Category Archives: Repost

Why touching art is so tempting — and exciting. Repost from CNN.

Updated 13th May 2019

Marlen Komar, CNN

Imagine an empty gallery in a museum. It’s just you, a 200-year-old masterpiece and the quiet. The brush strokes of a Rembrandt painting draw you in, and with your hands behind your back, you lean in to study the colors and textures.
Looking sideways, you spot the security guard at the door, standing bored and inattentive. You could easily reach out your hand and steal a quick touch, rules be damned.

Fiona Candlin, a professor of museology at Birkbeck College in London and author of “Art, Museums, and Touch,” is all too familiar with these clandestine moments. She spent years investigating the motivations behind why visitors touch exhibits without permission, what they choose to touch, and how these unauthorized touches make them feel.
As it turns out, this type of rule-breaking is a common part of the museum-going experience. While she was observing unauthorized touching at the British Museum for a report published in The Senses and Society journal, a security guard told Candlin, “You stop a hundred people touching and there are 200 more … It’s like trying to turn back the sea.”
Closer inspection
Museums are often seen as sober places, where visitors are expected to silently walk from gallery to gallery and contemplate art from a distance. But Simon Hayhoe, a lecturer at the University of Bath who specializes in art education and disability, suggests we often want to close that distance and interact with works more intimately.

Solid gold toilet to land in English stately home
He links this to the original purpose of Renaissance artworks, which were hung inside churches to teach people about Bible stories. The pieces were hung in a way that created a sense of remoteness and reverence, and made the viewer feel like an outsider.
“What the church did was put the art out of reach. They never put it close to the people so they can stand in front of it. They were designed to be seen (up) high, and so people would look at them in awe and wonder,” Hayhoe explained in a phone interview.

“So there is a sense of power there as well. There is a sense of you are not allowed anywhere near this painting, because it’s imbued with God, it’s imbued with power, it’s imbued with something you’re never going to be close to.”
According to Candlin, there are numerous reasons why museum visitors are so tempted to touch art, one of which is classic empirical investigation — simply put, the desire to learn more.

“If you want to find out how finely a surface has been finished, or how two bits are joined together, or how deep an engraving is, the best way to find out is by touching it,” Candlin said in a phone interview.
“You want to know how something is made, you want to know what it’s made of, you want to try and get a sense of how it’s put together, and so you touch for those kinds of reasons.”

Part of that inspection is to confirm authenticity. “There can be a real blur between museums and experiences and theme parks and wax works. Often if you have really big objects on display — if you think about going into the Egyptian galleries in the British Museum or the Met. Some people can’t believe you would put real things on display without glass around them. They’re not quite sure and they figure if they touch it, they can make an assessment,” Candlin said.

Touching also has to do with playing with the art pieces on display — especially when it comes to statues of animals and humans. But because these figures aren’t real, museum-goers feel free to push boundaries, patting lion heads or groping naked bottoms. They’re making visual jokes and performing for both themselves and the people they are with.
In Candlin’s research, she found that the British Museum’s Lely Venus, a Roman statue of the goddess leaving her bath, had her behind cupped so often that the piece was put behind barriers.
An emotional connection
Standing in front of artwork also often evokes an emotional response. It’s not just about appreciating technique, Candlin explained, but thinking of the human element behind the work and wanting to connect with the person behind the genius.
“If something is made by a named artist, the museum goer wants to feel they have some connection with that named artist. Barbara Hepworth put her hand here and I’m now putting my hand here,” Candlin said.
“There is a sculpture by Hepworth at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in England) where you can see her finger marks in it, and if people notice it they will often put their hand against her finger marks to give that sense of her hand and their hand meeting.”
While she doesn’t go so far as to suggest people break the rules the next time they’re at a museum, Candlin does believe touching is an important — and, unfortunately for security guards, inevitable — part of experiencing art.
“People aren’t just touching the ends of their fingers — they’re stroking things, they’re holding things, they’re mimicking,” she continued. “You’ve got to see touching as part of the continuum of ways in which people physically interact with objects.”

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What does it mean to decolonize a museum?

BY ELISA SHOENBERGER
Reposted from MuseumNext

In the past few years, museums across the US, Europe, and Australia are trying to tackle the challenge of decolonizing their institutions. However, the very meaning of decolonizing is being debated. The Washington Post defines it as “a process that institutions undergo to expand the perspectives they portray beyond those of the dominant cultural group, particularly white colonizers.” Whereas, the Abbe Museum in Maine take a stronger approach by incorporating it into their Strategic plan and defining it as “at a minimum, sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture.”

Museums are taking on this important work to try to make their museums reflect the diversity and the voices of the people within their collections and around them. Many museums have legacies rooted in colonialism; their collections were from wealthy donors who benefited from empires. For example, Sir Hans Sloane, doctor and collector, funded his enormous collection that would be the foundation of the British Museum with earnings from his wife’s slave plantations in Jamaica. Moreover, his collection profited from the reach of the British Empire where collectors and travelers all over the world “acquired” items for him. Many collectors saw their efforts as a way to preserve the past, believing that the indigenous communities would fade into obscurity. And then there’s the controversies of how items were acquired into collections, such as the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum, London; and Zodiac of Dendera in the Louvre, Paris.

