DecorativeMuseopunks is a podcast for the progressive museum. 

Every month, Suse Anderson investigates the fascinating work and personalities in and around the museum sector. The Punks explore some of the sector’s most stimulating questions, institutions, and practices, with a focus on emergent, boundary-pushing work and ideas.

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Episode 45: Getting By With A Little Help

Mutual aid systems rely on forms of exchange, sharing support and resources, to enable communities to care for their members in the face of difficulty. In this episode, we speak with Paula Santos, Christian Ramirez, and Alyssa Greenberg about the Museum Workers Speak started the Museum Workers Relief Fund, a form of ‘radical redistribution’ that seeks donations from those with means to support US-based museum workers who have been laid off, furloughed, or otherwise severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those donations are then redistributed as $500 gifts to help recipients stay afloat.

Episode 44: A conversation among friends

It’s been a few weeks since the world was upended in the wake of COVID-19. In this episode, we catch up with an old friend, Sharna Jackson, to hold space for some reflection, some mourning, and some laughter.

Episode 43: How do we live in turbulent times?

Even before a pandemic changed everything, we were living in turbulent times. Extreme partisanship defines politics in many countries, inequality grows even wealthy countries, and faith in institutions is diminishing. How do museums create environments of trust, especially where there are histories of distrust, victimization, and oppression? In this episode, we speak with Dina Bailey, former Director of Methodology and Practice for the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and Tim Phillips, founder and CEO of Beyond Conflict, to consider what we can learn from transitional justice approaches when addressing the painful legacies of the past.

Episode 42: A #MuseumMeToo Moment

Since the #MeToo hashtag and campaign appeared online in 2017, many in the museum sector have wondered when members of our own community would be called to account. In this episode, the Punks are joined by Robin Pogrebin, Zachary Small and Anne-Marie Quigg to explore a major #MuseumMeToo moment and ask how bullying and harassment shape workplace culture.

Episode 41: Digitization is not neutral

Over the past decade, museums have increasingly shared high-resolution open access images of their collections. Yet there are significant legal and ethical complexities related to digital cultural heritage, particularly when blanket decisions about open access are made without involving communities of origin. In this episode, the Punks are joined by Mathilde Pavis and Andrea Wallace to discuss their Response to the 2018 Sarr-Savoy Report, which addresses intellectual property rights and open access relevant to the digitization and restitution of African Cultural Heritage and associated materials, and come to the conclusion that we need to be discussing digital cultural heritage with far more nuance.

Episode 40: A very human exhibition

Being Human, the new permanent gallery at Wellcome Collection explores what it means to be human in the 21st century. In creating the exhibition, the Wellcome Collection worked with two advisory panels – one composed of scientists, and the other of artists, activists, and consultants that was organized in collaboration with the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, focusing on the representation of disability and difference. The resultant experience embodies the idea that all can and should feel valued and connected.

Episode 39: A new definition of “museum”?

The season for existential crises continued this past month when the International Council of Museums (ICOM) announced that a working group had proposed a new definition for museums and that said definition would be voted on at the ICOM Triennial in Kyoto, Japan. We followed the many conversations that unfolded over the next few weeks and asked a diverse group of museum colleagues around the world to share their thoughts on the issue with us. What does it mean to be a museum? Who does that definition exclude? And who is the audience for that definition?

Episode 38: Decolonization and its Discontents

As decolonization moves more firmly onto the agenda in museums, so too does its critique. In this episode, we speak with Sumaya Kassim, author of the essay ‘The Museum Will Not Be Decolonised’, and Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance to ask whether museums can dismantle the colonial gaze. We also find out more about the kinds of structural changes inside museums that may be necessary to fully support First Nations people and People of Colour working in our cultural institutions.

Episode 37: Experience doesn’t pay the rent

In this episode, we’re joined by Alison Wade from AAMD, and Michelle Millar Fisher and “E” from the Art + Museum Transparency group to discuss the topic of unpaid internships, and the implications for the sector of this practice. Plus, Ed Rodley, Museopunks new co-host, makes his official debut.

