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.
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).
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.
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.”
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:
Canmuseum 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.
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!
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).
To read the full feature, click here to download the newsletter.
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.
Thinking 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.”
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.
Marjorie Schwarzer has recently published a positive review of Karen Busby, Adam Muller, and Andrew Woolford’s The Idea of a Human Rights Museum, which includes a chapter co-written by Thinking through the Museum‘s Project Director Angela Failler with the late Roger I. Simon. The review, published in Museum Management and Curatorship, can be accessed here.
In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from the review:
A museum might facilitate dialogue, but can it be an appropriate place to inspire action on behalf of human rights? This book’s answer is inconclusive. Christopher Powell delineates what he sees as the hard truth: the fight for human rights is a continual struggle. He posits that CMHR’s narrative is ‘top down’, reflecting ‘the interests of the sovereign and … social elites’ who founded and funded it (p. 138). ‘Top down’ implies that abuses against humanity are aber- rant occurrences that can be transcended through enlightened institutions. Powell advocates a ‘bottom up’ approach that emphasizes a commitment to constant questioning and subversion of the larger system. Perhaps, Powell notes on page 141, an ongoing external critique of CMHR, such as the one presented in this valuable book, can allow the museum to become ‘a vehicle for the propagation of human rights, despite itself’.