© 2014 – Routledge
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.
List of Illustrations Acknowledgements Preface I ntroduction: Headline News 1. We the People 2. Talk of Protest and the Past 3. Contemporary Cause-based Collecting 4. Activism and the Tribal Museum Movement 5. Cultural Collisions 6. A New Way of Doing Politics 7. Beacons of Change Conclusion: Museums and the Political World Bibliography
Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide ranging disciplines.
Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).
Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – to include art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.
The focus on the relationship of the museum to its publics shifts the emphasis from objects and collections and the study of museums as text, to studies grounded in the analysis of bodies and sites; identities and communities; ethics, moralities and politics.