I’m heading to Rio de Janeiro in two weeks to participate in the International Conference on Museums of Cities, hosted by the The Historical Museum of the City of Rio and Rio’s Municipal Secretary for Culture, in partnership with ICOM Brazil and CAMOC. The conference is an opportunity to talk with colleagues from Brazil and elsewhere (Turkey, Greece, Denmark, and the UK) about the role of city museums in 21st-century cities, and also to generate some new ideas for Rio’s city museum specifically.
The organizers have put together a packed schedule of presentations and discussions, and I’m looking forward to an intense week of thinking and sharing. Since I know there are some South American folks who read this blog regularly, I want to make sure you know that it’s not too late to make your plans to attend this conference; registration is open until Friday, August 17.
My own talk is titled The Living City: Trends in Urban Curation. Rio by all accounts is definitely a living city, and I can’t wait to explore it for the first time.
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I’m excited to share a new project that’s in the works. Along with Linda Norris (of Uncataloged Museum and Pickle Project fame) I am writing a book about Museums & Creative Practice. Today we are launching a fledgling project website that you can access here.
I’ve been interested in this topic for years now. I believe strongly that museums across the field are in need of an enormous infusion of creativity. We tend to think creativity is only the concern of contemporary art museums when in reality it should matter deeply to all of us. We also tend to think it’s the purview of exhibition designers when in reality creativity, and creative problem-solving, is equally important for visitor services, education, administration, development—every department of the museum.
As I travel from city to city trying to figure out what makes a great city museum, I am struck by how large a role creativity plays in successful institutions, and I have been thinking a lot about how city museums can be more creative. In fact I gave a paper on this topic at the CAMOC/ICOM conference in Shanghai in 2010. I have also been making creativity a priority in the material culture course I teach in the Tufts Museum Studies program. I don’t want to send my students out into the field to develop the same old exhibitions and programs we’ve been doing for years; instead I want to empower them to find interesting, compelling, surprising new ways of presenting objects to the public. This book project is a natural next step for me in exploring creativity’s impact on museums more broadly and more deeply.
There’s a wealth of new literature on the import role creativity plays in the economy and in society at large. Linda and I think it’s time someone applies that literature to museums. We have been following and admiring each other’s work for several years now, and I can’t think of a better partner for this project. We’re envisioning a practical, nuts-and-bolts kind of book that provides our colleagues with the tools they need to make their museums, and themselves, more creative.
We’re just at the beginning stages; we don’t even have a publisher lined up yet. But it’s important to us that we involve our colleagues from day one so we can write a book that’s genuinely useful to them. As we begin our research and draft our book proposal, we’ve developed a quick survey that you can take here, and you can also make comments/suggestions either on this post or at the Museums & Creative Practice website.
Lastly, we’ll both be at the American Association of Museums conference in Minneapolis next week (yes, this year’s conference theme is “Creative Community”) and we are hoping to talk there with as many colleagues as possible about this project. We’re holding two informal Museums & Creative Practice meet-ups:
- Monday, April 30, 12:30-2:00. Grab a takeaway lunch and meet us at the cafe seating in the lobby of the convention center, near Dunn Bros Coffee
- Tuesday, May 1, 6:00-7:30. Join us for a drinks and discussion at The Local, 931 Nicollet Mall, a few blocks north of the convention center. The reservation is under Rainey; we’ll be at “Arthur’s Table.”
I don’t yet know where this project will lead, but wherever it goes I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are too.
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By Gord McKenna via Flickr
Since a lot of my readers work at city museums, I want to make a pitch for CAMOC annual conference, to be held this year in Vancouver, October 24-26. CAMOC is the international professional association for city museums, and I try to attend this conference every year. I always meet interesting people and learn a ton.
If you want to make a presentation at this conference, proposals are due on April 15; I just turned mine in this morning. I know that’s just a few short days away but don’t worry, the proposal requirements aren’t too lengthy or complicated. The Call for Papers can be found here or on the CAMOC website. There are several different options for participation: you can deliver a formal paper about an issue facing city museums, make a brief presentation about projects your museum is undertaking, or participate in a poster competition.
The Museum of Vancouver (pictured above) is our local host for this year’s conference. MOV is on my list of city museums to watch, so I’m very excited to spend some time getting to know the organization and its staff. And Vancouver itself is an amazing city. Hope to see you there.
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