Making History

Museum Studies Faculty Garners Lifetime Achievement Award

By Max Blue, College of Arts and Sciences Posted Thu, 11/08/2018 - 15:03

Image Courtesy of Western Museums Association

Marjorie Schwarzer, Administrative Director of the MA in Museum Studies, has been described by students as “a life force that connects people.” The Western Museums Association (WMA) agreed. On October 22, Schwarzer’s scholarship, teaching, and connectivity of community, garnered her the WMA Leadership Award at the association’s Annual Meeting in Tacoma, WA, attended by over 600 museum professionals.

The WMA was founded in 1935 to help museum professionals in the Western US and Canada to connect, share resources, and develop professional practices. The Leadership Award is WMA’s highest honor, presented to an individual “with more than 20 years in the field whose career has had a sustained, considerable, and lasting impact on museum practices and/or the museum profession in the Western Region,” according to the WMA website.

“Professor Schwarzer’s personality and leadership style creates community,” said Museum Studies alumna and designer at the San Jose Museum of Art, Elinoar Almagor ‘14, who was in the audience during the award ceremony. “She recognizes and empowers her colleagues and students to become their best selves, and engages their talents to interact with each other and build a community that cares and enlightens others. This approach is powerful, as collaboration is at the heart of the best museums. It is not about titles, but about action, and about working together to create change.”

Schwarzer called her experience receiving the award “truly humbling,” and said, “myself, colleagues, and peers, all stand on the shoulders of many who have fought to make museums accessible and meaningful to everyone. I still have deep concerns about our nation’s social and income inequities and I haven’t exactly been silent on this matter, so it was especially meaningful to me to have those views recognized.”

“Marjorie’s receipt of the award puts her among national leaders in the museum profession, such as those whose work we teach in the Museum Studies program,” explained Schwarzer’s colleague and fellow USF professor Stephanie Brown. “For her to receive the Leadership Award now is an acknowledgement of the tremendous contribution she has made through her scholarship, teaching; and service to the field as a lecturer, consultant, volunteer, and connector of people.”

Schwarzer’s long career has affected generations of students from Dubai to San Francisco. She considers every exhibition to have been a highlight. One particularly memorable testament to her impact on the community occurred during a 2016 panel discussion at the WMA Annual Meeting, the topic of which was Foster Youth Museum, a project involving USF alumni Ray Bussolari ‘14 and Kevin Clark ‘15, and advised by Schwarzer. During the panel, a former foster youth in the audience stood up and told the audience how the project had literally saved his life. Schwarzer said, “it was an immensely moving moment.”

Schwarzer is currently revising a third edition of her book, Riches, Rivals and Radicals: A History of Museums in America. She feels “doubly fortunate” to be working closely with USF alumna Sabrina Oliveros ‘15 on the project.