Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quick Hit: Five Great Links

This week, a kitchen sink of inspiring bits.

Museums, Politics, and Power is a new blog that lives up to its name. It presents global perspectives on these juicy, interrelated issues. It is the online counterpart to a conference of the same name that will be hosted this fall in St. Petersburg. Three intrepid blog managers are soliciting contributions from all over the world, and so far, there are posts from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Northern Ireland, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, and the US. The content is meaty, multi-lingual, and timely.

I'm one of the guests in the newest episode of Museopunks, a podcast series by Jeffrey Inscho and Suse Cairns. The topic is online professional identity. My career has been shaped significantly by blogging. It's something I think about often but rarely talk about. The podcast let us dive into the topic and discuss how online and offline worlds complement and complicate each other.

Elsewhere in podcast-land, Radiolab did a fascinating piece about cultural appropriation and gate-keeping in hip hop music. It asks basic questions about who can define authenticity and quality in an art practice that was historically based in a specific cultural identity but is now being assimilated/exploited/expanded. Sound familiar? Some serious parallels to curating exhibitions and performances, especially with living artists.

Speaking of contemporary artists, one of my favorite recent blog posts was this thoughtful essay by artist Brian Fernandes-Halloran about navigating the compromises between artistic ambition and the marketplace. As Brian puts it: "What happens when an artist’s inclinations towards her/his work conflict with her/his ability to sell and keep making it?"

Finally, if you need a hit of inspiration and historical museum-making, I strongly recommend checking out the Boston Stories project. Boston Stories chronicles the radical, human-centered work at the Boston Children's Museum in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. This website is a little oddly organized, but it is a treasure trove of essays, videos, and downloads related to the amazing work of Michael Spock, Elaine Heumann Gurian, and many many honored museum rabble-rousers. For example, check out this research report [pdf] from 1969 on the use of visitor research in the development of exhibitions. This stuff is so early it's practically prenatal.
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