18 April 2019

MAKING MUSINGS PART 5: IT TAKES (MORE THAN) TWO

Letter from the Editors | Kathleen Lew & Amy Intrator


This is the fifth and final post of a series in celebration of the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto's 50th anniversary (MMSt50). To reflect on Musings' past, present, and future, we invited all previous Editors-in-Chief to return to Musings to write special Letter from the Editor posts. These articles highlight the significance of Musings both within the MMSt program, and for writers' professional careers. Kathleen Lew and Amy Intrator are the fifth (and outgoing!) Editors-in-Chief of Musings from 2018-2019.

As the first ever Musings Editor-in-Chief team, this year has been an extremely rewarding exercise of collaboration. We hope this practice of community– among Musings Executive, Contributing Editors, MMSt, and wider museum communities– continues with future years of blogging.

Musings' 5th Birthday Party: Amy Intrator [Left] and Kathleen Lew [Right]. Photo courtesy of Musings.

In Summer of 2018, we sat at a coffee shop in Kensington market and talked at length about our goals for Musings. This included creating a writing environment in which Contributing Editors felt comfortable asking each other for guidance and insight, further integrating ourselves into the MMSt community, and continuing to collaborate with institutions. Soon enough we had updated the Musings interface and logos, incorporated two new response-based columns (Program Reviews and Muse News), and were reaching out to fellow MMSt students, faculty, and alumni to join our community.


We made some major strides this year, but absolutely none of this would be possible without our committed Contributing Editors. We started our tenure as Editors-in-Chief as a duo, but our team grew larger and stronger as the year went on. In September, we were lucky to have Jordan Fee join Musings as the Communications Officer (you may recognize his handiwork if you frequent our Instagram page). We know it’s impossible to do justice to our amazing writers in a short blog post, but here is a list of some of our must-read articles written by some marvelous Musers:
  1. Rebecca Barrett - WEIRD HERITAGE: 6 OF TORONTO'S QUIRKIEST LANDMARKS
  2. Keelan Cashmore - ACCESSIBILITY: MORE THAN A BUTTON ON A DOOR
  3. Elizabeth Cytko - MANAGEMENT SKILLS, ENVIRONMENTAL SCANNING AND GOSSIP: ALUMNI CHECK-IN WITH DEBORAH ROBICHAUD
  4. Rachel Dice - MORE THAN CLOTHES
  5. Jordan Fee - "I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW": HOW ANTHROPOCENE SUCCEEDS IN STAYING SILENT
  6. Evelyn Feldman - ALLOWING "PUSSY" IN THE LIBRARY: ART CONTROVERSY ACROSS GLAM SPACES
  7. Alexandra Forand - WE NEED TO TALK, OR NOT: LANGUAGE IN MUSEUMS AS A FORM OF CONTROL
  8. Carly Hall - LET'S TALK ABOUT "POWER AND POSSESSION: THE ETHICS OF COLLECTING"
  9. Casarina Hocevar - FINDING FOODWAYS, PART I.
  10. Maddy Howard - WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
  11. Selin Kahramanoglu - MONSTERS ON DISPLAY: AN EXHIBITION AT THE THOMAS FISHER RARE BOOK LIBRARY
  12. Samantha Kilpatrick- A FUTURE TO IMAGINE FOR
  13. Amelia Smith - WHERE'S THE T? TRANSGENDER INCLUSION IN THE MUSEUM
  14. Samantha Summers - DANCING THROUGH LIFE: MMSt ALUM JOHN DALRYMPLE ON HIS WORK AT CANADA’S NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL
  15. Joanna Wreakes - MUSEUMS OR NOT? PART 3: SUBWAY SERIES STOCKHOLM
In addition to being Editors-in-Chief, we both continued our true passion project: writing for Musings! Here are a couple of our articles that we’re especially proud of...

Kathleen - GLOSSY GAL PALS MAKE THEIR OWN MUSES

Amy - EXHIBITING BANKSY: ACCESSIBLE ART OR VIOLATION OF ARTISTIC INTENT?

This year, three of our Contributing Editors created columns that addressed some of the most pressing issues in museums today. Amelia started Not Your Average Cistory, a column that aims to bridge the gap between Transgender Studies and Museum Studies. Ally started Breaking the Glass Case, a column dedicated to exploring the relationship between Indigenous communities and cultural heritage organizations. Evelyn started GLAM Guide, a column that looks at the intersections between galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. All of these columns are necessary additions to the Musings roster, and we can’t wait to see the future direction of the columns as they continue to evolve over time.

