“My museum, a museum about me: or, who owns the legacy of the Polish village?”

(event poster)

On June 27, 2017, Dr. Erica Lehrer will participate in an action to “hack” the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Krakow. As a supervisor to students leading the project, Dr. Lehrer and the group will use a rattle to lead visitors through the course of the museum hack. It will be passed from hand to hand to make noise – a aural symbol of their “intervention.” Rattles are instruments present in many cultures, a ritual noisemaker used in ceremonies. People often forget that in multicultural villages objects were often passed from one community to another, crossing cultural boundaries and blurring them in the process. Christians used rattles during Holy Week, and Jews used them on Purim (a grager in Yiddish). They plan to use the rattle to symbolize openness to diversity, to work against fantasies of cultural purity, and to recall Poland’s multicultural community.

The project uses the museum as a space of reflection about the contemporary identity (or identities) of those people whose origins lie in the Polish countryside. If this is a “museum about me,” can I find my roots here? Can you? What might be missing in this museum? Or what prevents us from feeling a connection between who we are, and the people and culture on display?

More information about the action and project can be found on facebook and on the museum’s website.

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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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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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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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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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SakKijÂjuk Exhibition featured with 20th biennial Inuit Studies Conference

Dr. Heather Igloliorte (photo credit: Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Dr. Heather Igloliorte (photo credit: Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Thinking through the Museum team member Dr. Heather Igloliorte’s curated exhibit, SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut, has been featured in an interview style by the Memorial University of Newfoundland in anticipation of its grand opening in St. John’s, Newfoundland in October 2017. The exhibit, opening at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, will also coincide with the 20th biennial Inuit Studies Conference.

For more information, please see the original feature on the conference website here.

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Review: Curatorial Dreams

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.07.25 PMThinking through the Museum team member Erica Lehrer’s recently co-edited collection (with Shelley Ruth Butler), Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions, has been reviewed by Robert Fulford of the National Post. The review, titled “‘Every Exhibition is an Argument’: Scholars Envision Dream Exhibitions that May One Day Exist,” describes the collection as “ground-breaking.”

The review can be accessed here.

In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt:

Across the world this is the golden age of museums. Other cultural institutions come and go but the popularity of museums never stops growing. Every city in the world wants one, and if it has one already it wants to make it better by enlarging it and bringing the architecture up to date.

The exhibitions that fill museums are another matter. Patrons often find them disappointing. They are judged old-fashioned, or too trendy. Or they are not “world class.” They tell us too much, or too little, about their subjects.

These are among the reasons to welcome a ground-breaking book, Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions (McGill-Queen’s University Press), edited by Shelley Ruth Butler, a cultural anthropologist at McGill, and Erica Lehrer, in the sociology-anthropology department at Concordia.

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