Part of the issue is how museums treat indigenous and other minorities in their collections. In his MuseumNext talk, Jérémie Michael McGowan, director of Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Tromsø, Norway, explained that indigenous works tended to be in ethnographic museums, not art museums. This distinction helps to perpetuate the idea that these cultures are no longer living and continuing their traditions. These community engagements work to fight against that sentiment and try to show the resiliency of cultures and traditions.

Image: Shutterstock – Field Museum in Chicago

For example, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has invited several Native American artists to present their work in their Native American galleries including Bunky Echo-Hawk and Chris Pappan. Pappan, a Chicago based artist of Osage, Kaw, Cheyenne River Sioux and mixed European descent, created a series of paintings, drawings and overlays in the Field’s Native North American Hall to contextualize and reconsider the objects in the Hall, which has not changed since 1950. In a press release, the Field will now be renovating the hall and work with “an advisory committee of scholars and museum professionals from across the country and from diverse tribes and nations” to reopen the Hall in 2021.

Some museums are developing strategic plans to redevelop their conception of their collection and auditing the institutions as a whole. The Australian Museum in Sydney, led by Frank Howarth, re-evaluated its own relationship to its objects and changed their view of the Museum as the owner of objects to “custodians of those collections, with an obligation to the peoples who created the objects and stories, and to their descendants.” They are in the midst of a 10-year Indigenous Roadmap Project. Part of the roadmap has brought in leaders to review the collections. Notably, the Australian Museum brought in Chief Jerry Taki, a Ni-Vanuatu leader, to review the Vanuatu collections and helped the museum understand the diversity of arrowheads, something that the museum never knew before. This is merely one example of how these efforts benefits museum and indigenous people alike.

Other museums are working with local indigenous communities to determine respectful treatment of human remains and objects. In 2017, the San Diego Museum of Man instituted a policy to ask permission from indigenous communities about the treatment of 5,000 to 8,000 human remains in their collection. The Canadian Museum of History established the Human Remains Policy in 1991 “to respond to requests from communities for repatriation.” Since then the policy has evolved to include both human remains and objects and have resulted in the return of human remains to First Nations in Canada as well as artifacts, such as wampum and medicine bundles to their respective communities.

However, these efforts are only a part of the large project of decolonization. Artist and curator Shaheen Kasmani explains in her MuseumNext presentation “How Can We Decolonize Museums” that decolonization efforts may fail and sometimes help replicate colonial behaviors and attitudes. She aptly notes that decolonization is not the same as diversity. She instead posits that decolonization is “the upfront challenge of white supremacy, de-centers the Eurocentric view, values narrative of that has been made Other. It dismantles systems of thoughts [that places] the straight white man as standard.” It’s not just about inviting indigenous and other marginalized people into the museum to help the institution improve its exhibitions; it’s an overhauling the entire system. Otherwise, museums are merely replicating systems of colonialism, exploiting people of color for their emotional and intellectual labor within their institutions without a corollary in respect and power.

For her and many other culture workers, this overhaul starts with the decision-makers. Who are the people who make the decisions about the exhibitions? What is shown in the exhibitions? How is the story told? Do the decision-makers have a decolonial mindset? Are they aware of their own biases? Brooklyn Museum received a lot of criticism last year for hiring a white curator for an exhibit on African Art. Sara Wajid, head of engagement at Museum of London, in her MuseumNext talk pointed out the lack of people of color as heads of permanent exhibitions.

The Past is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire’ display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The prohibitive cost of museums also is a significant factor in limiting museums to particular audiences. Kasmani noted that exhibitions and museums can be quite expensive and not affordable to many segments of society. The cost to bring an entire family as well can limit people’s abilities to experience these cultural institutions. Steve Nelson, a professor of African and African American Art at UCLA, explains in a Washington Post article that “Museums are perceived as being for people of privilege. It starts early.” This perception could help stymie the pipeline of people in color in museum jobs.

In addition to decision-making and cost, the text and language of the exhibition are another important factor in the decolonization process. The wall text in exhibitions are perceived as neutral, authoritative narratives of the objects displayed. But Kasmani explains, “Those panels on the walls of your museum are a political act.” The words used are important for everyone’s understanding of material presented; the words chosen will impact how people understand the exhibit. She explains that when words like “racist” and “exoticized” are removed and words like “concentration camp” changed into “internment camp” it serves to invalidate people’s experiences and histories.

Moreover, the choice of the language for text is also a political act. What language is used in the text will also create barriers or tear them down depending on how it is used. Some institutions around the world are beginning to provide text in other languages than the dominant one. For instance, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had Spanish language text in their 2016 exhibition about Mexican muralists as a way to better connect with Spanish-speaking museum goers. In another example, McGowan noted that Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum used the Sámi language in texts on a special museum exhibition/performance that took place in 2017.

In addition to how objects end up at their museums, the project of decolonization should also consider what is collected and what stories can be told from those objects. Like wall text, collections are political. In her talk, Wajid describes how her attempts for an exhibition about the Opium War at the National Maritime Museum was limited because the museum did not collect items relevant to that topic, such as objects from the Chinese point of view. Instead, she noted, they had lots of items from the East India Company. The museum’s ability to make exhibitions that fought against the dominant narrative was hampered by what the museum had previously collected under this prevailing mindset.

