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The Emerging Museum Culture in Abu Dhabi
Whatever Happened to "Augmenting Human Intellect?"
DECEMBER 1, 2013: Adventures in Washington DC (and beyond)
by Marjorie Schwarzer
This fall, three USF museum studies students and faculty alighted eastward. They participated in a series of events that allowed them to share their expertise and gain more perspectives on our field. In September and October, graphic designer and current student Elinoar Almagor was part of two National Design Award events. At the first, held in Washington DC, she and her husband, Gadi Amit, winner of a 2013 Cooper Hewitt award for product design, lunched with Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough and First Lady Michelle Obama.
A month later, also in Washington, Professor Paula Birnbaum addressed scholars, museum professionals and graduate students at the annual Feminist Art History Conference at American University. She shared her research on the sculptor Chana Orloff (1888-1968), one of the best-known artists of the School of Paris and a pioneering woman in the early Israeli art world. Orloff played a major role in setting forth the heroic national identity of the new Israeli state by creating monuments to fallen soldiers, portraits of important figures and helping to found the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Paula will also speak about Orloff’s powerful representations of motherhood as part of the Feminist Art Project’s session on “The M Word: the Representation of the Maternal in Art and Visual Culture” at the College Art Association Annual Meeting in Chicago on February 15, 2014.
Marjorie Schwarzer delivered the 27th Annual Julia Babson Lecture at Montclair Art Museum (MAM) in New Jersey on October 10, 2013. The nation’s first art museum to focus on American and Native American artists, MAM is celebrating its 100th anniversary. In a lively lecture, Marjorie described MAM’s beginnings as a late 19th century artists’ colony that became a leafy suburb known for its progressive ideals. Marjorie called on MAM to consider how its unique history can counterpoint today’s suburbs and their indistinct and soulless chains of franchises. In December, working with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Marjorie goes to the United Arab Emirates to conduct an a week-long workshop in the role of museums in society. USF management professor Mouwafac M Sidaoui will join her for the final day of the workshop when Emirati students will present exhibitions on the subject of Emirati identity within a global society.
NOVEMBER 20, 2013: MSGA elects founding officers
by Jenny Fry and Alexa Beaman
The USF Museum Studies MA students have elected the founding officers of the Museum Studies Graduate Association, sponsored and funded by USF’s Student Leadership and Engagement Program. MSGA will work to create networking and professional development opportunities for museum studies graduate students. Our Founding President is Alexa Beaman, a hardworking California native who graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz in Psychology and is currently an Education Intern at The Walt Disney Family Museum. Vice President is Leah Belcher, a historian hailing from Birmingham Alabama and USF’s Thacher Gallery intern. Our Treasurer is Jenny Fry, an art historian from Dallas, Texas and School Programs Intern at the de Young Museum. Last but certainly not least, our Founding Secretary is James Peth, “the zoo guy” in the group who moved to San Francisco from Wisconsin. They are excited to serve their museum studies constituents and immerse themselves in the professional world of museums!
NOVEMBER 10, 2013: Museum Evaluation Workshop Challenges Assumptions
by Marjorie Schwarzer
“I have to be honest. I was one of those skeptics of evaluators,” stated Jenny Fry, a first year student in USF’s museum studies program, “but this workshop changed the way I think about evaluation.” Jenny was not alone, as our class gathered at the Asian Art Museum for an all-day Saturday workshop on museum evaluation led by Dr. Steve Yalowitz, principal of Audience Viewpoints, a museum evaluation firm based in the Washington DC area. Steve led the class through several exercises and discussions that aimed to clarify why it is so important to understand and evaluate how visitors are experiencing our exhibitions and programs. After unobtrusively observing visitor behaviors in the galleries, students concluded the day by discussing how the wide range of behaviors they saw challenged our assumptions about how visitors experience museums. Although some museum practitioners are fearful that an evaluation will criticize their work or introduce new demands that they can’t fulfill,
Steve reminded us that the ultimate aim of a good evaluation is to improve exhibitions and programs. Dozens evaluation tools exist including visitor observation and timing & tracking, but perhaps the most important tool is close listening in order to assure we are asking the right questions. As Jenny concluded, “I always thought evaluation was necessary for every step of a project but there’s definitely a right way to evaluate. It’s just determining the right way that’s the hard part!”
SEPTEMBER 03, 2013: Meet Our Students
We proudly introduce the 22 students who have teamed up as USF’s inaugural graduate museum studies cohort. Their stories are interesting, varied and a tad surprising!
Read the rest »
APRIL 12, 2013: Looking Beneath the Surface: Dutch Art and Meaning in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer
Friday, April 12, 2013, 7:00 – 8:30pm, de Young Museum, San Francisco
Professor Kate Lusheck delivers a public lecture "Looking Beneath the Surface: Dutch Art and Meaning in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer" in the Friday Nights Program at the de Young Museum. A specialist in 17th-century Northern Baroque art, Kate will discuss issues of artistic meaning, representation and tradition in the paintings and prints of the Dutch Golden Age.