Episode 36: Queering Your Museum

The end of Pride Month does not mean that we should stop talking or thinking about LGBTQIA+ inclusion and queer curating practices in museums. This month, we’re joined by Craig Middleton and Nikki Sullivan, authors of the KINQ (or Knowledge Industries Need Queering)manifesto, and Alison Kennedy and Anna Woten, from AAM’s LGBTQ Alliance Task Force for Transgender Inclusion to discuss queering the museum.

Episode 35: Show Me The Money

In this episode, we’re joined by Will Stoutamire and Lauren Hunley (both on the Board of the MPMA), and Michelle Epps, President of the National Emerging Museum Professionals Network, for a discussion about salary transparency in the museum field–what it is, why it matters, and why your institution should be disclosing salaries early and often.

Episode 34: Paradigm Lost

In this episode, Museopunks explores this idea of the surfeit of virtues with both Rodley and Rounds, and discovers a moment of paradigmatic change in museums within the USA.

Episode 33: A Museum for Everyone

OF/BY/FOR ALL is a global movement and a set of tools to help community institutions around the world become more representative OF and co-created BY their communities. In this episode, we’re joined by OF/BY/FOR ALL founder Nina Simon and Rohini Kappadath, General Manager of Immigration Museum (Australia), to find out how to create a museum for everyone.

Episode 32: Changing the Canon

Museum collections in established institutions come with long histories. So how do you change a museum’s canon? In this episode, we speak with Christopher Bedford, Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director of The Baltimore Museum of Art, about the BMA’s decision in early 2018 to deaccession seven works by blue-chip artists in the contemporary collection in order to strengthen its holdings of contemporary works by women and artists of color.

Episode 31: Are Museums “Safe Spaces for Unsafe Ideas?”

Since the mid-1990s, it has been received wisdom that museums are, or should be, “safe spaces for unsafe ideas.” But is this true? Are museum safe spaces? And do they really deal in unsafe ideas? In this episode, Elaine Heumann Gurian, who is credited with first expressing this idea, helps us unpack whether it continues to make sense in museums today.

Episode 30: Truth & Reconciliation in Museums

How can museums participate in transitional justice, which seeks to address massive human rights violations? In this episode, Suse is joined by Omar Eaton-Martínez and Dr. Karine Duhamel to explore the implications of truth and reconciliation in museums.

Episode 29: Virtually Yours (Part 2)

In this special two-part episode, Suse and special guest co-host Desi Gonzales, explore virtual reality in museums. In part two, we take a deep dive into Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s academy-award winning virtual reality installation CARNE y ARENA with VR film-maker Paisley Smith.

Episode 28: Virtually Yours (Part 1)

In this special two-part episode, Suse and special guest co-host Desi Gonzales, explore virtual reality in museums. In part two, we take a deep dive into Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s academy-award winning virtual reality installation CARNE y ARENA with VR film-maker Paisley Smith.

Episode 27: #MuseumsAreNotNeutral

With a reticence towards partisan politics, museums are sometimes perceived to be neutral institutions, many avoiding taking a visible stand on issues. But can they really avoid being political when making choices about the allocation of resources, time, and energy? #MuseumsAreNotNeutral is “an initiative that exposes the fallacies of the neutrality claim and calls for an equity-based transformation of museums.” In this episode, LaTanya S. Autry and Mike Murawski break down the #MuseumsAreNotNeutral campaign, while Kaywin Feldman, Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), discusses what it’s like to run a museum at a time of crisis.

Episode 26: Decolonize the Museum!

The vision of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, describes how the museum “will reflect and realize the values of decolonization in all of its practices, working with the Wabanaki Nations to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience.” But what does it take to decolonize a museum? How does it change the governance structure and the practices of the board? What kinds of frameworks and internal work are necessary to shift the balance of authority within the institution, and turn theory into actionable change?

Episode 25: The Next Chapter

As former Museopunk Jeffrey Inscho leaves the museum world, we take a moment to reflect on the factors that influence a decision to leave or join the museum profession. We also examine what outside organizations can gain from hiring museum professionals–and what museums can gain from those who have grown up professionally in complementary industries. Plus, we preview a soon-to-air podcast that focuses on the wildly circuitous ways through which people come to and leave, museums.

