My core work focuses on cities, objects, and creativity, but I have a lot of varied interests. I think that’s a good thing. Here are a handful of recent projects:
Creativity in Museum Practice With co-author Linda Norris I recently published a book about making museums, and museum workers, more creative. It’s one part manifesto to three parts tool-kit, available through Left Coast Press and its international distributors or Amazon. The book project has led to an ongoing collaboration with Linda to build field-wide creative capacity through workshops and consulting engagements with individual museums.
Active Collections For several years I have been collaborating with Trevor Jones and Elee Wood to envision a new model for museum collections stewardship. We operate as an informal think tank, addressing big, entrenched collections problems that many museum professionals are worried about but no one has figured out how to solve. So far we have developed a website, a manifesto, and a field-wide survey, and several pilot projects are in the works.
#BostonBetter I spent much of 2013 and 2014 working in collaboration with the New England Museum Association to organize programming for the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing at local museums, libraries, and archives. During the anniversary, our 25 institutional partners produced roughly 50 events and projects in order to help Bostonians reflect and heal. I was also curator and team leader for #BostonBetter’s centerpiece project, a major exhibition titled Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial that was hosted by the Boston Public Library. Dear Boston featured objects from the Copley Square makeshift memorial; the exhibition received 52,000 visitors during its 35-day run. You might also be interested in these two blog posts I wrote about the bombing and my TEDxBoston talk about the project.
You Are Here: Archiving Providence in the Present I curated this psychogeography exhibition in collaboration with graduate students from Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities. It imagines an alternative version of the city archives, one that preserves soundmarks, mental maps, everyday experiences, and even A Card Catalog of Providence Longing.
The Secret Life of Objects Creative writing about objects, written from their point of view by my students in the Tufts University Museum Studies graduate program. Website coming soon.
Mapping Revolutionary Boston An interactive map, available online and through a mobile app, that I developed in collaboration with Wellesley College’s Martha McNamara while I worked for the Bostonian Society. Still in prototype form, it envisions a richer, more complex story of Boston on the eve of the American Revolution than the one that can be told within the physical limitations of Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Thomas Sees the World My five-year-old cousin wants to be an explorer when he grows up. Since he’s stuck in elementary school for the foreseeable future, I spent all of 2012 helping him explore the world from his computer, one city at a time. It turns out having an audience of one can yield tremendous insight.
Creativity in Museum Practice, co-authored with Linda Norris, Left Coast Press, 2013, a book about how to make museums more creative, from the inside out
“City Museums and Urban Learning,” Journal of Museum Education, vol 38 issue 1 Spring 2013, 3-8, the introductory essay to a themed issue of the Journal of Museum Education that I guest-edited
“Muistojen Talot: Kaupunginmuseot ja Kaupunkihistoria” (Memory Houses: City Museums and City History), Muistin kaupunki: Tulkintoja kaupungista muistin ja muistamisen paikkana (City of Memory: Interpreting Urban Memories and Rememberance of Place), Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2013, a thinkpiece about the challenges and opportunities facing city museums in the 21st century (in Finnish)
“This Time It’s Personal: City Museums and Contemporary Urban Life,” Ian Jones et al., eds, Our Greatest Artefact: The City, Istanbul: CAMOC, 2012, p. 45-51, a case for personal history in city museums
“Do History Museums Still Need Objects?,” History News, American Association for State and Local History, Summer 2011, p. 19-24
Connecticut League of History Organizations, “The Poetry of Objects,” keynote address (2015)
#WhyMuseums Formidlingsseminar, keynote address and local history workshop, Aarhus, Denmark (2015)
TEDxBoston, “Our Year of Mourning” (2014)
American Alliance of Museums conference sessions: “City History Museums: Canaries in a Coal Mine?” (2013), “Is it Real? Who Cares?” (2013), “Widespread Mergers: Could It Happen in the US?,” (2012), “Collections: 20,000; Staff: 1—You’re Outnumbered!” (2006)
ICOM Committee for the Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities conference sessions: “Why City Museums Should Care About Trees” (2013), “The Branded City Museum” (2012), “This Time It’s Personal: City Museums and Contemporary Urban Life” (2011), “Toward the Creative City Museum: Some Field Notes” (2010)
New England Museum Association conference sessions: “The New, New Local History” (2012), “Power of 10” (2012), “Multisensory Museum Learning” (2011), “Museum Mapping Projects: Charting a New Course” (2009)
“Do History Museums Still Need Objects?,” American Association for State and Local History 2012 conference
“The Living City: Trends in Urban Curation,” International Museums of Cities symposium, Rio de Janeiro Ministry of Culture, 2012
“How To Build a Better City Museum,” Urban History Exhibited symposium, Den Gamle By, Aarhus, Denmark, 2011
“The Revolution in Boston: A Blessing and a Curse,” International Committee of Museums and Collections of Archaeology and History 2011 conference