Upcoming event: Green museums!

I just finished a conference call with the organizers of JFKU’s annual Museum Studies Colloquium: “People/Planet/Profitability: Museums and Sustainability.”  I’ll be facilitating the break-out group on Community Engagement with JFKU faculty member Margaret Kadoyama, as well as speaking on an afternoon panel. Other facilitators will include staff from the California Academy of Sciences and The Center for Ecoliteracy.

This will be my second time participating in an event organized by museum professionals and museum studies scholars.  The last one I went to was a lot of fun – I had a great time thinking about how museums could become centers of environmental learning that serve vibrant, diverse audiences.  I hope to see you there!

Download a flyer here.

People/Planet/Profitability: Museums & Sustainability
November 17, 2012
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley Campus
2956 San Pablo Avenue
2nd Floor
Berkeley, CA 94702-2471

Community curators at the Museum of the American Indian

I recently visited the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. for the first time.  My favorite parts were the depictions of each tribe’s community curators.  I’d heard before going that this museum does a great job of portraying Native American culture and history from the perspective of Native Americans themselves instead of from the perspective of outside observers, as has so often been the case.  It reminded me a bit of one of the small town museums I visited in Mexico in 2006 that was part of the  Union of Community Museums of Oaxaca.  One historic photograph on display stood out in particular.  It depicted a handful of local residents in a large city, perhaps with rugs in hand, accompanied by a white woman.  The caption was an inversion of what one would typically see in a different setting.  Instead of naming the white woman and representing her as the discoverer of the local artisans, it named the locals and described how they took their arts out into the world, accompanied by a nameless white woman.  I loved it!

The community curator profiles at the Museum of the American Indian give some insight into how the exhibits came together, and did a nice job of personalizing the individual tribes.  It must have been hard to figure out which people, and tribes, to feature in such a high-profile space.


I was also intrigued by the children’s zone in the museum.  I love that the interactive features shown below teach children to understand Native Americans as multifaceted members of contemporary society by showing them in a variety of clothing styles that the viewers can mix and match. From what I saw they were very popular exhibits with the kids! On the other hand, turning Native youth into objects for viewers to play with made me a little uncomfortable.