However, there are institutions that have presented intriguing alternatives to prevailing models and presented new ideas for decolonization. In McGowan’s MuseumNext talk, he explains how in 2017, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum transformed into Sámi Dáiddamusea within two months from start to finish. This “museum performance” as he terms it, resulted in an “total and instant makeover that included amongst other things, the display of another collection of art entirely and the use of Sámi language for both exhibition texts and general signage” and much more. They worked with Sámi community to establish trust and common ground in this undertaking. But he hastens to explain that this museum was a “fictional manifestation of the as yet unrealized art museum that has long been the desire of the Sámi artistic community museum sector and society at large.” The new museum/exhibition was not a permanent change. Ultimately, he concludes that the experience showed that “perhaps one of the healthiest things many museums can do in response to the very demands of the present is to intentionally embrace an alternative condition in which they do not exist or have been replaced by another institution entirely…”

Since the exhibition, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum has continued in this project to review the institution as a whole by reviewing their mission statement, staffing and recruitment policies, analyzing the makeup of their board, and much more. Abbe Museum’s strategic plan of decolonization aptly distinguishes between what the visitors will see and what will take place behind the scenes. For visitors, Abbe Museum explains, “The principles of decolonization inform how the Abbe builds, understands, and exhibits its collections. They affect who shapes and tells the stories in its galleries and programs. Decolonization is part of the training of all staff, including those who greet and educate visitors, and even determines what is sold in the gallery stores.” Behind the scenes, the museum will revamp its values, “including consultative and collaborative decision-making processes that include Native people at every level of decision-making. This strategic plan calls for development of new models of archaeological and other research, and the Museum’s commitment to green practices reflects the Native values of protecting the resources of the earth.”

All in all, the decolonizing project will have starts and stops as each museum, cultural worker and audiences have difficult conversations and reflections about the meaning of museums and who the institutions are intended to serve. New models of decolonization will continue to arise and give inspiration to other institutions struggling to figure out how to change their own institutions. But open and true dialogue will remain an integral point with all members of communities. Wajid explains that “real talk” will happen; hard conversations will be had about power and authority. And that’s important. Former director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Olga Viso says it best in an Op-Ed for the New York Times in 2018, “If museums want to continue to have a place, they must stop seeing activists as antagonists. They must position themselves as learning communities, not impenetrable centers of self-validating authority.”

Image: Birmingham and the British Empire’ display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Art Museum Hires Neuroscientist. Repost

This Art Museum Hired a Neuroscientist to Change the Way We Look at Art

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

From the late 16th to the early 20th century, the salon-style hang was the predominant display convention across Europe. But hanging paintings like this—crammed cheek to jowl in a gallery space—has since fallen out of favor, in part because it tends to prevent viewers from concentrating on a single work.

But why, exactly? The reason may have something to do with the circuitry of the human brain—which is why at least one museum is branching out and recruiting a neuroscientist to join its team.  “On a behavioral level, it can be distracting to walk into a room and have tons of things to look at,” said Dr. Tedi Asher, who earlier this year joined the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, for a one-year appointment as Neuroscience Researcher. “At the level of neurological activation, each painting will be presented less strongly.”

I met with Asher at her office, where the walls are decorated with brain-themed cartoons and diagrams, including a jumbo-sized image of Purkinje cells in a mouse cerebellum. To corroborate her claim, Asher invoked the theory of sensory suppression, which holds that a barrage of sensory stimuli—such as the salon-style hang—deadens the optical-neurological apparatus of the viewer.

She illustrated the point by pointing to her smartphone and a plastic pen. “If you have multiple objects in the same view, you’re going to have some neurons that respond to the phone and other neurons that respond to the pen,” she said. “It’s been shown that the neurons that respond to one are going to actively suppress the neurons that respond to the other. The representation of the objects in the brain seems to be weakened by having multiple objects.”

The appointment of Asher is part of a broader campaign by Dan Monroe, the museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, to deploy neuroscience in the service of exhibition design.

Under his leadership, this mid-sized museum north of Boston, which is best known for its extensive holdings in Asian and maritime art, has already gained national attention for convention-busting exhibitions. At the entrance to “Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age,” visitors were greeted by cylinders of spices—cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns—that promoted more lasting memories by engaging multiple senses. For “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture,” a troupe of live dancers confounded viewer’s expectations of the white cube.

Hiring Asher in May was the next step in pushing forward the Peabody’s mission. Over the next year, she’ll meet regularly with an advisory panel of neuroscientists, and will ultimately produce a publication that crystallizes her findings.

“Anecdotally, we’re all familiar with the idea that a satisfying experience has this delicate balance of meeting and violating our expectations,” Asher said. “In the context of exhibition design, how can we surprise people in a way that won’t be jarring but will help viewers make sense of what they have seen? Something that is unexpected takes longer to detect—but it also makes a more lasting imprint.” At the Peabody Essex, Asher will apply the principles of neuroaesthetics—the synthesis of neuroscience and aesthetics—to a reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection that will unfold over the next five years. Since arriving at the museum, she has been an advocate for the gallery-goer’s brain, making the case for display conventions that sidestep outmoded curatorial strategies (overloaded walls, indigestible wall text).

How the White Cube Came to Dominate the Art World

One idea that she is developing are rest areas, or “palate cleansers,” that will allow visitors a respite from sensory stimulation, much like the intermission in a play.

