Today is International Museum Day, which raises awareness of museums as “an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” We’re happy to contribute to the cause by sharing some of our scholarship that celebrates and critically examines museums and their work.
Prior to 1967 fewer than a dozen museum exhibitions had featured the work of African American artists. And by the time the civil rights movement reached the American art museum, it had already crested: the first public demonstrations to integrate museums occurred in late 1968, twenty years after the desegregation of the military and fourteen years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. In Mounting Frustration Susan E. Cahan investigates the strategies African American artists and museum professionals employed as they wrangled over access to and the direction of New York City’s elite museums.
The coauthors of the theoretically innovative Collecting, Ordering, Governing explore the relationships among anthropological fieldwork, museum collecting and display, and social governance in the early twentieth century in Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, and the United States. With case studies ranging from the Musée de l’Homme’s 1930s fieldwork missions in French Indo-China to the influence of Franz Boas’s culture concept on the development of American museums, the authors illuminate recent debates about postwar forms of multicultural governance, cultural conceptions of difference, and postcolonial policy and practice in museums.
Archives of Asian Art is a journal devoted to publishing new scholarship on the art and architecture of South, Southeast, Central, and East Asia. Articles discuss premodern and contemporary visual arts, archaeology, architecture, and the history of collecting. Every issue is fully illustrated (with color plates in the online version), and each fall issue includes an illustrated compendium of recent acquisitions of Asian art by leading museums and collections.
Museum Frictions is a lavishly illustrated examination of the significant and varied effects of the increasingly globalized world on contemporary museum, heritage, and exhibition practice. The contributors—scholars, artists, and curators—present case studies drawn from Africa, Australia, North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Together they offer a multifaceted analysis of the complex roles that national and community museums, museums of art and history, monuments, heritage sites, and theme parks play in creating public cultures.
In Museum Skepticism, art historian David Carrier traces the birth, evolution, and decline of the public art museum as an institution meant to spark democratic debate and discussion. Carrier contends that since the inception of the public art museum during the French Revolution, its development has depended on growth: on the expansion of collections, particularly to include works representing non-European cultures, and on the proliferation of art museums around the globe. Arguing that this expansionist project has peaked, he asserts that art museums must now find new ways of making high art relevant to contemporary lives.
In the late nineteenth century, Japan’s new Meiji government established museums to showcase a national aesthetic heritage, spur industrialization and self-disciplined public behavior, and cultivate an “imperial public” loyal to the emperor. By the mid-1930s, the Japanese museum system had established or absorbed institutions in Taiwan, Korea, Sakhalin, and Manchuria. Unsurprisingly, colonial subjects’ views of Japanese imperialism differed from those promulgated by the Japanese state. In Public Properties Noriko Aso describes how museums in Japan and its empire contributed to the reimagining of state and society during the imperial era despite vigorous disagreements about what was to be displayed, how, and by whom it was to be seen.
The New History in an Old Museum is an exploration of “historical truth” as presented at Colonial Williamsburg. More than a detailed history of a museum and tourist attraction, it examines the packaging of American history, and consumerism and the manufacturing of cultural beliefs. Through extensive fieldwork, Richard Handler and Eric Gable illustrate how corporate sensibility blends with pedagogical principle in Colonial Williamsburg to blur the lines between education and entertainment, patriotism and revisionism.
Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art focuses on publishing critical work that examines contemporary African and African Diaspora art within the modernist and postmodernist experience and includes scholarly articles, reviews (exhibits and books), interviews, and roundtable discussions. In “Nka Roundtable III: Contemporary African Art and the Museum,” contributors examine the role of museums in bringing the work of African artists to the consciousness of the contemporary world. The topics covered include the participants’ first meaningful encounters with contemporary African art, the role of the curator of contemporary African art in the museum, and the age-old question about presenting contemporary African art in art and/or ethnology museums.