6 December 2017




I’m driving a proverbial bus right now, and if you have a moment, take a ride with me.

Now that first semester is nearing its end, it’s time to take your pulse. We all wrote letters of intent before signing up to become the next generation of museum professionals. What was your intent? What was the intention of your intent?

In truth, our submissions are self-promotion tools, demonstrations of our love for the field –what we can do for museums, and what they can do for us. While we extrapolate our intentions to the role of museums in society, many of us smuggle that bit of selfish ambition: the curator with the corner office. Let’s start by curating our Pinterest boards – ethno-bling and hanging showpieces for that dream job.

We still speak about civic engagement as if we are not civilians –What should we teach them? Will they understand? Will it be entertaining? Again, intention comes into play: We speak of idyllic museums, decolonizing museums, new museums. But this is a classroom, and its easy to speak in should be’s.

Take your pulse: are you living outside the classroom? Have you stepped outside the safety of (a written paper, an exhibition assignment, an internship) and tried something completely unrequested, but sorely needed? When a civic issue gives you a twinge, ask yourself what action you can take with the resources at hand. It could be an ad-hoc workshop, a guerilla exhibition, or a collective of students who feel the same way. The license to make mistakes and learn from them has an expiry date –it is much harder to gamble with institutional time and money than your own. Clich├ęs be damned, now is the time to experiment.

Whether the supercilious tone of this article irks you or bores you, we all need to recognize that academia can be just as insular as museums themselves.

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