The implicit aim of the museum’s neuroscience initiative, made possible by a $130,000 grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation, is to boost the institution’s relevance at a time of declining attendance across the museum landscape. A 2015 study by the National Endowment for the Arts presented a startling number: Only 21 percent of adults in the United States visited a museum or gallery in 2012, a drop of 5.5 percent from 2002. While the Peabody Essex Museum has defied this trend—over the same period, attendance at the museum has risen steadily—it is nonetheless attuned to the plight of the museum sector as a whole.

“The loss of attendance leaves one to ask, ‘What are the dynamics that are causing this?’” said Monroe. “The strategies and practices that we, as a field, continue to employ are not very effective and, in my view, never will be—they do not recognize the way that people’s brains works.

“That said, we have to all recognize that neuroscience is in its infancy. Nobody understands, for example, how consciousness is created or even what it is.…Ultimately, the deciding factor will be whether or not we’re able to demonstrate that, by better understanding some key elements of the way our brains work, we can create experiences that more people find meaningful and impactful.”

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

Asher arrived at the Peabody Essex Museum almost by happenstance, dashing off a cover letter to the museum when an advertisement for the position was circulated on an internal listserv. Raised in Washington, D.C., she remembers “falling over” after seeing Claude Monet’s haystacks at the Art Institute of Chicago but ultimately dedicated herself to the sciences, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from Swarthmore College and later a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences program, where she investigated the linkage between aggression in male mice and serotonin-producing neurons. Her role at the Peabody Essex Museum is that of a benign disruptor, evaluating the format of forthcoming exhibitions in the context of neural pathways. “People seem to appreciate that I’m a little bit of an outsider,” she said.

Having a scientist on staff might be a new development, but the machinery of vision—and the relationship between sensation and perception—has vexed art lovers for millennia. In Art and Illusion (1960), Ernst Gombrich tells of a Pythagorean sage who, upon considering the case of a cloud that resembles a centaur or stag antelope, surmised that perception is a creative act on the part of the beholder. Or, as Gombrich put it: “What we read into these accidental shapes depends on our capacity to recognize in them things or images we find stored in our minds.” Thus, an image is not an index of the material world but a function of the brain.

“The beholder’s share, as it’s known, is a classic problem in art history,” Eric Kandel told me. He’s a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist at Columbia University and author of Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures (2016). “What’s going on in the beholder’s head when he looks at a work of art? This is an ongoing area of research. It’s still in its early stages but potentially quite interesting and, I think, quite important.”

In recent years, Kandel has emerged as an evangelist for interdisciplinary inquiry, taking it upon himself to mend the schism between art and science “by focusing on a common point at which the two cultures can meet and influence each other,” as he writes at the beginning of his book. Nevertheless, some art historians are skeptical of neuroaesthetics, which may at times slip into “a spurious reduction of art to the science of the brain,” as Jonathan Gilmore, currently an Assistant Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Baruch College, wrote in 2006.

  • Portrait of Tedi Asher. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

“Some art historians are enthusiastic [about neuroaesthetics], and others think it’s ridiculous,” said Kandel. “They say, ‘What does it have to offer? It demeans art to think that it has a biological explanation.’ But they should not worry: Neuroscience is not going to replace an art-historical approach to art; it’s going to supplement and enrich it.

“This is a very interesting experiment on the part of [the Peabody Essex Museum],” Kandel continued. “One of the things that strikes me with many current exhibitions is that they’re too damn large! It’s absolutely exhausting to go through them.”

For her part, Asher is sensitive to the fact that her appointment is a landmark event—but she’s also eager to focus on the business at hand. The challenge before her is to apply lessons from carefully designed experiments in a laboratory setting to the business of running an art museum with more than 300 personnel and an operating budget of $30 million. “The way [my colleagues here] talk about things feels much less structured than in the science world, where it is much more about connecting the dots,” she said. “I feel like there is more fluidity to how things are approached in a museum.”

After our interview, we entered the museum to see Anila Quayyum Agha’s All the Flowers Are for Me, an immersive installation in which the white cube has been converted into a light chamber, with a foliate pattern projected on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Encased in a lemon-colored aureole, Asher expounded on the neurological processes at work in our experience of the installation—and the sensation of being caressed by light.

“Your experience of this installation depends on what it reminds you of,” she said. “When you recall a memory, the regions of your cortex that process different senses become activated. So, if you’re looking at an image of a fur coat, you might feel as though you can touch the fur, and that’s because that part of your brain that would process the tactile experience is becoming activated by the memory.”

“But, of course,” she added, “it’s all in your mind.”

—Christopher Snow Hopkins

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-art-museum-hired-neuroscientist-change-way-art

Museum Accesibility Resources, repost from The Incluseum

The Incluseum is a project based in Seattle, Washington that advances new ways of being a museum through critical discourse, community building and collaborative practice related to inclusion in museums. The Incluseum is facilitated and coordinated by Aletheia Wittman and Rose Paquet Kinsley.

 

ONLINE:

Autism in the Museum This website offers examples and resources to museums and other informal educational setting interested in engaging with children on the autism spectrum. This site was launched by Lisa Jo Rudy, a museum writer, consultant, and mother of a teen with an autism spectrum diagnosis. She’s been involved with researching, writing, training, and consulting on autism and inclusion since 2006.

Center for the Future of Museums. (2008). Museums & Society 2034: Trends and Potential Futures. (Chapters of particular interest: The Changing Face of America).

Center for the Future of Museums. (2010). Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums.

