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CFP: Museum Anthropology Futures

On behalf of the Council for Museum Anthropology, I am happy to pass along the call for proposals for the Museum Anthropology Futures conference in Montreal this May. Find details below. (Quoted material follows, contact the organizers with questions or concerns.)

Call for Session Proposals: “Museum Anthropology Futures” Conference (due March 1)
Council for Museum Anthropology Inaugural Conference

May 25-27, 2017 at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Council for Museum Anthropology is seeking submissions for its inaugural conference taking place in Montreal from May 25-27, 2017. This will not be your traditional conference experience! “Museum Anthropology Futures” seeks to spark critical reflection and discussion on (1) the state of museum anthropology as an academic discipline; (2) innovative methods for the use of collections; (3) exhibition experiments that engage with anthropological research; and (4) museums as significant sites for grappling with pressing social concerns such as immigration, inequality, racism, colonial legacies, heritage preservation, cultural identities, representation, and creativity as productive responses to these.

The conference will have several sessions each day that all participants will attend, as well as one period each day with breakout sessions like workshops and formats that would benefit from a more intimate setting for dialogue and collaboration.
We are seeking session proposals that are different than the usual call for papers – see session descriptions below. Feel free to email us with questions at museumfutures2017@gmail.com.

Updates available at our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MuseumFutures/

Email your session proposal to museumfutures2017@gmail.com by March 1, 2017

Please provide the following information in your email text, no attachment:

1) Your name, title, home institution (if applicable), and email address
2) Your proposed session format (see below)
3) The title of your session
4) Additional session participants if a group submission (title and email address)
5) A description of your session (max 150 words) Specific requirements for each format below.
6) What you hope to achieve in presenting/participating in this session (1-3 sentences)
7) What you believe this session can contribute to museum futures (1-3 sentences)
***Please note: Some Workshops and Pre-circulated Paper sessions will be by registration only due to limited capacity. All other sessions are open to all conference participants. For example, Roundtable or PechaKucha sessions will have several presenters who discuss their work, and the audience attending the session is invited to listen and ask questions or give feedback.***

SESSION FORMATS
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An Interview with Rachel Tavaras, Indiana University Graduate and Collections Manager at the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel, Indiana

Rachel Tavaras grew up in the Chicago area and earned undergraduate degrees in History and Anthropology, both in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University (IU), where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. At IU, museum work was a special focus for her and she undertook internships and practicum at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, the Wylie House Museum, the Monroe County History Center, the Hinkle-Garton Farmstead, and the LaPorte County History Museum. After graduation in 2015, she joined the Historical Administration M.A. program at Eastern Illinois University (EIU). This highly regarded program is built around an on-campus year of coursework and hands-on training followed by a six-month supervised internship or job in a relevant museum or historical institution. While at EIU she was a graduate assistant at the Tarble Arts Center. Eager to catch-up with an outstanding undergraduate alumna who made a big difference during her time at Indiana University, I was pleased that Rachel agreed to an interview with me. In it we discuss her first job hunt, the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel, Indiana, where she now serves as Collections Manager, and her experience studying at Indiana and Eastern Illinois.

JJ: Thank you Rachel for being willing to do this interview.

Folk wisdom holds—and I think that it is often true—that one’s first full time job is often the hardest to find. We will come to your current work in a moment, but first could you tell us a bit about how you first got connected with the Museum of Miniature Houses?

RT: The initial job hunting process was quite daunting! My graduate program at Eastern Illinois University requires that we complete a six-month internship after coursework, unless we find a job. While I would not have had an issue with taking an internship, I sought something more permanent. When I saw an opening for the Collections Manager position at the Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections through the Association of Indiana Museums (AIM), I did not hesitate to apply.

Miniatures have always fascinated me, and, while I did not have a background in miniatures explicitly, I felt that my prior experiences with other types of collections could apply. From working with jewelry from the Middle East at Mathers, to working with Midwestern folk art dioramas at the Tarble Arts Center, I felt confident in my ability to work with a collection of objects made by less “formally trained” artisans. My theoretical training, both in class and in the museum field, also helped when it came to landing the job. I have been trained in methods of material culture, decorative arts, understanding folklife, and more. Such training is essential to understanding miniatures, whether it be a representation of an American Rococo living room or a Japanese farm house from Osaka.

IMG_1798[4]Rachel Tavaras shows off the “Yellow Georgian,” an assemblage of objects in the collections of the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel, Indiana.

JJ: Did you have any personal contacts with the museum beforehand or were you applying in response to the AIM advertisement? What did you learn from the application and selection process?

