Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can we crowdsource a museum studies course? Of course!

Who's ready to crowdsource a class for next fall? Raise your hand!

Crowdsource. Yes, it's a buzzword these days, but it is also a truly great idea. For those of you who need a working definition, here is mine.

Crowdsourcing: outsourcing a problem or set of challenging tasks generally assigned to one person to a large group or segment of the population in order to gain multiple perspectives, capitalize on group experience, and engage new audiences.

This is not the official definition, but it acknowledges the main concept and practical applications of the idea. Given the current interest in all things related to the concept of crowdsourcing, including its application in museum practice, could we apply these principles to the generation of a brand new college course in exhibition development and design?

The photo above was obviously taken at the University of Michigan, my alma mater, outside of the "Big House", home to one of the largest regularly-assembled crowds. The course in question is being offered in the Museum Studies program at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, home to a much smaller crowd, but fortunately here is a situation where size really doesn't matter. Ideally, the concept of crowdsourcing does not discriminate based on the relative size or status of the organization posing the question, but merely offers up the wisdom, experience, and panorama of viewpoints held within the larger group.

Today, we have an opportunity to prove the concept to young people preparing to enter the museum field. Beginning in August I will be teaching a new course in exhibition development and design at Walsh University. I am currently compiling my ideas for lectures, projects, texts, and specific content to present throughout the semester. As part of my effort to highlight fresh and relevant theories and approaches to museum exhibition, I intend to address the need for greater audience engagement and participatory experience within museum environments. One of the texts I intend to use is Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum, which brilliantly describes the process for creating these intentional spaces.

Pushing the participatory envelope just a bit further, I thought I would engage my own audience for ideas and input. What topics and/or experiences would you include in this course were it yours to develop? So far, the Department Chair has only given me a course title (which I immediately, if unofficially, altered to broaden the scope of the class) and a time slot. Other than these two basic parameters, I am free to construct the course as I choose, designing a curriculum that prepares college juniors and seniors to plan, prepare, produce, and install compelling museum exhibits for our 21st Century visitors.

Putting to work the theory that many minds are better at solving a problem than just one, I am asking for your help. Post your top 5 topics not to be missed in an exhibit development course. Help me help you! Together we can design a course that adequately prepares the next generation of museum professionals for service in your institutions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MOCA Cleveland produces excellent documentary video on iona rozeal brown exhibition

Last month I reviewed MOCA Cleveland's exhibition, iona rozeal brown : all falls down after touring the show with the curator Megan Lykins Reich. MOCA recently released a documentary video about the unique project with area high school students that complemented the installation of iona rozeal brown's mature works.

Even if you missed the exhibition at MOCA, this video is definitely worth fifteen minutes of your time. It is a great example of how a thoughtfully designed collaborative partnership can inspire hopeful youth and established practitioners, creating an educational experience for both.

iona rozeal brown @ MOCA Cleveland (documentary) from Moca Cleveland on Vimeo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Speed camera issues tickets you'll want to receive- The Fun Theory strikes again

Several members of my family, myself included, have recently been nabbed by automated speed cameras and issued painfully pricey tickets for our infractions. Since I have not posted an installment from Volkswagen's The Fun Theory project lately, I thought I would share this prize-winning idea: a speed camera lottery machine.

It's a very cool concept. Admittedly, the actual implementation would be somewhat impractical, but giving drivers a carrot for obeying the speed limit, instead of a stick if they are caught ignoring it, seems like a much better societal norm. Watch the video below and see if you don't agree that you'd slow down just to receive this kind of ticket in the mail.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Neanderthals, Reliquaries, and Schreckengost, oh my! Or, how everything old is new again

It is a MuseoBlogger "throwback Thursday," as I find myself haunted by three former passions in the cultural news of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Yesterday, I learned that the Cleveland Museum of Art launched a brand new website, and as I delighted in the new personalization potential of the site, I quickly found a link to the "new perspectives" videos. My favorite features the Museum's Curator of Medieval Art, Stephen Fliegel, interpreting a 12th-century reliquary shaped like a human arm. This ghost of pursuits-long-past was a fantastic discovery, bringing back memories of afternoons spent in the dark of an art history classroom, striving towards my undergraduate degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. It also conjured up images of the incredible medieval art collection housed at CMA, but closed to the public for many years now as part of their colossal renovation and expansion campaign. Fortunately for all of us cooky medievalists, the reinstalled gallery will open June 26th, and the arm reliquary will be just one of the many fascinating objects featured there. Check out the Museum's innovative new website and the arm reliquary using the link below.

Arm Reliquary of the Apostles

In today's news I read about the mapping of the DNA sequence of Homo neanderthalensis, a truly ground-breaking discovery that will certainly shed new light on our human origins. Tomorrow's issue of the journal Science will outline the scientific research involved in mapping the Neanderthal genome and describe the subsequent finding that non-African human populations today share between 1% and 4% of their genes with our cave-dwelling cousins. Yet another blast from my academic past.

Besides medieval art history, the other half of my undergraduate degree was in Anthropology, and I loved it enough to pursue a masters degree in the subject. During the 1990s when I was in school there was ongoing debate in the field between anthropologists who held that modern humans swept out of Africa in a giant migration and wiped out neanderthal populations, and those who believed the two human subspecies met, feuded, interbred, and eventually absorbed the archaic humans into the modern human fold.

Milford Wolpoff, my paleoanthropology professor at the University of Michigan was a great proponent of the second view and argued at length that modern humans were descended, at least in part, from Neanderthals. About 10 years ago, with the general acceptance of mitochondrial DNA analysis, it seemed that everyone had dismissed his argument and moved on. Well, vindication has finally come! For those of us who have ever met Dr. Wolpoff, or my father for that matter, we all knew there just had to be some neanderthal DNA in there somewhere.

Tomorrow at The Bonfoey Gallery in downtown Cleveland my back-to-the-future news week wraps up with the opening of From Jazz to Design- the Art of Viktor Schreckengost a retrospective exhibition of Cleveland's own visionary renaissance man and recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts.
In the spring of 2006, as Director of Exhibits at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, I participated in the nationwide, 100 day-long exhibition celebrating Viktor Schreckengost's centennial birthday by mounting a small animal-themed exhibit of his work. Since his passing in January 2008, I now only occasionally come across Viktor Schreckengost's work around town, but tomorrow at 5:00PM, The Bonfoey Gallery will debut a collection of works representing all facets of his genius, including a few pieces never before exhibited. From Jazz to Design will be on exhibit through June 5, 2010.

I look forward to posting some follow-up photos from the Schreckengost opening next week and a review of the new medieval gallery at the Cleveland Museum of Art when it opens later this summer. In the meantime, I am heading out for dinner in my pink Izod polo shirt and my khaki pedal-pushers (no kidding) and relishing the fact that everything old seems to be new again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

American Museum of Natural History and MoMA among places Ahmadinejad probably won't visit while in NYC

I enjoyed reading Joseph Abrams' humorous take on the various places and programs Iran's President Ahmadinejad would be sure to miss during his upcoming visit to New York City. Several notable museums made Abrams' list, including the American Museum of Natural History for its scientific take on natural phenomena, MoMA for its avant garde art installations, and of course the Museum of Jewish Heritage: a Living Memorial to the Holocaust for its very existence. With a bit of biting satire, Mr. Abrams reminds us that one way to deal with maniacal dictators like Iran's President is to expose their unenlightened ideologies as the completely ridiculous fallacies they are.

FOXNews.com - Where Iran's President Won't Go on His Visit to New York

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