Center for the Future of Museums. (2012). Trends Watch 2012: Museums and the Pulse of the Future. (Chapters of particular interest: Takin’ it to the Streets and Creative Aging.)

Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium has compiled a list of cultural accessibility and inclusion resources for everything from exhibition design to presentations.

Dodd, J., & Sandell, R. (2001). Including Museums: Perspectives on Museums, Galleries and Social Inclusion. Research Center for Museums and Galleries: University of Leicester.

The Empathetic Museum. This blog is a collaborative effort that explores what a culture of empathy looks like in museums.

From the Margins to the Core?  An international conference that explored the shifting roles and increasing significance of diversity and equality in contemporary museum and heritage policy and practice. Conference videos, reflections, and papers.

Group for Large Local Authority Museums. (2000). Museums and Social Inclusion: GLLAM Report. Research Center for Museums and Galleries: University of Leicester.

Jackson, M. R. and Herranz, J. (2003, November 1). Art and Culture in Communities: Unpacking Participation.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience: “…sites, individuals, and initiatives activating the power of places of memory to engage the public in connecting past and present in order to envision and shape a more just and humane future.” Organizations can join as members and gain access to resources, training and capacity building strategies provided by the Coalition.

Lopez, M. and Candiano, J. Room to Grow: A Guide to Arts Programming in Community Spaces for Families Affected by Autism. (2012).

Matarasso, F. (1997). Use or Ornement?: The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts. Comedia.

Multimodal Approaches to Learning Conference: Podcasts. A selection of presentations at the Multimodal Approaches to Learning Conferences, co-sponsored by Art Education for the Blind and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and held at the Met.

Museums & Race 2016 Reading List. Compiled by Planning Team Leaders and Facilitators of the Museum & Race 2016 Convening in Chicago.

Museums and Society. This is a free, peer-reviewed, online journal published by the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies. Some issues have interesting articles that touch on themes of social inclusion and representation.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). When the Going Gets Tough Report: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance.  (2015)

trivedi, nikhil. “Pronoun Stickers at MCN 2016.” Museum Computers Network Blog, (2016).

The Pop-Up Museum is a project directed by the Museum of  Art and History of Santa Cruz. The site hosts a great how-to, organizer’s kit and many examples of past pop-ups. You can even submit information regarding your own pop-up museum!

Reach & Associates. (2010). Who’s Coming to Your Museum? 

Resources for the Museum Industry to Discuss the Issue of Unpaid Internships. (2015). American Alliance of Museums.

Sandell, R. (2003). Social Inclusion, the Museum and the Dynamics of Sectoral Change. Museum and Society, 1 (1), 45–62. 

Sidford, H. (2010). Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy.  National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. (A recent analysis of this report here.)

Social Justice Alliance of Museum aims to build an international platform to promote best practices related to social justice and democracy in museums. The site hosts many inspiring case studies.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s, “Who’s Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy” Report. (2016).

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. (2006). Community-Based Exhibition Model. 

PRINT:

Barrett, J. (2010). Museums and the Public Sphere. John Wiley and Sons.

Bourdieu, P. (1993). The Field of Cultural Production. Columbia University Press. (Bourdieu conducted early and extensive audience research at European art museums.  Conclusions of research address class barriers to access/social exclusion.)

Brown, C., Wood, E., & Salgado G. (Eds.). (2009). Inspiring Action: Museums and Social Change. London: MuseumsEtc.

Gurian, E. (2010). From Soloist to Impresario. In F. Cameron and L. Kelly (eds.) Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Gurian, E. (2010). Museums as Soup Kitchen. Curator: The Museum Journal 53(1), 71-85.

Kreps, Christina. (2003). Liberating Culture. Routledge.

Lonetree, Amy. (2012). Decolonizing Museums. UNC Press. (A project of First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies.)

Museums and Social Issues. (This is a peer-reviewed journal that explores contemporary social issues and their engagement with museums. Most issues are relevant to the theme of social inclusion in museums)

Sandell, R. (Ed.). (2002). Museums, Society, Inequality. New York: Routledge. (This book presents international examples of museums working towards social inclusion.)

Sandell, R.  & Nightingale, E. (Eds.). (2012). Museums, Equality, and Social Justice. New York: Routledge.

Silverman, L. (2010). The Social Work of Museums. London: Routledge.

Sullivan Sorin, G. (2007) The Problem of the 21st Century is Still the Color Line. Museums &  Social Issues 2(1), 11-44.  ( If you are interested in the Sorin & Ladson Billings articles then check out the article by Liz Dwyer)

Teslow, T. (2007). A Troubled Legacy: Making and Unmaking Race in the Museum. Museums & Social Issues, 2(1), 11–44.

ONLINE & PRINT – APPLICABLE TO THE MUSEUM FIELD AND BEYOND

You can read more about racial justice specific resources here.

Racial Equity Tools is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.

A syllabus on Urban Design, Race and Justice posted on CityLab.com here.

#FergusonSyllabus, a crowdsourced syllabus about race, African American history, civil rights, and policing. Find an associated Atlantic piece about the syllabus here.

Applied Research Center. (2011). Racial Equity Impact Assessment Toolkit.

Eck, D. L. (2006). From Diversity to Pluralism. On Common Ground: World Religions in America, Columbia University Press.

Hayward, C. R., & Swanstrom, T. (2011). Justice and the American Metropolis. U of Minnesota Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3 –12.

