Reading List: March

A selection of “stuff” we enjoyed reading this month. What did you think of these articles, blogposts, etc.? What else did you read?

– On curators: a few articles on curators/curating caught our attention this month. All have to do with museum curation in a digital age and making room for broader participation and increased flexibility in content development and dissemination:

  • Curating the Digital World: Past Preconceptions, Present Problems, Possible Futures: is a paper authored by Susan Cairns and Danny Birchall that will be presented at the upcoming Museums and the Web Conference in Portland, OR. The authors ask if the role of museums is to “curate the web as well as their own collections?” and how ” ‘curating’ as an activity relate(s) to a digital world?” While their suggestion that museums now need to know “as much about algorithms than art history” might freak some of us out, they make a strong argument for the necessity of adopting new skills to interact with society and information.
  • Curation, Community, and Cat Videos: This blogpost by Scott Stulen on the Center for the Future of Museum’s blog reflects on the Walker Art Center’s crowd-sourced Cat Video Festival that took place last summer. Both Aletheia and I wished we could have been there…can you imagine, watching cat videos with 10,000 other people who find this to be a normal thing to do too? According to Scott, people didn’t just come to watch videos they could have accessed at home on Youtube, they came to connect. The broad appeal of the content enabled the museum to bridge a wide range of audiences, reaching new segments of their community.
  • Oh Snap! Experimenting with Open Authority in the Gallery: is a blogpost contributed by Jeffrey Inscho, Web and Digital Media Manager at Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, on Nina Simon’s blog. It provides a great example of a museum successfully bridging the online and onsite components of a participatory project. Essentially, participants were asked to take photos inspired by those currently on view at the museum and submit them online. These photos were then printed and included in the exhibition alongside the initial photo that inspired them. To top it off, participants received  a free pass to the museums once their pictures were added to the exhibition. Cool! We see great potential in this type of project being used to intentionally connect to currently excluded groups or “non- traditional audiences.”

Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture: This article discusses a few different social practice art projects that have recently taken place such as Crossing the Delmar Divide: A Conversation at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. It asks if there is room in museums for this non-traditional art that “blur(s) the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism,” and if it’s art to start with. What do you think? (NY Times)

– U.S. Museums and the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War: The Sounds of Silence?: We’ve enjoyed Gretchen Jennings’ blogposts on museums’ response to contemporary events in the past. After major national events such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin and Super Storm Sandy, she scouted the internet in search of how museums were responding. Unfortunately, the results were slim. Again, in the case of the 10th year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, she’s found that the vast majority of museums remain silent. As she states, “this lack of engagement is a practice which, (…)  prevents museums from being viewed as empathetic institutions; it unhinges the welcome sign we like to think is hanging on our front door.”

– Lack of Tribal Consultation Leads to Conflict at a Denver Museum: “When tribes, whose ancestors are the subject of a museum exhibit, are against that exhibit and ask for it to be closed pending further consultation, it’s obvious something is amiss.” This article highlights the importance of a collaborative exhibition design, especially when dealing with sensitive history and/or someone else’s story. (Indian Country Today Media Network)

…And of course, Nina Simon’s blogpost On White Privilege and Museums came out earlier this month. This post sparked both positive and negative reactions, which isn’t surprising at all. We applaud her courage in engaging a polarizing issue many wish to ignore.


  1. Hey! Thanks for including the paper that Danny and I have written in this list. One more link on curating you might want to include is this interesting interview with MoMA’s Paola Antonelli.

  2. Hi Suse, you are welcome–and thanks for sharing the link!

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