Category Archives: Social Network

Museums and controversial exhibitions – Add to the discussion!


I am loving the Museopunk forum! I just opened up the following question for discussion, and encourage you to add to the conversation and join Museopunk if you have not had the chance yet!

For those who have worked or currently work in the museum field, have you had any dealings with exhibitions that turned out to be controversial, or planned exhibitions that addressed contentious topics? What did the museum do to address concerns from the public and funders, and did they put extra measures in place to encourage constructive dialogue about the topic or the art?



Are You a Museopunk?

New Curator has launched a fantastic network, Museopunk, with a pretty active forum that needs more voices! What is a museopunk, you ask? From the New Curator blog, here is the scoop:


A DIY attitude is very Museopunk, and kind of makes sense for a start-up Metrocurator. But if MOMA released a bunch of Metrocurators into New York with a ton of cash behind them, they could probably get the job done. Same thing with bureaucracy; a Metrocurator wants to deal with as little as possible. A Museopunk wants to change bureaucracy to allow for greater freedom of innovation, especially in reaction to failing “cookie-cutter” models or corporate interests.

Museopunk borrows from, and probably partially overlaps, Edupunk. This word encompasses all museum parts with a punk notion. Prezpunk, a punk outlook on conservation. Who ws it it that said “Curatopunk”? Sorry to who said it but I’ve lost where that came from. I came up with Registrapunk to cover the punk approach to collections management.

Personally, I’m seeing the best of Museopunk innovative thinking coming from the wannabes, the bottom rungs or the outsider freelancers. I suppose these are the people who want it the most and want to succeed and see an entrepreneurial approach as the way to do it. That is to say that there isn’t a lot of things going on in museum institutions that could be considered Museopunk. Involvement in the Creative Commons for one. Putting CC licenses on photos or entire documentation records. Building your own software. Not getting overly involved in these ready made blockbuster exhibitions that are put together and sold as a packages (I want to call them “Microwave Exhibitions”).

In my opinion, Museopunk is a reaction and a desire for museums to regain some of that soul.

I just signed up and I am excited to swap ideas about innovating our organizations with people from both the U.S. and abroad. I encourage all museum leaders to join the conversation!

End of Week Links: SFMOMA, Professional Development & Brandeis Backtracks

It’s raining buckets here, but it’s giving me time to stay indoors, jump on MJ Writes, and share some links I have found to be especially interesting to me this week. If you have some news or links to share, drop me a line in the Comments section!

SFMOMA Rooftop Treasure Hunt Facebook App
As if we didn’t already know that SFMOMA is a pretty cool and dynamic institution , it is at it again with a  nifty treasure-hunt-esque app on its Facebook page.

DIY Professional Development
Rosetta Thurman shares 11 ways that leaders in the non-profit world can seek out professional development without waiting around for their organizations to pay for it. My favorite is #10: Ask a lot of questions, don’t be scared to approach people – take advantage of the people around you! Well said.

Be the Best You Can Be!
Hot tips on how to develop yourself as the best non-profit leader by volunteering, thinking big, and seeking professional development opportunities (see link above!).

Brandeis Backtracks
A follow up to the madness that was the deaccessioning debacle at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. I believe it is an important case that will be used to develop the next wave of scholarship concerning museum ethics, collections care, and accessioning policies.

Engaging art museums’ youngest visitors

The best museums and museum exhibits about science or technology give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting, but maybe I could do something here, too.” ~ Paul Allen

I just visited the web site for the King Tut exhibition at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and I feel like a kid in a candy store. Why? Because I get to see it up close and personal next month when I’m back in the good ol’ Hoosier State to visit family. This will be the first time I have been back at this particular museum since I was ten or eleven. I have an immense amount of affection for the museums my grandmother took me to when I was a kid. The Indianapolis Art Museum (IMA) remains my favorite and will always have a fond place in my heart, even more now because I absolutely idolize the staff’s ingenious use of social networking and digital media tools within the exhibitions, and of course, their recently launched ArtBabble video sharing site. I remember climbing, building, and exploring at the Muncie Children’s Museum, tumbling around jungle gyms and bringing home layers of colored sand in jars that, to my mother’s chagrin, usually ended up spilling in some remote corner of my closet or dresser drawer.