Low, S. Taplin, D. and S. Scheld. (2005). Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

DISABILITY. DANCE. ARTISTRY. New York, July 8, 11am-6pm

Disability. Dance. Artistry. is a free, daylong series of convening focusing on a future for dance created and experienced with disabled New Yorkers. Commemorating the 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it builds on recent Dance NYC research, Discovering Disability: Data and NYC Dance and is part of a three-year Dance NYC initiative to increase inclusion and access to the art form. Join keynote speaker Simi Linton and leaders in the dance and disability communities to discuss the state of the art form. What are the opportunities for educating, developing, collaborating with and presenting disabled artists? How can disability advance innovation, excellence, and impact in dance?

Disability. Dance. Artistry Registration is Now Open

Register now to join the conversation. Don’t miss this opportunity to increase inclusion and access to the art form of dance.

When: Wednesday, July 8, 11am-6pm
Where: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 11th Avenue, NYC
Register: FREE. Registration is required. Please reserve in advance. Accessible seating is available. Requests for reasonable accommodations should be made in advance by contacting Dance/NYC at 212.966.4452 (Voice only) specialevents@dancenyc.org. The event is in an open space around tables with chairs that are easy to remove. All seating will be accessible by default.

Accessibility for Under 100 Dollars (Repost)

Accessibility for Under 100 Dollars

Ways to create more accessible facilities and programs for under $100.

The following are ways to create more accessible facilities and programs for under $100.  These ideas have been compiled from the participants at the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) conferences for Arts administrators and managers over the past 5 years.

Betty Siegel, Director of Accessibility

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

  1. Add a cup dispenser to a water fountain that is too high.
  2. Adjust the gauge on a door to lessen the pressure and make it easier to open and close
  3. Ask local advocacy agencies to help you train staff and raise awareness.
  4. At a doorway that is difficult to open, have a doorbell that people can ring for assistance.
  5. Avoid glossy or highly reflective papers when printing program books or brochures.
  6. Be sure that staff always introduce themselves.  Someone who is blind or has low vision may not be able to read someone’s name badge or recognize an ushers uniform.
  7. Be sure your staff know the accessible paths of travel and shortest routes around the facility.
  8. Bevel thresholds with pieces of wood.
  9. Color and shape code information.
  10. Contact disability organizations and host an open house for their members.
  11. Correct toilet heights with adjustable seats from Home Depot or other stores.
  12. Create lower counter areas by putting in tables.
  13. Don’t use red and green together. Many people have red/green color blindness.
  14. Encouraging people to ask for assistance.
  15. Focus on great customer service.
  16. Form an advisory board of persons with disabilities from the community.
  17. Have a clipboard available for transactions at a counter that is too high.
  18. In an elevator where the buttons are too high, have a wand available to push them.
  19. Include information about accessibility in your marketing materials.
  20. Increase lighting in dark areas.
  21. Install easy to use handles on the inside of the doors on wheelchair accessible bathroom stalls.
  22. Invite rehabilitation centers for people who are blind to use your facility for orientation training.
  23. Invite service animal training schools to do training at your facility.
  24. Join disability-related list serves to get to know the communities.
  25. Keep paths of travel 36 inches wide and free of obstructions.
  26. Lower labels on artwork so that short or seated persons can read them.
  27. Make labels for artwork or other things hanging around in large print.
  28. Make signage directing patrons to your access services prominent.
  29. Make unsold seats available to patrons who are on fixed and limited incomes.
  30. Move furniture, potted plants, and trashcans out of the path of travel to create an accessible route.
  31. Move soap dispensers and paper towels to positions that are easy to reach.
  32. Organize a pre-show touch tour.
  33. Place access symbols are on your marketing materials and maps.
  34. Place public materials on lower counters and tables.
  35. Place wood blocks or bricks under tables that are too short.
  36. Point out accessible routes of travel with signs.
  37. Print self-guided tours for people with hearing loss who couldn’t follow a docent.
  38. Produce programs, playbills and other print materials in large print -sans serif font,16-18 point.
  39. Provide maps of accessible routes of travel.
  40. Provide scripts in advance for people to read.
  41. Purchase a couple induction neck loops for your Assistive Listening Receivers
  42. Put light colored tape on the edge of steps or places where there is a change in level.
  43. Put non-slip material on slippery floor surfaces. NoSkidding.com has products for this purpose.
  44. Put together a speakers group to go out and talk to local disability community groups.
  45. Remind staff not to turn their backs when speaking to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  46. Replace low wattage light bulbs with higher wattage bulbs.
  47. Replace round door knobs with levered handles.
  48. Send notices of audio described performance to patrons who are blind or have low vision.
  49. Send notices of interpreted and captioned performances to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  50. Train docents to modify language on tours to be appropriate for the appropriate audience.
  51. Train staff about accommodations provided and how to use them.
  52. Train your staff in how to use relay services.  Don’t forget the nationwide 711 relay service.
  53. Try different types of alternative formats such as on audio options like tapes and CDs.
  54. Use e-mail distribution lists to target audiences for specific events.
  55. Use high contrast paint colors between walls and floors to help people with low vision navigate.
  56. Use high-contrast colors on labels for art work. White on black, or black on white.
  57. Use pump style soap dispensers.
  58. Utilize technical staff expertise to create accessibility.
  59. Wrap pipes under sinks with insulation so people don’t burn themselves.
  60. Write an easy to understand synopsis of the play and have it available at the box office.

