Reinventing the Museum (III)

While I agree with many of the points made in the readings this week, I’m happy we are finishing Reinventing the Museum. The arguments against top down management in favor of cyclical (383-384), or creating a guiding coalition for implementing innovation (524) are great, however these authors need more concrete examples of success in the 21st century. I feel these authors are reacting to the economic slump we have found ourselves in and are trying to shape a future for museums without many examples of what success looks like.

For example the article by the Institute of Museum and Library Services gives plenty of examples of the way the job market is changing and what skills are needed for the future, but the list they provided has no weight behind it because there is no evidence accompanying it. I would much rather read about a specific institution that is succeeding in 2013. What are they doing? What skills are they looking for? As far as I saw, these articles did not give enough examples from the real world. Even though they give great advice, if I was a museum director I couldn’t use this book to guide me in decision making because none of the models on these pages give examples of success. The blog we explored does give examples of emerging trends, however it is a blog and lacks the rigors of publishing. Again, if I was a museum director putting together a proposal for a major directional change for my institution, could I cite Reinventing the Museum or the Future blog as evidence for my decision? Why should I trust these sources if they can’t show some examples of their model working?

The reading this week reminded me of an interview on the Colbert Report with the Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. In his new book Citizenville, Newsom argues for similar changes in local governments to the changes advocated in Reinventing the Museum – open access, individualized interactions, two-way conversations, etc. While Newsom’s ideas seem great and point to a better model for governing, he spoke to Stephen only using mantras and techspeak. Colbert continued to ask Newsom what he was getting at, but the Lt. Governor couldn’t explain himself without using the 21st century abstract sayings. Colbert said,  “What do you mean? Again, every single one of these things could be carved on a stone and put in someone’s garden as like, as like a mantra.” This may be just what happens when we try to describe the future without really knowing what to expect.

I think we have some good ideas here, with reinventing our institutions for the 21st century. I think we need some more writing on some good case studies or examples from places that are making a difference in their community. The Denver Public Library for example, has some innovative programs worth studying. I would like see some ideas put to action!

Public History Application Idea

Hi Everybody,

I found some inspiration for our Mobile App assignment and I wanted to share it with the class to see if anyone else might want to join me in brainstorming some ideas.

The Library of Congress recently published a “National Recording Preservation Plan.” available here:

In this doc, on page 30-31, they put out a list of software developments that they would like somebody to start working on:

” A collaborative effort is required to identify areas of greatest
need and to garner funding and support to develop the tools necessary in those areas.
Examples of software that would serve the audio preservation
community well include tools for the following purposes:
• Creation, extraction, and insertion of metadata into audio files and
the mutual exchange of that metadata with associated database or
collection management systems
• Conversion of proprietary EDL (edit decision list) formats of the
most commonly used DAW platforms to a standardized format
• Creation of integrity data when files are created or ingested into
a repository so that the data can be used to monitor the condition
and integrity of stored files
• Automated systems for file management, creation of derivatives,
and dissemination of assetsThe Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan 31
• Migration of digital assets throughout their life cycle as technology and formats become obsolete”

Please send me an email, or comment to this post if you would like to integrate these objectives into your App. At the first class, Niki and Ryan tentatively formed a group with me, so I would like to especially hear from those two if they see this post. My email address is, thanks!

Reinventing the Museum (Part II)

Pardon my tangent: this post will mostly be about the readings relation to the field of Archives. I realize the authors were writing about museums, but I saw many connections to my field of work and I hope someone would appreciate how these topics are utilized in other fields.

First, I very much enjoyed the first article about repatration. I’m all for museums giving back the collections they acquired immorally – even if they were acquired over century ago. I’m shocked to hear that some museums resisted the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act – I imagine it couldn’t have been many. There are few ways the United States Government can work to right the wrongs committed to the Native American Tribes through the history of this country, the repatriation act was clearly one way to do so.

The second article about deaccessioning hit very close to home for me. Archives throughout the country face the same problem of what to do with materials that you don’t feel belong with the collection. I would like to point out that the author mentions museums wanting to deaccession items to sell them on the market and gain revenue. I don’t think that is allowed by any state institution in Idaho. I remember hearing something about our university library discontinuing its book sale for that reason. Then again- the university sells land on occasion… I’m not sure what the law says there.

The article also mentions some other outside elements affecting collection development. This can be true for many repositories of cultural goods. Museums, Libraries, Archives, Cultural Centers; these places tend to be the attic of communities. The leaders responsible for public donations and community relations may, from time-to-time, accept  material that doesn’t quite fit the collection development plan, but accepting the gift is the right thing to do for community relations. Too much of this, however, can lead to shelves filled with objects or documents that do not fit any scope of vision for the collection as a whole. It takes skill to navigate those waters.

Marilyn Phealen’s article on the legality of international trade also brings up important questions. While there are some gray areas that force each case to be examined thoroughly, I agree whole heartedly with Phealan’s quote from the U.S. Code of Uniform Commerce: “one who purchases property from a thief, no matter how innocently, acquires no title to the property.” (page 421) This should be the ethical backing for any decision of ownership.



Reinventing the Museum Part One

After reading Cameron’s “The Museum, a Temple or the Forum,”  I was just envisioning a museum in this area creating a forum on a controversial topic. While I agree with several of the author’s argument for more critical commentary in museum exhibits, I feel that local museums, libraries and “societies” must tread carefully when adding voice to an exhibit. Lisa Robert’s call for more scholarship in museums seems like a good idea, and perhaps could be expanded with curators contributing to journals and professional associations, but is an exhibit the best platform for a curator to start an argument about the history of a community? I’m still not sure.

On another similar point: I didn’t see much discussion about museum’s relationship with local, state and federal governments in these articles – except Graham Black’s “Embedding Civil Engagement in Museums” article. Black mentions governmental concerns about the lack of civil engagement in current society, and offers some methods for museums to help bring more engagement to communities. Except for this article, the other authors seemed to deliberately ignore governmental agency in their work. Most of these articles emphasized relationships with the public and ways to increase participation and engagement with our visitors, which may be important, but without healthy and open communications with the legislator, these institutions will lose support from their primary source of revenue.