I can’t emphasize enough that my current preoccupation with and love of museums stems from these childhood visits, and back in the early-90’s there was not as strong an emphasis on educational programming for young people in museums as there is now. There certainly were no fancy programs on iPod Touches to engage my senses, which IMA is planning to make available at their upcoming exhibition, Sacred Spain. What benefited me, I’m sure, was that I possessed a natural lust for knowledge, a large amount of curiosity, and rapt attention for anything that stimulated me visually. At the most basic level, my decision to pursue a Master’s degree in arts administration and museum studies was informed by the sentimental experience of standing in front of William McGregor Paxton’s Glow of Gold, Gleam of Pearl for the first time. To this day, that painting is my favorite work of art in spite of my current overriding love for all things modern and contemporary.

As we mold our museums into community hubs of activity, finding creative ways to engage our youngest visitors is pivotal to building future support for the arts. We know this to be true, but art museums in particular are not notorious for being the most catering to children or the most welcome. I actually think some art museum security guards have a sixth sense for the young ones and make beelines for them whenever they dare to enter the galleries. I am being facetious, of course, and I applaud that more art museums are increasingly making it more of a priority to provide parents with learning kits at the beginning of their visit, setting aside space for an art and craft room, and posting online guidelines for visiting with children. Transforming our institutions into more family-friendly venues does not have to imply that we turn our gallery spaces into wannabe children’s museum or science factories. If we are to reimagine our art museums as vibrant, community-centered spaces dedicated to art and education, the static exhibition areas and exhibition catalogues of yesterday must give way to multimedia tours and interactive learning centers. Colleen Dilenschneider over at the blog, Know Your Own Bones, is a big fan of science cafes, and I believe adapting these for art museum purposes could be an inventive step toward accomplishing our goals of engaging a younger demographic in learning and caring about art.

John Falk devised the term “free choice learning,” which involves “individual learning activities that are freely engaged in, intrinsically rewarded, and not motivated by the formal requirement of educational institutions,” according to a report from The Urban Institute (PDF). In America, we love the term free choice; we like to know that what we are getting is what we ordered in the first place and is worth our time and hard-earned money. At our museums, we need to cultivate environments that  allow visitors the freedom to navigate the galleries as they wish, to use the technology they have in order to access supplementary educational materials when and how they want, and to acknowledge that visitors are not carbon copies of each other but come from unique backgrounds with unique experiences. While children are certainly not as set in their ways with as many pre-conceived beliefs and interests as adults, they are developing unique ways of learning and experiencing the world, and in my opinion deserve a free choice learning environment as much as the adult visitor.

In what ways have you seen museums, art museums especially, involve children in learning and exploring, either in conjunction with an exhibition or as permanent educational programming?

Museums, museums, museums, object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of archaeologists, crazy attempts to co-ordinate and get into a fixed order that which has no fixed order and will not be co-coordinated! It is sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Regina Hackett’s Top 10 Museum Websites in the Pacific NW

Regina Hackett, former Seattle P-I art critic and current blogger on Another Bouncing Ball, posted the Pacific Northwest’s top 10 museum websites in the order of their “web merit” according to her.

1. Henry Gallery. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or at least until the update. Credit goes to Betsey Brock and her team.

2. Frye Art Museum. Useful, practical and informative. Lacks the Henry’s excitement and drive, but good job.

3. Vancouver Art Gallery. Nearly as good as the Frye’s, but needs more images.

4. Tacoma Art Museum. Dull design but in the game. Again, more images. Art museums are visual storehouses.

5. Bellevue Arts Museum: Considering the resources of this institution, tip top.

6. Portland Art Museum. Clean design, but not nearly enough information on current shows, never mind past and future, and flash prevents the site from releasing any images. Let your images roam free on the Internets!

