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Only a decade ago, the notion that museums, galleries and heritage organisations might engage in activist practice, with explicit intent to act upon inequalities, injustices and environmental crises, was met with scepticism and often derision. Seeking to purposefully bring about social change was viewed by many within and beyond the museum community as inappropriately political and antithetical to fundamental professional values. Today, although the idea remains controversial, the way we think about the roles and responsibilities of museums as knowledge based, social institutions is changing. Museum Activism examines the increasing significance of this activist trend in thinking and practice. At this crucial time in the evolution of museum thinking and practice, this ground-breaking volume brings together more than fifty contributors working across six continents to explore, analyse and critically reflect upon the museum’s relationship to activism. Including contributions from practitioners, artists, activists and researchers, this wide-ranging examination of new and divergent expressions of the inherent power of museums as forces for good, and as activists in civil society, aims to encourage further experimentation and enrich the debate in this nascent and uncertain field of museum practice. Museum Activism elucidates the largely untapped potential for museums as key intellectual and civic resources to address inequalities, injustice and environmental challenges. This makes the book essential reading for scholars and students of museum and heritage studies, gallery studies, arts and heritage management, and politics. It will be a source of inspiration to museum practitioners and museum leaders around the globe.
Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism examines the role of exhibitionary institutions in representing LGBTQ+ people, cisgender women, and nonbinary individuals. Considering recent gender and sexuality-related developments through a critical lens, the volume contributes significantly to the growing body of activist writing on this topic. Building on Gender, Sexuality and Museums and featuring work from established voices, as well as newcomers, this volume offers risky and exciting articles from around the world. Chapters cover diverse topics, including transgender representation, erasure, and activism; two-spirit people, indigeneity, and museums; third genders; gender and sexuality in heritage sites and historic homes; temporary exhibitions on gender and sexuality; museum representations of HIV/AIDS; interventions to increase queer visibility and inclusion in galleries; LGBTQ+ staff alliances; and museums, gender ambiguity, and the disruption of binaries. Several chapters focus on areas outside the US and Europe, while others explore central topics through the perspectives of racial and ethnic minorities. Containing contributions that engage in sustained critique of current policies, theory, and practice, Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism is essential reading for those studying museums, women and gender, sexuality, culture, history, heritage, art, media, and anthropology. The book will also spark interest among museum practitioners, public archivists, and scholars researching related topics.
Museums and Social Activism is the first study to bring together historical accounts of the African American and later American Indian civil rights-related social and reform movements that took place on the Smithsonian Mall through the 1960s and 1970s in Washington DC with the significant but unknown story about museological transformation and curatorial activism that occurred in the Division of Political and Reform History at the National Museum of American History at this time. Based on interdisciplinary field-based research that has brought together cross-cultural and international perspectives from the fields of Museum Studies, Public History, Political Science and Social Movement Studies with empirical investigation, the book explores and analyses museums’ – specifically, curators’ – relationships with political stakeholders past and present. By understanding the transformations of an earlier period, Museums and Social Activism offers provocative perspectives on the cultural and political significance of contemporary museums. It highlights the relevance of past practice and events for museums today and improved ways of understanding the challenges and opportunities that result from the ongoing process of renewal that museums continue to exemplify.
Queering the Museum develops a queer analysis of the ways in which museums construct themselves, their core business, and their publics through the, often unconscious, use of inherited ways of knowing and doing. Providing a critique of both the practices and conventions associated with the modern public museum, and the ontological assumptions that inform them, the authors consider recent discourse around inclusion in museums and explore the ways this has been taken up in practice. Highlighting the limits of particular approaches to inclusion, and the failure to move away from a traditional museological paradigm, the book outlines an alternative critical museological approach that the authors refer to as ‘queer’. Providing readers with the critical tools necessary for a profound rethinking of museum practice, the book also responds to and problematises the growing call for social inclusion. Queering the Museum will appeal to academics, students, and museum and arts sector practitioners with an interest in critical theory or queer practice. It will be of particular interest to those working in the fields of museum studies, sociology, archaeology, anthropology, cultural studies, media, social policy, politics, philosophy, and history.
