum Anthropology’s inaugural Museum Anthropology Futures conference.

Learn more about the association’s first conference here.

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Dr. Failler, with Dr. Heather Milne, awarded Connection Grant for Museum Queeries

Dr. Heather Milne (English) and Dr. Angela Failler (Women’s and Gender Studies) have been awarded over $22,000 to support the workshop Museum Queeries: Intersectional Interventions into Museum Cultures and Practices. This funding comes from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant and the Manitoba Research Connections Program.

The invite only workshop will be hosted at UWinnipeg this June to coincide with Winnipeg’s Pride Week and includes a site visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

As Dr. Milne explains, “The overall goal of the workshop is to connect members of our newly formed Museum Queeries research network, and translate specific objectives into tangible strategies for engaging museums on 2S+LGBTTQ issues. We use an intersectional approach to think through ways in which gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, religion, ethnicity, and national identities are inter-implicated in museums and in museumgoers’ points of contact with museums. This workshop will be the first time our research team, which hails from across Canada, the U.S., and Australia, will come together to begin these important discussions.”

This innovative project brings together two significant fields in cultural studies. According to Dr. Milne, “to date, there has been very little research that engages with 2S+LGBTTQ issues within the field of museum studies. It is an emerging field of scholarship.”

For more information on this project, visit museumqueeries.org.

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TTTM Research Team speaks at International Conference in Poland

panelists

Panelists for the Thinking through the Museum: Difficult Knowledge in Public presentation (Warsaw, Poland; March 13, 2017)

Thinking through the Museum research team members and collaborators closed the momentus “Museums and their Publics at Sites of Conflicted History” international conference in Warsaw, Poland (March 13-15, 2017). The conference explored the role of museums in negotiating new public histories in societies in transition; of special interest was how the historical narratives constructed in museums help to shape new social relations in a dynamically changing present.

Drs. Angela Failler, Heather Igloliorte, Erica Lehrer, and Monica Patterson participated in the conference’s many roundtable and panel discussions, finishing with a panel of their own titled “Thinking through the Museum: Difficult Knowledge in Public.” This panel, which also invited collaborators Dr. Shelley Ruth Butler (McGill University), Hanna Radziejowska (Warsaw Uprising Museum, the Dom Spotkan z Historia [“House of Meetings with History”], Museum of the City of Warsaw), Magdalena Zych (Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum), and Aleksandra Janus (Jagiellonian University), asked the questions:

Can museum institutions question cherished collective myths of heroism and tolerance? To what extent can they be self-critical, and how? What progressive social, political, and educational functions can such museums serve? And most interesting for our research: what roles can scholars, activists, artists, and citizens play in holding these institutions to their highest stated mandates, or even expandingthem? This includes not only their content or modes of representation, but the construction of their audiences. Who are audiences imagined (and encouraged) by museum practitioners to be, and what are these visitors allowed and expected to do? 

The presentation is available for viewing on the conference’s website here.

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Angela Failler awarded Canada Research Chair

The Government of Canada has announced a major investment in research excellence at The University of Winnipeg, with Dr. Angela Failler’s appointment as a new Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Culture and Public Memory — an award valued at $500,000 over five years. Failler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Failler’s CRC research will focus on how practices of culture and public memory are used to grapple with the difficult knowledge of historical traumas and their after-effects. She is specifically interested in the potential for these practices to advance reconciliation, redress, and decolonized forms of relating.

Failler’s research pays particular attention to memorials, museums, commemorative artworks, community-based practices of remembrance, and government sponsored memory projects. She uses collaborative approaches: combining the expertise of scholars, educators, artists, and curators to develop cultural studies in public.

For more information. check out the news release on the University of Winnipeg’s website!

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Ways of Walking Against-the-Grain: Decolonizing Curatorial Pedagogies

By Michelle K Barron**

In April 2016 the Thinking through the Museum research team hosted a workshop on the theme of Decolonizing Curatorial Pedagogies at Carleton University, led by Dr. Monica Patterson. I am a graduate student in the Law and Legal Studies Department at Carleton, and worked as a Research Assistant for the Thinking through the Museum project. My research in postcolonial literatures and activisms fueled my interest in this exploration and the intersections between Ottawa’s histories and the spaces of indigenous decolonization, is at the core of my engagement.