7. Museum of Contemporary Craft. Competent. Well done.

8. Museum of Northwest Art. Not bad but skimpy. Build it out.

9. Whatcom Museum of History and Art. A placeholder. A shadow of a shadow.

10. Seattle Art Museum. It’s only last because as the premier art museum on the West Coast south of Los Angeles, it should be first. Instead, it’s dull, unhelpful and withholding to the point of audience hostility.

I am a little confused about her first choice, as I find the Henry’s website to be extremely confusing to navigate, but agree that when it comes to the Seattle Art Museum’s website, I expected something fancier and more engaging than what I found. Would love to see similar lists for other areas of the country.

It’s not about adaptation, it’s about revolution

ljkay_flickrAs museum professionals, we discuss, plan, and implement programs, exhibitions, and events that we believe will best engage our public; more often than not we’re tentatively feeling our way around when it comes to transforming our museums into community hubs of activity. The public forum atmosphere that is so coveted and sets the museum up (however temporarily) as a place where people feel welcome, involved, and engaged, is generally achieved as a result of attractive programming or fancy exhibitions. Unfortunately, these short-term solutions are notoriously unreliable ways of retaining constituency loyalty or sustaining public involvement, not to mention they often carrying hefty dollar signs. What, then, can we do to transform our traditional art museums into modern-day public forums, places that can be entertaining and educational, places that encourage active engagement and not simply passive experiences?

The first question that comes to my mind is 101-level stuff: why do we visit an art museum? To see the art! Exhibitions are a big deal and can be a huge draw. The first step towards moving away from merely adapting our programming for temporary appeal and towards revolution and longer term solutions is to dissolve the traditional exhibition structure. I’m not picking on exhibit designers or curators. What I’m hoping to do is challenge our every-day way of thinking about exhibitions, drawing us away from settings that resemble for-profit galleries and towards those that act as collaborative environments that encourage learning, conversation, contribution, and innovation. What would this look like at your museum?

Museum as Hub is a partnership of five international arts organizations, and is offering a new model for curatorial practice and institutional collaboration in order to enhance our understanding of contemporary art (Source: Museum as Hub). Its focus is primarily on ideas of place, and it facilitates collaborations between museums and artists, who then create original pieces based on the areas they are representing. It has a local focus. The Museum as Hub space is being planned to “envelope” next year’s exhibitions, and is described as “a flexible, playful, yet functional space that is an active zone for viewing, discussion, and activity.” When was the last time you visited an art museum and they described a gallery space or exhibition in this way?Museum_as_Hub

Personally, my thinking on this topic revolves around a museum creating an online forum for the community where individuals can either suggest new exhibition themes or comment on ways the museum can use upcoming events to engage and involve the public. I’m also wondering how we could work with visitor-generated content in order for exhibitions to be partly community driven and partly curator/museum driven.

In a recent email about community-curated exhibitions and social networking for the creation of exhibitions, Janet Marstine asked if these methods are helping us be “more socially responsible and helping to create a more relevant and democratic museum?” Or are they simply ploys to gain attention from the community for a short time, but the majority of programming and exhibit planning would continue to rest with the administration and board?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and your brainstorming on the many ways we can transform and revolutionize our art museums into contemporary public forums.

(Images courtesy of ljkay via Flickr and MuseumLab)

More about the arts and social networking

Yesterday’s article in the San Fran Chronicle could be considered redundant, but I have to admit that me and my peeps in the arts can always use the reminder that social networking is important to the survival of our organizations no matter how many times we’ve heard about it.

While mostly “FYI” material, the article did take the initiative to link an organization’s increased use of social networking tools to an increase in funds, stating, “With the economic downturn affecting donations from trusts, foundations and individuals, a fresh batch of supporters couldn’t come at a better time.” This struck me as intriguing and has propelled me to seek out more research about a possible link between non-profits social networking and increasing their support base. It seems to me that the age group that frequents sites like Twitter is not necessarily rolling in the dough, but with even my mom on Facebook these days, the range of ages and professionals using these sites may be more diverse than I initially thought.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.