Having a team that consistently delivered awe-worthy content made it easier to expand our focus to include more outreach and professional development. For our first-EVER writing workshop, held in November, Sarah Hill from Lord Cultural Resources led a workshop about risk-taking and digital strategies. The workshop went so well that we offered a second one in March, led by Pym Buitenhuis, the Director of Marketing at Rotman School of Management, which focused on transferable writing skills. The workshops were possible thanks to the support of the MMSt50 organizing committee, who have been hard at work all year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Master of Museum Studies program. The partnership with MMSt50 is proof that collaboration makes Musings stronger.

Celebrating the past, present, and future of Musings! Photo courtesy of Musings. 

Although parting is such sweet sorrow, we are immensely grateful that we got to throw a 5th birthday party for Musings and celebrate the blog’s contributions over the past 5 years with Contributing Editors, alumni, faculty, and MMSt students. It is an enormous privilege to be a part of Musings’ legacy. We had the opportunity to celebrate this legacy with the Making Musings series, where we reconnected to all past EICs and continued to learn from the inspiring accomplishments of Jaime, Madeline, Natania, and Serena. We can’t wait to watch Musings evolve over the next 5-years and challenge the museum field to become a more critical, inclusive space.

Thank you to all of our readers for joining us on this year-long journey. These two Editors-in-Chief can’t wait to become two of Musings' most passionate readers and strongest advocates.

Source.

17 April 2019

NO KIDS ALLOWED!

Museum Innovations | Keelan Cashmore


If you have visited a museum recently, chances are you’ve seen a wide variety of programs dedicated to patrons under the age of the 18. These could include mommy and me events, holiday programs, summer camps, and more. Museums are striving to become inclusive spaces that provide fun for the whole family.

While this is great for families, especially those with young children, what about patrons who would prefer a kid-free experience?

More and more museums are developing events and programs geared to this demographic.

The Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) located in Victoria, British Columbia, holds four different types of adult only events.

One of the exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Source.
These are: night shift, grown-up camp, museum happy hour, and night at the museum.

Each event provides adults the chance to experience special programming designed just for them, free of children or underage teenagers.

Night shift is “an opportunity to visit the museum for an evening of presentations, live music, and exciting interaction with museum and community experts.” This event is held twice a year, on Halloween and New Years, and each event promotes a different theme.

Grown-up camp is defined as “a twist on nostalgic summer camp themes” and allows adults the chance to participate in either a day camp, or a sleepover camp, at the museum. This is a recurring event that takes places throughout the year.

Museum happy hour is an after-work event where adults can partake in new food and drink specials, explore the galleries, and take part in themed activities. Like grown-up camp, this is a recurring event throughout the year.

The final adults only event, is entitled Night at the Museum – Adults Only! This is a recurring sleepover camp strictly for those of legal age. Event activities include "food, drinks, and adventurous thematic-themed excursions throughout the museum.”

Each of these activities allows adults to get involved in the museum, while providing them with fun and entertainment. Who said kids are the only ones who should have entertaining programs?

This idea of adult only events has been picking up speed within the museum community. The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) in Edmonton, Alberta, recently reopened, has also included adult only events in their programming with the development of “Evening at the Museum” where those 18+ can relax with food, drinks, music, and a relaxed atmosphere.

One of the exhibits at the Royal Alberta Museum. Source.
Traditional institutions are not the only places integrating adults only events. The Telus Spark in Calgary, Alberta, hosts their “Adult Only Night” once a month from 6:00pm-10:00pm. During this night, patrons receive free reign in the galleries, a fully licensed bar, a dance floor, more involved challenges, and innovative collaborators from around the community.

One of the exhibits at the Telus Spark. Source.

Some children’s museums are even partaking in the adults only trend. The Manitoba Children’s Museum, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has launched a series of events entitled “Seriously Adult.” The event includes opening the museum after hours, providing a fully licensed bar, and special events such as comedy or trivia nights. It also allows the adults to fully interact with the exhibits without the worry of small children underfoot. Proceeds from these events are used to increase museum revenue, as they receive only 14% of their funding from the government. Lisa Dziedic, the museum’s Marketing Director, states that the return on the adults only events has been higher than those from fundraising galas, special event dinners, and golf tournaments (source).

The exhibit area at the Manitoba Children's Museum. Source.
Overall, it seems adults only events are taking the museum by storm! Not only are they providing adults with a chance to explore the museum without children underfoot, they are bringing revenue into the museum by providing this demographic with programming tailored specifically to them.

As an individual who falls within this demographic, I think adults only events are a fantastic way to provide patrons with a new way to experience museums, and I look forward to partaking in some of these events myself!