Click here for more information about this event »
FEBRUARY 7, 2013: Beyond Borders: International Museum Initiatives
Thursday, February 7, 2013, 4:00 – 6:30pm, at the USF Campus
Commercial enterprise, political freedom, religious diversity. What happens when American museum professionals – immersed in these quintessential values – work with museums in other nations? In this program, University of San Francisco faculty and other experts share their recent work in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Presented by USF's Museum Studies Graduate Program in partnership with Cultural Connections.
4:00 – 5:15pm, Presentations and Discussion in McLaren Center, Room 250
5:20 – 6:30pm,
Reception in Thacher Gallery, Gleeson Library. Attendees have
the opportunity to experience the exhibition, “Active Synchrony: New Work
by Tahiti Pehrson.”
Paula Birnbaum, Academic Director of USF’s Museum Studies program, will speak about how Orthodox Jewish women in Israel exhibit artwork in museums that challenges fundamentalist religious practices.
John Zarobell, Assistant Professor of International Studies and Program Chair of European Studies at USF, will discuss the rise of commercial Art Fairs in cities such as Mexico City and New Delhi and their impact on local art institutions.
Elisabeth Cornu, former conservator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and now working extensively in Latin America, will share examples of the challenges of conservation in that region.
Yoshi Miki, visiting professor at the National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura, Japan will describe recent curatorial work in Japan and Singapore.
Marjorie Schwarzer, who has recently completed projects in the United Arab Emirates and Japan, will moderate and invites you to share your own international projects and experiences.
$15 fee for the general public
Free for Cultural Connections members and current USF students and employees.
For more information, visit Cultural Connections’ website.
MAY 2012: Professor Kate Lusheck Receives USF Distinguished Teaching Award
We would like to congratulate the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Kate Lusheck, Professor of Art + Architecture and the Master's Program in Museum Studies.
The applicants for this year’s award were incredibly strong, with outstanding and inspiring teaching records and materials. After substantial review and consideration, the Award Committee selected Kate Lusheck. Professor Lusheck’s accomplishments as a teacher exemplify her commitment to the University’s mission of social justice as she seeks to connect art and access to art for identity exploration, cultural empowerment, and healing – while bringing a high level of rigor to her instruction. In addition, her collaborative community arts project with the Samoan Community Development Center demonstrates her strong commitment to historically oppressed communities in meaningful partnerships through art. The University Award Committee congratulates Professor Lusheck for her outstanding contributions to the University.
DECEMBER 2012: The Museum Studies Program at USF Partners with National Japanese American Historical Society
USF is excited to announce that students in the Museum Studies Master's Program will collaborate with the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) on a new project entitled Camp Collections: A Digital Library. USF faculty member Paloma Añoveros directs this project to make objects pertaining to the Japanese internment camps, newly acquired by the NJAHS, accessible to the broad public through digitization and exhibition.
Image: "White Shell Flower Corsage with Ribbon," found at Tule Lake Internment Camp, Collection of the NJAHS
The collection contains images related to the planning, design and construction of sites of Japanese American confinement during World War II, specifically sites named "Relocation" Centers. These were ten semi-permanent sites located in isolated areas of the western United States and Arkansas. The collection includes three types of images: architectural drawings, engineering plans or maps, and objects from the NJAHS's permanent collection. USF currently hosts a representative sample of this work on our USF Gleeson Library site thanks to the work of students in our Architecture and Community Design Program
By collaborating with NJAHS on this important social justice initiative, USF students promote a deeper public understanding of the Japanese American incarceration experience. We are also excited about the possibilities for a culminating exhibition project in USF's Thacher Gallery as well as the NJAHS's new home in the Presidio National Park. This project has particular historical significance in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, where many Japanese Americans have histories associated with the ten camps.
NOVEMBER 29, 2012: USF Museum Studies Hosts Packed Champagne Reception
“We are thrilled to have so many of our dear friends and colleagues with us tonight to officially inaugurate our graduate museum studies program,” said Professor Paula Birnbaum as she, and Professor Thomas Lucas, S.J., welcomed over 80 San Francisco Bay Area museum leaders to the Thacher Gallery on November 29, 2012. The backdrop of that month’s featured exhibition of Chinese porcelain, spanning many eras of international trade and artistic influence, provided a perfect theme for the new program: exchange across boundaries in pursuit of the common goal of mutual creativity and collaboration.
Professor Birnbaum reviewed the new program’s long history, which dates back to the mid-1970s when Lone Mountain College premiered one of the world’s first graduate Museum Studies programs. “We’ve come full circle,” she said, “bringing the program home to USF and building on the work of so many creative and passionate colleagues.” She also saluted USF’s long-time partnerships with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Franklin Bowles Galleries, and the Asian Art Museum, and emphasized that the new curriculum was developed to ensure flexibility for students while instilling core skills needed to succeed in and lead today’s museums. Professor Lucas, who teaches the Museums and Social Justice course, followed Dr. Birnbaum’s remarks with his reflections on the importance of the new program to the University and the community.