I did not have any personal contacts from the museum beforehand—I applied merely because of the online advertisement. Because I did not know anyone at the museum personally, every chance to leave an impression with the hiring committee was especially precious.

Because of this, through the hiring process I came to better understand the importance of the interview. I think that many recent graduates focus heavily on their resume and cover letter—and rightfully so. These are the first items that a potential employers looks over, and they will ultimately determine the applicant’s chance at an interview. For the interview, I was fully prepared and had anticipated many of the questions that the hiring committee asked. I had also researched the institution and miniatures in general beforehand, giving me the opportunity to explicitly express how my skills and experiences would make me a great asset. My efforts were worthwhile. Since being hired, I have been told that I “nailed” the interview. While my application materials got me the interview, it was my interview that go me the job.

I have since had to opportunity to be on the other end of the hiring process. Looking for a part-time Collections Assistant was an intimidating task, especially being so new to my own position. While sifting through applicants, I was reminded of the importance of first impressions. Many applicants sent vague and brief application materials. It was clear that they did not read the job description. On the other hand, one applicant both emailed and physically mailed me copies of her application. She was a high contender.

JJ: The name alone suggests that the Museum of Miniature Houses is a rather interesting institution. I won’t be alone in wanting to know more about it. Is the part-time Collections Assistant your only staff colleague or is the staff bigger than these two roles? Do volunteers play a big part in your museum? What can you tell us about the history of the museum and its current status? Who is the museum’s governance authority? Read more

AFS “Folklore and Museums Section” Founded, AFS Members (and Non-Members too) are Welcome to Join

I am happy to note here that the Executive Board of the American Folklore Society has endorsed a proposal put forward by the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group to establish a Folklore and Museums section within the society. The section came into existence as of the Executive Board’s November 2014 meeting in Santa Fe. I am very pleased to serve as the new section’s first convener and to invite everyone with an interest in the intersection of museum practice and folklore (/folklife/ethnology) to join the new section.

As noted in the call for members on the AFS website:

the Folklore and Museums Section exists to foster communication and cooperation among museum-oriented folklorists, to advance the contribution of folklore studies scholarship and practice in museum settings, and to articulate museum-oriented folklorists with other colleagues, institutions, and organizations in the museum sector. The section aims, whenever possible, to cooperate with other sections of the American Folklore Society and with peer-organizations in the field.

The public web home for the new section can be found online here: http://www.afsnet.org/?page=MuseumSection and the member’s group space is accessible to members who are logged into the AFS website.

While I am very eager for all interested colleagues to join AFS, I want to note that the AFS has a free “Section Only” membership category by which non-AFS members can sign-up with sections such as the new Folklore and Museums section. This might be of particular value to non-folklorists who wish to keep up with the section’s work. Information on the Sections Only “membership” is available on the Membership Categories page of the AFS website. There is no cost to join the Folklore and Museums section.

The Santa Fe meetings were a great gathering for museum-minded folklorists. I am optimistic that the new section can help make the 2015 meetings even richer for our corner of the field. Thanks to all who have contributed to the momentum behind the new section and to the growth of folklore and museums work.

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art, November 2014

The MMWC Newsletter and Other Infrastructure: Building our Bazaar

mmwc1_Page_1

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) has a new newsletter. The cover for MMWC #1 is shown above. Clicking on it should take you to the whole issue as it appears on the online publishing platform Issuu. To add the newsletter to your hoard of PDFs, you can download it from the MMWC website download it here. For the long haul, we will soon add the newsletter to the museum’s “community” in the IUScholarWorks Repository.

Before talking about the newsletter as infrastructure, I want to thank MMWC Assistant Director Judy Kirk for her great work getting it edited and launched. This is a small summer issue that recaps some recent MMWC developments. A forward-looking fall issue will follow it very soon. While thanking Judy, I want to also thank the whole MMWC community–staff, volunteers, students, researchers, advisory board members, donors–for the work that we begin reporting in this first issue of the newsletter.

One of the museum’s accomplishments of the first half of 2013 was the establishment of an ambitious strategic plan. One thread running through that plan is work aimed at putting into place a range of kinds of museum “infrastructure.” Some of this will be very visible to the museum’s friends and supporters, other kinds of infrastructure will help the museum do its behind-the-scenes work more effectively. As I can, I will try to tell the story of our infrastructure work here. I have found the public reporting of my colleagues and of peer-institutions extremely helpful and my aim here is to reciprocate in appreciation for what I have learned from them. (For a recent example, consider this great account of the building of a teaching lab at the Penn Museum.) Read more

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