16 April 2019

AFTER THE SECOND MOLOTOV: UNRAVELING STONEWALL'S HERITAGE

Not Your Average Cistory | Amelia Smith


“A transgender woman of colour threw the first brick at Stonewall.” This is a phrase that frequently gets used to place trans people within the LGBT. Often, it is referring to Sylvia Rivera, a trans Latinx sex worker. While she was alive, Rivera rejected the claims, instead stating that she threw “the second Molotov.” Nevertheless, the claim she threw the first brick has had a monumental effect on how Stonewall is remembered and beyond.

For those that might not be aware, the Stonewall Inn was a meeting place for the LGBT community in New York during the 1960s. Because of this, it was often the target of police raids. The constant police harassment would culminate in the early hours on June 28, 1969. The patrons of the Stonewall Inn responded violently, kicking off a riot that would go down in history as starting the Gay Liberation Movement and the modern LGBT.

The legendary Stonewall Inn. Source

Soon after the riots on New York’s Christopher Street, gay rights activist groups began sprouting all over the world. Stonewall had been the spark that ignited a revolution, one based in the methods of the preceding Civil Rights Movement. The following years would see significant gains made by gay activists. But, this is where transgender history and gay history deviate.

Sylvia Rivera was in the Gay Liberation Movement from the start, having even been at Stonewall on the first day of the riots. But she would not stay long. The gay communities were changing, and changing in such a way that left very little room for trans people. The gay male culture was becoming hypermasculine, finding itself in gay clubs and through hard drugs. Meanwhile, the lesbian sphere was getting involved with Second Wave Feminism, typified by its exclusion of transgender individuals.

Gay communities were becoming hostile to trans people, and this shows in the 1971 Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York. Through backroom dealings, the language of the act was changed so as to remove all reference to gender expression in an effort to make it more palatable at the expense of trans individuals. This angered many trans activists, including Rivera, as it seemed like they had been betrayed.

Rivera would leave gay activism a couple years later. The rise of trans exclusionary rhetoric reached a peak at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally, when feminists in the crowd described the trans women present as mocking womanhood. In response, Rivera got on stage, amid boos from the crowd, to decry the inactivity of the gay activists. Her role in the movement would soon be forgotten, only to be rediscovered in the 1990s.



So, what does all this mean, then? To understand that, we need to delve into some theory, specifically Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Tony Bennett on narratives. In his essay “Museums and Progress,” Bennett describes narratives as only existing in retrospect, only having value once we give it value. In this way, narratives are entirely constructed and not inherent. This fits in well with Anderson’s Imagined Communities theory in which large groups that will never meet each other imagine a shared comradery.

These theories reflect how Stonewall is viewed in the LGBT. Much like Anderson’s examples of South East Asian monuments, Stonewall became an image that represented LGBT activism. The LGBT has taken the image of Stonewall and mythologized it. No longer does it just represent a place but a whole group and a mentality that can be seen and felt around the world. With the rediscovered involvement of trans activists like Rivera, the narrative that surrounds Stonewall and the LGBT has slowly shifted. No longer was it the start of just Gay Rights, but a larger LGBT community. It brought about more inclusion for trans individuals.

But this inclusion in the narrative problematizes transgender history. It creates an assumption that, since we were present at the start of the movement, gay and trans histories are one and the same. This results in a further erasure of trans history as it gets subsumed by the much larger and more vocal gay history.

15 April 2019

DECOLONIZING THE MUSEUM: ALUMNI CHECK-IN WITH CAROL PODEDWORNY

Alumni Check-In | Elizabeth Cytko


Carol Podedworny
Photo courtesy of Nadezhda Lyra

Carol Podedworny is the Director and Chief Curator at McMaster Museum of Art. She graduated from the Museum Studies program in 1984 and got a Master of Arts from York University in 1990. She has worked tirelessly to make space for Indigenous voices within museum institutions and to promote critical scholarship for Indigenous art.

What is your favourite memory from your time in the MMSt program?

I would say the internship, we were given the opportunity to do internships at various cultural institutions in the Summer term. I worked for the McMichael Canadian Collection, the AGO, and the ROM.

Internships were an opportunity to have hands-on practical experience of things that we were learning through lectures in the classroom and to tangibly contribute to the work that was being done in cultural organizations. You also had the opportunity to meet colleagues in the field. So for many reasons, it was a really great experience.

Can you tell me about your path to becoming Director and Chief curator of McMaster?

For the most part, after I finished Museum Studies, I worked as a curator. It wasn't until I went to the University of Waterloo in 2006, that I became a Director, actually Director/Curator. I think that's one of the things about our field that needs attention, there isn't a great deal of succession planning. For the most part, many of us who end up as directors actually started our careers as curators.

What do you think could be done in the field to improve succession planning?