The Decolonizing Curatorial Pedagogies workshop challenged normative and dominant ways of understanding and (re)creating history through curation; particularly, the team’s focus is on working through difficult and sometimes violent histories depicted in public spaces like museums. The workshop provided a space for the team and other attendees to think through indigenous representations in museums and the decolonization efforts of indigenous curatorial projects and artists.

Workshop participants enter The Great Hall at the Canadian Museum of History (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

Workshop participants enter The Great Hall at the Canadian Museum of History (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

The two day event opened and closed with walking. Starting early on Friday morning, we walked through The Great Hall in the Canadian Museum of History and in the late afternoon on Saturday we were guided through downtown Ottawa on an Indigenous Walking Tour led by Jaime Koebel. The choice to begin and end the weekend workshop with the movement between places was an embodied practice that became foundational to my thinking about what it means to decolonize institutional spaces. My aim in writing this blog post is to explore how walking itself—or physically moving from one space to another—can serve as a decolonizing curatorial pedagogy that helps us not only to deconstruct curatorial practices within museums, but also to disrupt the spaces in and around museums. I also consider the ways in which walking is especially productive when approaching difficult histories.

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Ways of Walking

(photo credit: Angela Failler)

(photo credit: Angela Failler)

At the Canadian Museum of History, the visitors’ path through The Great Hall is laid out from beginning to end: signs indicate the exhibits’ entrance and exit, separated by a meandering route leading in and around what are labeled as Canadian Indigenous artifacts. The walkway within this section slopes downward and leads the visitor below ground level into a dimly lit area surrounded by moss-green and clay-brown walls resembling an active archaeological dig site. Low-tone instrumental music emanates from speakers along the pathway, integrating sounds of the forest and directing the listener from one display to the next. Strong yellow spotlights highlight the progression of displays. This particular use of light, sound, and paved walkways determines the order in which visitors will view the objects on display. The experience of moving through this carefully constructed space became instrumental to my understanding of the practice of walking as a tool. The way visitors are influenced to walk through this exhibit places other types of walking that I experienced throughout the weekend in perspective.

Unlike our movement through The Great Hall, our subsequent walkthrough of Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow’s “Temporal Re-Imaginings” exhibit was an entirely different experience. Alex is a PhD student at the University of Carleton in the Cultural Mediations program, and also a Research Assistant for the Thinking through the Museum project. She is Anishinaabe and Kanien’keha:ka, and a member of Whitefish River First Nation. Alex offered us a curator’s tour of her exhibit, in which she shared visual and oral counter-narratives that disrupted some of the dominant myths of Canadian nationalism and “history”. She also explained her processes of choosing, positioning, and re(thinking) the specific pieces in the exhibit as a way of reimagining indigenous history in the current moment. Alex’s intention of representing indigenous stories and ways of knowing also opened up difficult histories, and her presentation allowed for multiple perspectives and ways of interacting with the space itself. The exhibit site is set up to purposefully fit into as well as disrupt the public space of the Canada Council for the Arts hall. Not only does the expansive, open hall serve as a space for exhibits, but it is also a highly trafficked transitional space, where passersby move through without the intention of entering into or even participating in the exhibit. This contrasts with The Great Hall whereby an accidental walkthrough is nearly impossible. The openness and the location of the Canada Council for the Arts hall allows for a range of visitors, both intentional and not, to encounter the art at leisure or in passing. This venue and the compelling content and curation of “Temporal Re-Imaginings” facilitates the possibility of numerous types of walking. During our tour I observed slow paced, purposeful, and accidental visitors; some of the visitors carefully studied all or components of the exhibit, while others appeared to be caught off guard or pulled in by a work of art. For me, this exhibit exposed questions about how walking—or otherwise moving through the physical space of an exhibit—may impact one’s experience.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-1-33-31-pmWays of Unwalking

How, exactly, is the understanding of an exhibit influenced by the way someone walks? Can different ways of walking aid in the discussion of decolonizing curatorial pedagogies? Is there a way to actively walk or perhaps unwalk in a museum to challenge colonial practices and ways of knowing? Similar to the spaces of possibility that “Temporal Re-Imaginings” opens up, our final walk through Ottawa, facilitated a type of against-the-grain walking.

