In recent years, many museums have implemented sweeping changes in how they engage audiences. However, changes to the field’s approaches to collections stewardship have come much more slowly. Active Collections critically examines existing approaches to museum collections and explores practical, yet radical, ways that museums can better manage their collections to actively advance their missions.
Approaching the question of modern museum collection stewardship from a position of "tough love," the authors argue that the museum field risks being constrained by rigid ways of thinking about objects. Examining the field’s relationship to objects, artifacts, and specimens, the volume explores the question of stewardship through the dissection of a broad range of issues, including questions of "quality over quantity," emotional attachment, dispassionate cataloging, and cognitive biases in curatorship. The essays look to insights from fields as diverse as forest management, library science, and the psychology of compulsive hoarding, to inform and innovate collection practices.
Essay contributions come from both experienced museum professionals and scholars from disciplines as diverse as psychology, education, and history. The result is a critical exploration that makes the book essential reading for museum professionals, as well as those in training.
Table of Contents
Foreword Jim Vaughn
Introduction Trevor Jones, Rainey Tisdale, Elizabeth Wood
A Manifesto for Active History Museum Collections Trevor Jones & Rainey Tisdale
Section 1: Conceptual Frameworks
1.Ten Principles for an Anti-Racist, Anti-Orientalist, Activist Approach to Collections Masum Momaya
2. Objects or People? Rainey Tisdale
Interlude: Sensory Deprivation: A Short Play Based on a Real-Life Scenario Elizabeth Wood
3. Museum Collections and Public Feelings Modupe Labode
Interlude: What Happens When Audiences “Talk” To Objects? Gabriel Taylor
4. Hoarding and Museum Collections: Conceptual Similarities and Differences Gail Steketee
5. The Vital Museum Collection Elizabeth Wood
6. Four Forceful Phrases: An Archival Change Agent Muses on Museology Mark Greene
Interlude: We are Collecting Empty Boxes? Elizabeth Wood, with Kayla Al Ameri
7. Rethinking Museum Collections in a Troubled World Robert R. Janes
Interlude: Activate Your Object: 51 Questions to Reveal Inactivity Katherine Rieck
Section II: New Ideas and Tools for Change
8. Tier your Collections: A Practical Tool for Making Clear Decisions in Collections Management Trevor Jones
9. #Meaning: Cataloging Active Collections Paul Bourcier
Interlude: Question the Database! Vickie Stone
10. Practical Strategies for Addressing Hoarding in Collections Gail Steketee
Interlude: Tidying Up Museum Collections Anne Jordan
11. Things in Flux: Collecting in the Constructivist Museum Benjamin Filene
Interlude: A (Practical) Inspiration: Do You Know What It Costs You to Collect? Trevor Jones
12. Reworking Collections Management Practices for How We Must Live Now: An Archival Case Study Susan M. Irwin and Linda A. Whitaker
13. Object Reincarnation: Imagining a Future Outside the Permanent Collection Kate Bowell
Epilogue: Imagine with Us Rainey Tisdale
Elizabeth Wood is Professor of museum studies, and public scholar of museums, families, and learning at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), USA.
Rainey Tisdale is an independent curator who leads for change on field-wide issues including place-based interpretation, collections stewardship, creative practice, and museums and well-being.
Trevor Jones is Director and CEO of the Nebraska State Historical Society, USA.