I think there could be mentoring opportunities within institutions and that there could be formal training programs provided elsewhere. I know there's an excellent program for training museum directors in the United States, but we don’t have a similar program here. I've been pretty fortunate at McMaster as it has an incredible continuing education program and developing, leading, and managing people is part of that program. At the museum, I look at the senior curator position as an opportunity to mentor that person towards potentially being the next director.

When you graduated from the program, was it a lot of contract work?


No, but I think that is a condition of the year in which I graduated. The amount of competition within the City of Toronto for any kind of employment was pretty high. So I made the decision that I would look beyond the city to find employment. I was subsequently hired as the curator of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. That was a pretty significant opportunity for me. At the time, the institution was called the Thunder Bay National Exhibition Center and Center for Indian Art. They had within their permanent collection a long term loan from the Canadian Museum of History (which was then called the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC)). I didn't just have the opportunity to work in Thunder Bay and work with the collection, but also with the CMC's collection. Thunder Bay was an important move as it offered opportunities to work at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, with partner institutions across the country, with contemporary First Nations art, and with funding opportunities in the north which rivaled those in the south. Many doors were opened in taking that position in 1984 that have stayed with me for my entire career.

What are some of the greatest risks you have taken in your career?

I think going to Thunder Bay was a risk. I got there in the fall of 1984. I don't know if you have talked about 1988 and the museum community in Canada in your classes, but 1988 was when the Glenbow Spirit Sings controversy occurred – it resulted in a crisis in museum practice internationally such that our work in the community was changed forever. It was a pretty volatile period, it was an exercise in negotiating and I would say it was risky, for sure. On the other hand all these years later, it's actually the reason why I argued for a position for an Indigenous curator in our museum today. When we hired Rhéanne Chartrand, three years ago, there were only three other permanent Indigenous curators in the country: at the AGO, the NGC, and the McKenzie Art Gallery (an arm of the Saskatchewan First Nations University).

By hiring an Indigenous curator has your institution been able to tackle new issues with a new point of view?

What I have found most interesting is not the collecting of Indigenous art nor the exhibition of Indigenous art, but Rhéanne’s commitment to decolonize the institution through day to day practices within the museum. It's a big issue for her, it’s something she came here saying, ‘I need to think about how I place myself in this colonial institution, and within the broader context of McMaster University – also a colonial institution.’ Our curator has put forward a ten page document with supporting documents, such as from the TRC, etc. That change, I would argue, is what's going to change the institution.

Is there one thing you could point to as a big shift in the museum culture and your institution?

I would say decolonization is our current focus and concern. The fact that there is an Indigenous voice in the museum speaking on behalf of Indigenous peoples is important. For Rhéanne, her approach is always informed by her sense of responsibility to her community. I would say this is something that's evolving, we're transitioning to it. I think that it may take years to achieve.

What is one of your failures that was a great learning experience?

I had written an article that was essentially an excerpt of my M.A. thesis, First Nations Art & the Canadian Mainstream, in a Canadian art magazine. I was then invited as a speaker to the National Gallery of Canada’s Land, Spirit, Power symposium documenting the 1992 Columbus Quin-centenary. When you're at university you're able to really examine a topic. As I was examining an early history of exhibitions of Aboriginal art in Canada, I found ample evidence of the exclusion and ghettoizing of Indigenous art, artists, and artistic practices. In my article I had named individuals who had been working at an earlier time and how their practices had caused issues within the representation of First Nations work in the modern art museum. I was shocked and appalled and looking for a reason beyond flat out racism, to explain why Indigenous work in Canada had been dealt with as it had in museums and art museums. Unfortunately, what I took to be “the facts” meant that I named institutions and exhibitions in my talk at the NGC – of course people took exception! If I had that incident to do over today, I would be much more careful about how I said things. I would say that was a failure, on the other hand, naming and calling out, matters. Today more so than ever before.

You have held many leadership roles, what is your advice for being a great leader?

I think it makes a big difference if you encourage the people who are working with you to be the experts in their area, no micro-managing. Also, allowing people to do well and providing opportunities for professional development matters. You want people to be happy in their work. You want everyone to know and be working towards the same goal. I find here at the museum, that everybody knows what we're working towards, and everybody takes particular pride in what their area contributes to the overall goals of the institution.

What advice would you give to museum professionals entering the sector today?


What I have always said, and firmly believe, is that we are working in a huge country with a very tiny cultural community, relatively speaking. I believe that no matter where you are in your career – in school, just finished, in a first job, doing an internship or volunteer work, wherever you are working, whomever you are working with now – you will absolutely run into them again in your future if you continue to work in the cultural community in this country. Find mentors, find people you respect and enjoy and stay connected! You will come across one another again – for sure!