Jaime Koebel’s Indigenous Walking tour provided the perfect opportunity to explore the power and potential of unwalking as a means of decolonizing colonized space. Koebel led the team through Ottawa in a way that illuminated indigenous histories, presence, and futures among the infrastructure of the city. As we moved through the urban spaces, our attention was drawn to often overlooked details, unwritten histories, and multiple and contested meanings of various and absent historical and artistic markers in the downtown corridor. Using a dialogic approach to survey our knowledge and readings of the landscape, she led us through sites such as the Aboriginal War Veteran’s Memorial and David Ruben Piqtoukun’s The Lost Child. For many of us, the information and guidance that Koebel provided changed the way we understood the space and the ways in which we navigated through streets and buildings that many of us had thought we knew. Connecting us physically to the earth, our walking not only actively challenges the normative route between sites, but as Koebel explained, also the histories that the sites embody. Visiting unknown or overlooked sites and viewing familiar sites through a new lens changed my understanding of the urban spaces of Ottawa; rather than passively walking by Ottawa’s monuments and art installations, we were encouraged to interact with spaces with a heightened awareness of indigenous contexts, and to challenge dominant narratives of the city’s history. Bringing to light indigenous traces and markers through active walking exposes possible counter-narratives, or different ways of knowing. Rather than being guided by signs, lights, music, and paths as we were in The Great Hall, the Indigenous Walking Tour was a process of actively unwalking.

Jaime Koebel's Indigenous Walking Tour (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

Jaime Koebel’s Indigenous Walking Tour (photo credit: Lauren Bosc)

Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s novel Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World postulates counter understandings of movement through memories and the spaces we inhabit. She argues that by walking she is “listening to a deeper way” to the spaces she moves through, allowing a necessary connection between herself and her ancestors (159). She further instructs her readers to “[w]atch and listen” to their surroundings as they walk, emphasizing not only the process of walking but also a particular way of walking (159). For Hogan, walking must therefore be something active and embodied. I argue that there must be a process of unwalking which highlights the need for a re-learning how to move through a space in a more active way. Hogan emphasizes a more attuned way of listening and seeing, wherein the types of things you observe and the speed you move through spaces are subsequently impacted. By actively walking where counter-histories reside, or by actively listening to counter-narratives where “official histories” are displayed, we can perhaps collectively unwalk colonial paths and stride out new ones. The embodied experience of active walking in Hogan’s work is also reflected in the upcoming exhibit at the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou: Footprints: A Walk Through Generations. This exhibit is rooted in the importance of walking as strength, agency, and healing for Cree communities.

Unwalking is not only the responsibility of the walker but also the curator who can utilize the space of the museum to facilitate new conversations. By centering indigenous voices and experiences and allowing for multiple ways of moving through exhibitions, the curator can help decolonize normative understandings of settler colonial and indigenous histories. Unwalking, then, is a way of decolonizing curatorial pedagogies in the way that it opens up possibilities of counter or marginalized narratives.
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**Michelle K Barron is an M.A. Candidate in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. Her current research integrates international oceanic law with discussions of underwater cultural heritage and postcolonial literatures. Specifically, her thesis endeavours to explore implications of violent colonial histories on bone, body, and artifact reclamation in international waters. Complementing her academic work, Michelle has also explored visual avenues in representation through her graphic compositions with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary and the Graduate Legal Studies Association at Carleton University. It is through her research and creative works pertaining to visual communications that her passion for the intersections of histories, memory, and the body become evident.

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Dr. Monica Patterson featured in Institute of African Studies Newsletter

The Thinking through the Museum team congratulates team member Dr. Monica Patterson for being featured in the Institute of African Studies’ newsletter. Interviewed by African Studies graduate student Kristine Harwood in a piece titled “Monica Patterson: Curating a new methodology in African Studies,” Patterson makes clear she “seeks to create a new and hybrid methodology, one that works towards reinserting historical materials into communities, questions the colonial legacies of knowledge production about ‘Africa’, and creates space for the histories and memories of marginalized groups” (4).

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-12-22-24-pmTo read the full feature, click here to download the newsletter.

 

 

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