Dr. Paula Birnbaum welcomes a packed room to the Thacher Gallery (1 of 11).
Barbara Jaspersen, USF Outreach Coordinator and internship supervisor with Mimi Manning of the Treasure Island Museum (2 of 11).
Dr. Emily Sano (left), director emeritus of the Asian Art Museum and SFO Museum board member, with Tracy Freedman (center), art advisor, and Kimberley Bush Tomio (right), Director, Museum Services at the Asian Art Museum (3 of 11).
Dr. John Zarobell (center) with Rowan Geiger, independent conservator (left) and Olga Charyshyn, registrar from SFMOMA (right) (4 of 11).
Dr. Jean Audigier and Dr. Catherine Lusheck (5 of 11).
Adrienne McGraw (director, Exhibit Envoy), Salwa Mikdadi (Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy) and Marjorie Schwarzer (right) (6 of 11).
Paula Birnbaum (center) with Ariana Cervantes and Jonathan Yorba of the Mexican Museum (7 of 11).
Paloma Anoveros (left) and Marjorie Schwarzer (right) with USF alumna Frozan Faizi and her husband Omid Faizi who have just returned from working in Kabul, Afghanistan with the National Museum of Afghanistan (8 of 11).
Stuart McKee, Marjorie Schwarzer, author Gail Anderson and exhibition designer Brianna Cutts (9 of 11).
Father Tom Lucas (right) with Lars Bair (left), USF alumnus and independent curator, and Sonya Knudsen and Maria Reilly of the SFO Museum (10 of 11).
Brenda Litzinger (center), USF alumna and Associate Registrar at the Walt Disney Family Museum, with Anel Muller (right), Registrar and Curatorial Assistant and Hillary Lyden (left), Interpretive Coordinator at the Disney Museum (11 of 11).
NOVEMBER 2012: USF Hosts Museums Delegation from Henan China
by Marjorie Schwarzer (adopted from a post to the blog of the California Association of Museums)
More than almost any other people on earth, Americans love their museums. In the United States, one museum exists for every 18,000 residents. Only Canada and Germany host more museums per capita. Americans did not invent the museum concept: that distinction belongs to the ancient Greeks. Nor did the U.S. invent the form: the earliest American museums mimicked the great public museums of France and Great Britain. But during the 20th century, visionaries in the United States certainly revolutionized both the concept and the form.
No country has surpassed U.S. museums’ innovations in exhibition development, business & professional practices, museum education, visitor studies, and codes of ethics over the past century. These accomplishments are all the more amazing given our museums’ precarious funding environment, especially in comparison with museums in other developed nations. It is no wonder, then, that museum professionals from around the world are inspired by the ingenuity and spirit that defines American museums.
Today, countries like Korea, the nations of the Arabian Gulf, and Brazil are pouring the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars into creating a bold new museum landscape for the 21st century. Nowhere is the current museum building boom more active than the People’s Republic of China. According to Yiyou Daisy Wang of the Smithsonian Institution, a new museum opens in China almost every day!
In October 2012, as part of the surge of international professional exchanges, the US-China Exchange Council contacted Celeste DeWald, executive director of the California Association of Museums. They asked her to connect a visiting delegation of cultural officials from the Chinese province of Henan to museum professionals in California.
Just before Thanksgiving, USF was honored to welcome 30 members of the Henan delegation – from institutions like Kaifeng Museum and Henan Museum, pictured here on the USF campus. After a welcome by Professor Thomas Lucas and a tour of USF’s Thacher Gallery, the group and I settled into a classroom to talk turkey.
Soon, with the help of a skilled translator, we were embroiled in an animated conversation about the business of running and sustaining our institutions. The Henan delegates were especially curious about the American economic and political system. They asked pointed questions about the pros and cons of having institutions fully funded by the government. They described a popular recent local exhibition about changing mores around the institution of marriage in China. When I asked just how those mores had changed, the group debated vigorously amongst themselves. Their words flowed so quickly that the translator simply paraphrased: “the women are saying that marriage has changed, and the men don’t agree.” Fortunately, in regard to the museum field, everyone did agree, especially on the following ideas:
- Objects are great, but stories about objects are better.
- The key to success is engaging visitors of all ages.
- It’s not enough to have a great building and collections; museums must be well-managed and well-run.
- Museums and other like-minded institutions need to cooperate and collaborate.
These four truisms reflect a growing worldwide professional consciousness about the role of museums in society. Yet I believe the cultural interchange between American museum workers and our international colleagues has even larger potential. The uniqueness of American museums is not the particulars of our business-savvy ways, or our programs and exhibitions. It is the larger American ethos that informs our work. American museum practices reflect and reinforce the values of democracy. Freedom of expression. Political debate. Civil liberties. Diverse perspectives. What happens when museums – so imbued with those cherished American values -- develop in nations with different political systems and social practices? What is the potential of the burgeoning new museum culture in those nations? Are Americans who participate in the worldwide museum movement engaging in cultural imperialism or soft diplomacy? A little of both? Perhaps there is more to the global museum boom than meets the eye.