Dr. Lehrer publishes review: “Making #Heritage Great Again”

In response to the exhibition #Heritage at the National Museum in Kraków, Poland, Dr. Erica Lehrer has published a long-form review titled “Making #Heritage Great Again.” The review reads the show critically as the newest volley in a national culture war in the context of Poland’s recent hard rightward turn.

(photo credit: Erica Lehrer)

The review is free to read in the online journal Political Critique, the international arm of Central and Eastern Europe’s largest liberal network of institutions and activists.

Here is a short excerpt:
The #Heritage (#Dziedzictwo) exhibition at Krakow’s National Museum is imposing, grand, and low-tech. It is an old-school, collection-based exhibition that exemplifies a traditional form of museological deceit, where profoundly political work is disguised as objectivity and benevolent custodianship. But #Heritage is novel because it co-opts not only the seeming neutrality of the original museum-as-treasure-box, but also the trappings of more recent, democratic approaches to curating, all while neutralizing true civic debate.”
To read the rest of the review, click here.
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Dr. Failler Awarded CFI Grant for CRiCS

Dr. Angela Failler has received a Joh R. Evans Leader’s Fund grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) with contributions from Research Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg to establish a new Centre for Research in Cultural Studies (CRiCS) on the UWinnipeg campus.  CRiCS will house the innovative projects of Failler (who is Canada Research Chair in Culture and Public Memory), and the work of UWinnipeg’s Cultural Studies Research Group which she currently leads.

Failler’s overall program is designed to demonstrate the ways public memory and cultural studies research can generate positive social transformation. The main feature of the centre will be a Collaborative Research and Knowledge Mobilization Lab that functions as a multipurpose hub for research creation, networking, and workshopping. This Centre will also be a hub of activity toward Failler’s work with the Thinking through the Museum research team and its projects.

For more information, please see the press release on the University of Winnipeg’s website here.

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“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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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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