The Disobedient Museum: Writing at the Edge aims to motivate disciplinary thinking to reimagine writing about museums as an activity where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling, and acting can be produced, and to theorize this process as a form of protest against disciplinary stagnation. Drawing on a range of cultural, theoretical, and political approaches, Kylie Message examines potential links between methods of critique today and moments of historical and disciplinary crisis, and asks what contribution museums might make to these, either as direct actors or through activities that sit more comfortably within their institutional remit. Identifying the process of writing about museums as a form of activism, that brings together and elaborates on cultural and political agendas for change, the book explores how a process of engaged critique might benefit museum studies, what this critique might look like, and how museum studies might make a contribution to discourses of social and political change. The Disobedient Museum is the first volume in Routledge’s innovative ‘Museums in Focus’ series and will be of great interest to scholars and students in the fields of Museum, Heritage, Public History, and Cultural Studies. It should also be essential reading for museum practitioners, particularly those engaged with questions about the role of museums in regard to social activism and contentious contemporary challenges.
Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums is the first scholarly book to analyze contemporary African American museums from a multifaceted perspective. While it puts a spotlight on the issues and challenges related to racial politics that black museums collectively face in the 21st century, it also shines a light on how they intersect with corporate culture, youth culture, and the broader cultural world. Turning the lens to philanthropy in the contemporary era, Banks throws light on the establishment side of African American museums and demonstrates how this contrasts with their grassroots foundations. Drawing on over 80 in-depth interviews with trustees and other supporters of African American museums across the United States, this book offers an inside look at the world of cultural philanthropy. While patrons are bound together by being among the distinct group of cultural philanthropists who support black museums, the motivations and meanings underlying their giving depart in both subtle and considerable ways depending on race and ethnicity, profession, generation, and lifestyle. Revealing not only why black museums matter in the eyes of supporters, the book also complicates the conventional view that social class drives giving to cultural nonprofits. It also paints a vivid portrait of how diversity colours cultural philanthropy, and philanthropy more broadly, in the 21st century. Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums will be a valuable resource for scholars and practitioners engaged with African American heritage. It will also offer important insights for academics, as well as cultural administrators, nonprofit leaders, and fundraisers who are concerned with philanthropy and diversity.
Re-Presenting Disability addresses issues surrounding disability representation in museums and galleries, a topic which is receiving much academic attention and is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for practitioners working in wide-ranging museums and related cultural organisations. This volume of provocative and timely contributions, brings together twenty researchers, practitioners and academics from different disciplinary, institutional and cultural contexts to explore issues surrounding the cultural representation of disabled people and, more particularly, the inclusion (as well as the marked absence) of disability-related narratives in museum and gallery displays. The diverse perspectives featured in the book offer fresh ways of interrogating and understanding contemporary representational practices as well as illuminating existing, related debates concerning identity politics, social agency and organisational purposes and responsibilities, which have considerable currency within museums and museum studies. Re-Presenting Disability explores such issues as: In what ways have disabled people and disability-related topics historically been represented in the collections and displays of museums and galleries? How can newly emerging representational forms and practices be viewed in relation to these historical approaches? How do emerging trends in museum practice – designed to counter prejudiced, stereotypical representations of disabled people – relate to broader developments in disability rights, debates in disability studies, as well as shifting interpretive practices in public history and mass media? What approaches can be deployed to mine and interrogate existing collections in order to investigate histories of disability and disabled people and to identify material evidence that might be marshalled to play a part in countering prejudice? What are the implications of these developments for contemporary collecting? How might such purposive displays be created and what dilemmas and challenges are curators, educators, designers and other actors in the exhibition-making process, likely to encounter along the way? How do audiences – disabled and non-disabled – respond to and engage with interpretive interventions designed to confront, undercut or reshape dominant regimes of representation that underpin and inform contemporary attitudes to disability?

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