Episode 24: Institutional Bravery

Increasingly, it feels like progressive museum practice is also political museum practice. So what does it mean for a museum to take a stand, and put social just at the heart of its work? In this episode, Suse talks with David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool (NML) and President of the UK Museums Association, about the social impact of museum work, advocacy as a strategic objective, and what it means for a museum service to be openly political.

Episode 23: The Gendered Museum

Did you know that several studies in recent years have shown that when women enter a specific field in large numbers, the pay for that field declines overall, even for the same jobs that men were doing? This is one of many implications of gendered professions, which are at the core of this month’s episode of Museopunks. The Punks dig into the implications of the gendered museum, and its impact on pay and the sector more broadly with Anne W. Ackerson and Joan H. Baldwin, whose new book Women in the Museum explores the professional lives of the sector’s female workforce today and examines the challenges they face working in what was, until recently, a male-dominated field. The Punks are then joined by nikhil trivedi for a conversation about the impact of gender and masculinity on technology work, inside museums and beyond.

Episode 22: Human Behavior

Museums that want to impact their visitors are often concerned with changing their behaviors. However, before any kind of change can take place, it’s important to understand visitors and the behaviors that they bring into the museum with them. In this episode, the ‘Punks ask how museums can better understand and align their work around existing visitor behaviors. We talk to the first Neuroscience Researcher in an art museum to learn more about how the human brain understands the physical world, and how that connects to our emotions and then connect with an experience designer whose work has focussed on social media use in the cultural sector.

Episode 21: The “Outsiders” Edition

Since the 1960s, artists have been critically examining the practices of museums, at times critiquing the idea of what a museum is and how it presents its stories. One of the most influential exhibitions of Institutional Critique was Mining the Museum–an installation by artist Fred Wilson at the Maryland Historical Society, in collaboration with The Contemporary.

Episode 20: An Ode to Self-Care

Progressive museum work, particularly when focussed around community engagement, is often a form of emotion work that demands emotional labor. Museum professionals who are deeply engaged with the challenges of changing their institutions, negotiating a volatile political climate, or facilitating community work, can experience compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout. So how can museum professionals look after themselves, in order to better care for their communities and colleagues?

Episode 19: The State Of Love And Trust

In this first episode of season two, the ‘Punks unpack the trials and tribulations of trust with Dr. fari nzinga and Adriel Luis. Report after report indicates that public trust in institutions is plummeting. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveys more than 33,000 people across 28 countries, showed the largest-ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media, and NGOs. Meanwhile, the Economist’s Intelligence Unit downgraded the US to a “flawed democracy” in its 2016 Democracy Index, due to an erosion of trust in government and elected officials.

Find Season One of Museopunks on Soundcloud

About Museopunks

Follow Museopunks on Twitter

Listen to the first season on Soundcloud

Presenting Sponsor

Museopunks is presented by the American Alliance of Museums.

All Museopunks published material is released as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

The ‘Punks

Suse Anderson

Suse Cairns Anderson Headshot

For close to a decade, Suse has explored the intersection of technology and culture, with a focus on the impact of digital technologies on the museum. She is currently Assistant Professor, Museum Studies at The George Washington University, where she teaches courses on museums and digital technology, social media, and visitor experience. She holds a PhD (Creative Arts) and a BFA (Hons – 1st class, Faculty Medal), both from The University of Newcastle, Australia, and a BArts (Comms – Journalism) from Charles Sturt University.

Since moving from Australia to Baltimore in 2014, Suse has fallen in love with the city she now calls home. You should visit her there one day, or connect with her on Twitter.

Ed Rodley

Headshot of Ed Rodley

Ed Rodley has worked in museums for over twenty years and remains a firm believer in the free-choice learning that is at the heart of the museum experience. He is currently Associate Director of Integrated Media at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, where he manages a wide range of digital media projects. He is also passionate about increasing the digital maturity of museums and its potential to create more open, inclusive workplaces.

In addition to his day job, he’s also one of the co-hosts of Drinking About Museums, Boston. If you can’t come to Salem to visit, you can follow Ed’s blog “Thinking about Museums.” He’s also on Twitter, possibly too much.

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