 

– See more at: http://www.oregonartscommission.org/publications-and-resources/accessibility-under-100-dollars#sthash.GvW451Di.uPsYam9d.dpuf

 

Repost from http://www.oregonartscommission.org/publications-and-resources/accessibility-under-100-dollars

Art Beyond Sight Interviews Michelle Lopez (Queens Museum)

INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE LOPEZ

published by Art Beyond Sight, Oct, 2013

Michelle Lopez is the senior program coordinator of Queens Museum of Art. Having served children and families on the autism spectrum as an ABA Instructor, counselor and trainer, she is now working with Queens Museum of Art’s ArtAccess library programs and coordinates the Autism Initiatives program, which is a multi-year partnership with the Queens Library. Through this program, families can access bilingual studio art classes held at the various Queens Library branches. Programs have included classes such as Photography Class, Beautiful Oops, and The Magic Tree House series. The Magic Tree House, a 6-week series, provided students of all reading levels with the chance to make art inspired by the themes in books 1-4 of the book series.

 

ART BEYOND SIGHT: Why did you become involved with ArtAccess/Autism Initiatives? MICHELLE LOPEZ: Art access is the part of our education department that focuses on special needs, so I was interested in working with it because of my art therapy background. In terms of Autism Initiatives, back when I was in school I gained experience from working at a preschool with children on the autism spectrum. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at the time but that’s when I became interested in autism. When I started working at the Queens Museum of Art, we had a grant for the new New Yorkers program, which is a program for adults and the immigrant community. So at the time, most of the programs were for adults but the coordinator wanted to make programs for families as well, including programs for early childhood. It just so happened that one of the families of the program had a child on the autism spectrum – this family invited other friends and family of the autism community and the number of classmates increased therea􀅌er. The coordinator of this new program wasn’t familiar with working with those on the autism spectrum. That’s when I came to help out – it ended up becoming a popular and successful class. And at the same time, the Queens Library was looking to gain training for working with families and children with special needs – that’s when I decided to focus more on autism and became involved with Autism Initiatives.

ABS: What is the goal of Autism Initiatives?

ML: The goal overall is to create more inviting institutions for families on the autism spectrum. Thankfully, looking at how things are now, it looks like a lot of the museums have gone on that journey, starting their own au- tism initiatives. I think now, were really thinking about the relationship of community spaces for individuals on the autism spectrum so that they can develop relationships with these institutions. Another goal is to offer prac- tical tools to help families understand how to use a museum. These families can then pass these tools onto others. Last but not least, another goal would be teaching these families to use this cultural network to their advantage. The focus of Autism Initiatives has shi􀅌ed from children to families in recent years. Due to this, our main focus is socialization because sometimes educators can feel intimidated and vice versa. So a primary goal is socialization.

ABS: What are some programs that have been created through Autism Initiatives?

ML: We first started with photography classes, then DJ classes, to traditional art making classes and art-making classes inspired by books. We’ve also done composing, lighting classes – whatever is of interest of the educators. Programs are o􀅌en educator driven so it usually comes down to the educator. If the educator is passionate about a specific topic, the participants are more willing to learn about it because it is presented to them in an exciting way. Because every child is interested in having a positive experience, we will really initiate any program that an educator is willing to teach as long as they are open to opening up their curriculum in this manner.

ABS: What kind of skills do you focus on enriching in the classroom? Through programs such like the Magic Tree House series?

ML: A series like the Magic Tree House series happens over 6 weeks, so we start with socialization skills. Children learn to greet each other and to reinforce the action of acknowledging their peers. For the Magic Tree House series in particular, we were also trying to wean children off of picture books. Since many children are visual learners, they tend to need that . The great thing about the Magic Tree House series is that there is a set beginning, middle, and end to the story line, and they always focus on science or social study based needs – subjects part of a school’s core curriculum. One thing I’d like to emphasize is that it’s not that children can’t learn, it’s that you want to get them to learn. The idea is to introduce them to themes that will come up in the book and get them interested in those themes. If the theme is mummies, we will introduce them to the idea of Egypt so when they read the books in class or with their parents, they begin to see certain words come to life because of the previous reenactments in class. This applies to children whether they can read or not. We want children to be eventually able to do this on their own. We show parents that the vocabulary of a visual thinker can be built by adding images to words – and images can be added to words by playing around with material found at home. The ultimate goal is to help them be independent in their reading and get them interested in topics.

ABS: Who do you think adults benefit from participating in programs like the Open Studio program? (The Open Studio is a program for adults only)

ML: First and foremost, the adults come on Sunday and they register for every class individually. We don’t want a large group to book during that time because we want adults to live independently. For instance, there might not be enough space for an adult to register due to group booking. We want adults to feel like a􀆩ending this class is entirely up to them – they book the class and they a􀆩end. We also charge a dollar in order to help them understand money management. Usually, 2-4 participants come to each class. The adults choose what they want to do because, they’re adults. If they want to make cards, have a conversation, whatever it is they want to do, it is up to them. We have participants that come every week and work on one art piece for a long period of time with their own materials. The idea here is not to teach them to make artwork but allow them to ask for what materials they want in making it. If they want to make the sky look more profound, Mitra, the art therapist, can make suggestions. The direction these adults want to take is ultimately up to them. We want to provide them with a studio space where they can make decisions. Adults can also benefit from Open Studio because it provides a social community. The adults look forward to seeing each other, sharing new sketches, and interacting with one another.

