What a time to be talking about museums!
With most of us stuck at home, museums have an existential crisis on their hands: How much do physical objects matter in the age of the internet? How does a museum keep its head above water when it can’t welcome people through the door? What exactly is a museum for?
Meanwhile, activists are questioning some of museums’ fundamental tenets. These critics have been active for years, but their voices have gained new prominence with the ascension of Black Lives Matter in national conversation. From top to bottom, they argue, museums are racist institutions: from the way they’ve acquired artifacts, to the way they fund themselves, to their relationship with marginalized communities, to their labor practices. “Death to museums,” one dialogue series says. “The museum is dead. Long live the museum.”
It’s not business as usual, in other words. But like many crises, perhaps this one contains the seeds of a new and better paradigm.
In this class, we’ll investigate where museums are right now, as well as how they got here and where they might go. We will combine group discussions with hands-on activities, so that you’ll leave the class with a grasp on museumship as a profession, as well as some very handy skills.