ABS: Can you describe the process of collaborating with teaching artists and/or art therapists in developing new programs/How do you go about developing a program together to successfully help those with autism?

ML: We collaborate and develop a program by teaching art therapists how to incorporate more entry points into their lessons. For instance, just talking to the kids won’t suffice because children of the autism spectrum are usually visual learners. At the same time, some of them are not entirely visual – some need to take action and do. So throughout the process of developing a program, we make it clear that the communication to the kids needs to be clear, which includes giving participants space and/or more time. We enjoy adapting to the different personalities and teaching styles of art therapists and teaching artists, but we also make sure to let them know to pace each lesson.

Report on Technology Use in Cultural Heritage

eCultValue has published a Summary Report of Interviews with Cultural Heritage stakeholders and technology providers in Europe

 The main aim of the eCultValue project is to encourage the use of new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the way we are dealing with and accessing Cultural Heritage (CH) in Europe. For doing this, it is important to capture the points of view and the needs of the stakeholders working in Cultural Heritage institutions, in relation to the use of ICT. In the context of the “Interview Summary Report”, the eCultValue partners have, therefore, performed a number of interviews with CH stakeholders and technology providers from several European countries. Some of the main outcomes of this activity are presented in this report.

Anastasia Kalou on the European Blind Union’s “Access to Culture” project (repost)

European Blind Union survey of access to culture

Repost from http://www.accesstourismnz.org.nz, where it was posted by Dr. Sandra Rhodda, on July 17, 2013.


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Guest blog by Anastasia Kalou, an access consultant and advisory panel member at the European Blind Union’s ATC project.

Symbol of a person walking with a cane

The European Blind Union (EBU) is the united voice of blind and partially sighted people in Europe, protecting their rights and promoting their interests for full participation in social, economic, political and cultural life, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD), and the the Council of Europe Action Plan (2006-2015) on “Full Participation of People with Disabilities in Society”.  Recently, EBU conducted a small scale pilot survey regarding access at cultural venues and activities for the Blind and partially–sighted people in Europe.  Access to Culture (ATC) Project 2011-2012 aimed to describe

  • current levels of access
  • good practice
  • national legislation and policies for access to culture
  • barriers and scope for improvement

The survey focused on the accessibility at a range of cultural venues and activities, such as theatres, cinema, opera, dance performances, concerts, museums, galleries, heritage sites, and visitor attractions in six countries.  One survey was sent to EBU national member organisations, and another to cultural organisations known to have developed good practices in accessibility for visually impaired people. Survey results show that:

  • the cultural rights of people with visual disability are poorly implemented
  • many cultural sector funding and project development practices discriminate against people with a disability

The report concludes with a Call for Action for cultural policy and strategy change at European, national and local levels in order to urgently address the over-riding conclusions of the survey.  Findings of the survey will be widely disseminated in Europe and serve as a tool for advocacy and lobbying for change.

Stockholm 3D Printed

A 3D Printed Scale Model of the Entire City of StockholmArticle reposted from 3D Printing Newsletter, by Juho Vesanto On Tue, June 18, 2013.

Mitekgruppen, a Swedish scale-model company, created an almost exact replica of the city of Stockholm using Stratasys Dimension Series FDM 3D printers. Even though scaled down replicas of practically every major landmark — from the Golden Gate bridge to Big Ben — have been created with 3D printing tech before, bringing an entire city to life is quite a unique and remarkable feat: the created model of Stockholm is a full 157 square foot (scale 1:1000) in size. The Stockholm project used two Stratasys printers, running 24/7, seven days a week for six months before they finally fulfilled their remit and were given a vacation from their day & night job of creating the models.

Prior to the Stockholm project, originally commissioned in 2005 by the city, the company had been using only traditional means to create their models – paper, glue and wood combined with the blood, sweat and tears involved in manual, intricate labour. The fundamental reasons for tipping the scale to 3D printing’s side were the continuity and real-world reminiscent features of the commission – the model of the city was to be updated and revamped according to actual changes that take place in the infrastructure and city image every half a year. This meant that putting long hours into wood carving and other phases of the traditional process wasn’t an ideal or relevant approach to be used in this case.

Mitekgruppen 3D Printed Stockholm Coastal Detail Replica Stratasys

Jumping on the 3D printing train from the traditional methodologies wasn’t something that could be done overnight though – the physical, technical and mental factors, as well as changes in general attitude, approach and the operating model required a realistic transition phase. In Mitekgruppen’s case, that period lasted for a full nine months, during which time the project team took a crash course in CAD modelling, 3D printing tech, new SW and other required tools that would enable them to get the job done as efficiently and smoothly as humanly possible.

The effort the team put into learning the ropes of the 3D printing world didn’t go to waste even after finishing the base model of the city – the company currently starts every project with 3D printed models and prototypes, after which their current weapon of choice – a Stratasys Fortus 250mc – is also used to make some of the actual end-products in addition to other manufacturing techniques and technologies such as laser cutting and milling.

Mitekgruppen 3D Printed Stockholm Replica Stratasys

The model of Stockholm is currently not on display anywhere — but it is being prepared to be showcased in a yet undisclosed location (in Sweden of course).

Source: Stratasys blog